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Mortgage Rates Today, Thursday, Dec. 1: Continuing to Climb

Mortgage rates kept up their slow climb on Thursday, according to a NerdWallet survey of mortgage rates published by national lenders this morning.

Rates have been on the rise since Donald Trump’s election win on Nov. 8, and they don’t appear to be slowing any time soon. Higher inflation is propelling higher rates, as well as expectations that the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee will raise the federal funds rate later this month.

Mortgage Rates Today, Thursday, Dec. 1 (Change from 11/30) 30-year fixed: 4.34% APR (+0.04) 15-year fixed: 3.71% APR (+0.01) 5/1 ARM: 3.80% APR (+0.01) Mortgage rates will keep rising in 2017, says Freddie Mac

According to Freddie Mac’s November Outlook, released Wednesday, mortgage rates throughout 2017 are expected to be much higher than what was predicted last month.

“Much like in 2013, we expect housing markets to respond negatively to higher mortgage rates,” said Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “They will drive down homebuyer affordability, dampen demand and weaken home sales, soften house price growth, and slow the growth in new home construction. And mortgage market activity will be significantly reduced by higher mortgage rates, especially refinance originations, which are likely to be cut in half.”

Freddie Mac predicted that the labor market will hold steady and economic growth will improve next year, assuming a fiscal stimulus is passed under a Trump administration. But increased interest rates will offset some of that growth. Freddie Mac said that economic growth will average 1.9% for the year.

There’s plenty of uncertainty about the fiscal policies of a Trump administration, as well as the pace of increased rates for next year. But even with a cooling housing market and mortgage originations and refinancing taking a hit, mortgage rates aren’t expected to go up that much next year. What could change that is an unforeseen shock to the market or a major shift in economic policy.

Homeowners looking to lower their mortgage rate can shop for refinance lenders here.

NerdWallet daily mortgage rates are an average of the published APR with the lowest points for each loan term offered by a sampling of major national lenders. Annual percentage rate quotes reflect an interest rate plus points, fees and other expenses, providing the most accurate view of the costs a borrower might pay.

Michael Burge is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: mburge@nerdwallet.com.

For International Travel, MasterCard Has Slight Edge on Visa

When you return from an international getaway, you’ll notice that your credit card issuer doesn’t bill you in euros, yen or pesos for the things you bought. It converts your international purchases to U.S. dollars — and that might make you wonder if the conversion is costing you money.

If you’re a smart traveler, you’ve made a point of avoiding foreign transaction fees, and you’ve budgeted carefully. But one thing remains unclear: Could you get a better exchange rate elsewhere?

The short answer: possibly — but it’s probably not worth losing sleep over.

Visa and MasterCard set exchange rates for each currency every day, and those rates are published online. NerdWallet made more than 15,500 queries for rates between the U.S. dollar and 44 foreign currencies and found that MasterCard has a slight advantage over Visa for several currencies. Even so, the differences tend to be small, and rates at both networks are similar to market rates.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s currency conversion study

MasterCard’s advantage

MasterCard offered a better rate than Visa more than 70% of the time for 23 out of the 44 currencies surveyed in one of NerdWallet’s comparisons. Visa had better rates for three currencies more than 70% of the time. The other currencies were either tied or could be considered a toss-up.

But that doesn’t mean that using a MasterCard will guarantee you better exchange rates on your next trip. Depending on which currency you’re using and which days you’re traveling, Visa might be better. Here’s how the currencies we surveyed stacked up:

Most days, Visa’s and MasterCard’s rates are different from each other by only a fraction of a penny. That’s because a 2006 court decision sharply limited which types of rates Visa and MasterCard can use, and it prohibits networks from embedding markups or fees within their rates. 

Still, the networks have some wiggle room in determining these prices, and they rely on different wholesale and government-mandated sources.

  • Visa’s rates are based on “the range of rates available in wholesale currency markets or a government-mandated rate in effect for the applicable processing date,” according to a statement from Visa.
  • MasterCard’s rates are based on “multiple market sources — including what’s published by the central banks, Bloomberg, Reuters and other sources,” Beth Kitchener, a spokeswoman for MasterCard, said in an email.

This explains why these rates tend to vary slightly, even on the same day. Neither network commented further on the results of this study.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best MasterCard credit cards

Big savings? Not so much

In the credit card world, pennies are a big deal. We celebrate a 2% cash-back rewards rate and look for ways to avoid various fees ranging from 1% to 5%. But when it comes to exchange rates, these variations generally don’t amount to much savings. MasterCard’s average rates, for example, were less than 1% more favorable than Visa’s average rates for the vast majority of currencies surveyed.

Worst-case scenario, the average international traveler would end up paying only $8 more on his or her next trip as a result, based on the most recent data from the National Travel and Tourism Office. That’s roughly the price of a fancy fridge magnet. Unless you’re spending tens of thousands of dollars abroad each year, these differences won’t affect your bottom line much. Instead, focus on these fees, which could cost you more while you’re away:

  • Foreign transaction fees. Most credit cards tack fees of 1% to 3% on every purchase made outside of the U.S. You can avoid these by getting a card with no foreign transaction fees. Foreign transaction fees are separate from currency conversion. 
  • Dynamic currency conversion fees. Merchants in foreign countries may give you the option to see your total in U.S. dollars at checkout and have the transaction processed in dollars. If you use this so-called dynamic currency conversion service, you’ll get a less favorable exchange rate — often equivalent to about a 3% fee. 

If you can avoid these fees, you’ll still be getting a world-class deal, regardless of your card’s exchange rates.

Both Visa and MasterCard rates were similar to interbank rates — that is, wholesale rates that are used for exchanges of $1 million or more — provided by Oanda, a widely used foreign exchange platform. You can get these highly favorable rates with your credit card even if you’re only purchasing a pack of gum.

Know what to expect

The next time you make an international purchase, you don’t need to wonder how much your credit card issuer will charge you. You can know for sure by checking the rates online.

Before checking out, convert the foreign currency price to dollars on Visa’s currency conversion site or MasterCard’s currency conversion site. Generally, your issuer will apply this rate to your international purchase, round it to the nearest penny, and list the adjusted result on your statement.

You might not get the best rate available every day. But if you steer clear of fees, you’ll still be getting a pretty sweet deal.

» MORE: How to exchange currency without paying huge fees

Claire Tsosie is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: claire@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @ideclaire7.

How to Build a Multimillion-Dollar Retirement Fund

You don’t have to go looking for get-rich-quick schemes; they’ll happily find you.

If your email’s spam folder is like mine, it holds several hundred offers to start the “hottest digitally based business.” For just $100, you get malware and the opportunity to work from home. On the off chance that it goes wrong, there are always multilevel marketing companies, scratch-off lottery tickets, penny stocks and long-lost Nigerian princes.

The problem is that none of those things will make you rich; they actually have a better chance of making you poor. A new paper from J.P. Morgan Asset Management lays out the real way to build wealth: $6 million in retirement accounts and two fully funded college savings plans, to be exact.

The story of the Lees

The J.P. Morgan analysis shows how a hypothetical couple, the Lees, could effectively save both for retirement and college for their two children. They’re high earners — a combined salary of $137,000 at age 28 — so the paper puts their retirement needs between $4.8 million and $6.3 million. They’re also overachievers, with the goal of fully funding four years at a public college for both kids. The paper projects that will cost $48,000 a year for the older child and $53,000 per year for the younger one.

The remarkable thing is that these goals are achievable — if they start putting 15% of their combined income into 401(k)s at age 22. When they have children, they can shortchange that 15%, directing 3.4% of their income into a 529 college savings plan for each child instead. That means for a long stretch — 15 years — during which they’re saving only about 8% of their income for retirement, yet they still manage to hit their $6.3 million stretch goal.

Retirement is sort of the universal savings goal, one that many people are failing to reach. It can seem like you’re not allowed to even think of other things — college, a down payment on a house, God forbid a vacation — until you have that on track. In a way, this scenario illustrates that there’s some truth in that, even for high earners: The Lees were able to divert savings to college in part because they started so young.

But if you get that head start, keep up the momentum and invest wisely — J.P. Morgan assumes a 7% average annual return in the Lees’ 401(k)s and a 6% return in the 529s — reaching a range of goals becomes much easier.

The Lees have a clear advantage

This is not your typical American couple. The Lees earn twice the median household income. They had the ability, and the wherewithal, to start saving 15% of their income at age 22. (Presumably they each made that responsible decision separately, unless they married at 22 — who says opposites attract?) And they both have 401(k) plans with a company match.

That alone sets them apart. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, only 58% of workers have access to a workplace retirement plan. That number drops to 47% for workers ages 18 to 29, and to 32% for workers who earn less than $25,000 a year.

Those workers miss out on a company match, the ease of paycheck deferrals and a tax-advantaged retirement account with one of the highest annual contribution limits. Fidelity Investments released some pretty stark numbers recently that illustrate how powerful all of that is. Savers who consistently contributed to their company’s plan for the past 15 years saw their average balance grow to $331,200, up from an average of $43,900 they had saved by 2001.

That’s an increase of over 650%, a figure that includes not only investment growth but employer matching dollars and employee contributions. These three things combined are what will get you to a secure retirement, but the first two wouldn’t be possible without the third.

Consistency matters most

What the Lees did that matters more than anything is save on a consistent basis. You can do that without a 401(k), by using a tax-advantaged individual retirement account like the Roth IRA.

The problem is that the Roth IRA contribution limit is much lower: $5,500 per year, less than a third of the $18,000 you can put into a 401(k). (Try our Roth IRA calculator.) That can set up a roadblock to putting 15% of your income, the rate that most experts recommend, into a tax-advantaged account.

But what’s frequently missing from that recommendation is that lower earners could aim to save less, perhaps closer to 12%. That’s because Social Security would replace a larger share of their preretirement incomes — as much as 53%, according to the National Academy of Social Insurance.

Target how much you should save with a retirement calculator, then get started and don’t stop. About three-quarters of companies polled by Accounting Principals plan to pay out end-of-year bonuses this year; pay raises next year are expected to average 3%. If you’re lucky enough to get one or both of those, consider it a jumping-off point. A NerdWallet analysis from earlier this year found that if average earners save half of their raises and all bonuses over a 40-year career, they could end up with $1 million by retirement.

No, that’s not a Lee-sized nest egg. But it’s significantly more than what the average American has, and it might be closer to what you actually need. As I said: The Lees are not typical.

Arielle O’Shea is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: aoshea@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @arioshea.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by Forbes.

How to Buy a Cheap, Drivable Used Car

So you decide to skip the car loan and scrape up enough money to pay cash for a cheap used car. What’s the least you can spend? And will that really get you a reliable used car?

Auto experts say the lowest price for a reliable used car is about $2,500. But they’re quick to note that every additional $1,000 in your budget will allow you to get a newer car that’s been driven fewer miles.

“There are diamonds out there,” says Mark Scroggs, an independent used car dealer in the San Francisco Bay Area who buys 10 to 15 used cars a week. “But it takes a lot of legwork to find them.”

Phong Ly, CEO of classified used car website iSeeCars, agrees but says the process is much easier if you know how to maximize use of the internet and phone before physically inspecting any cars.

Mark Holthoff, manager for a community website for used car enthusiasts called Klipnik.com, says your $2,500 will buy more if you look for a vehicle with minor exterior flaws such as faded paint, which lowers the price but doesn’t affect the mechanical performance.

Set your expectations

With a limited budget, you should look at cars that are at least 10 years old — models from before 2006 — and have been driven at least 100,000 miles. While that sounds like a lot of miles, Scroggs says that in the past, if “a car had 100,000 miles it was done. Now you don’t change your spark plugs until 100,000 miles.”

Where to look

By carefully filtering searches of internet used car listings, you can find what you want, nearby, and usually with photos. Increasingly, vehicle history reports, such as CarFax, are included for free, particularly on sites such as eBayMotors.

Craigslist is the best source for cars in your area, Holthoff and Scroggs say. AutoTrader.com is also good, but most ads are from dealers these days.

The search filter on iSeeCars customizes results to match your budget and tastes, Ly says. His site compares the asking price to the average price of other sellers. If the price is lower, it’s labeled a “Best Deal.”

Setting search terms

When shopping for a used car for $2,500 or less, these search terms will give you the best possible results:

  • Price: Set the maximum to $3,500. You can bargain some sellers down into your price range.
  • Distance: Start locally and broaden the search area if you don’t find what you want.
  • Mileage: Set a maximum of 150,000 to begin and then increase if necessary.
  • Models: Start without making a selection just to see what pops up. Then narrow the field by selecting brands known for reliability.
Finding bargains

Begin by searching for Japanese cars, because they have the highest J.D. Power satisfaction ratings, Ly recommends. However, Scroggs warned of the “Toyota or Honda tax” —  a premium placed on these top Japanese brands because of their reputation for reliability. Instead, look for second-tier Japanese brands such as Mazda, Nissan or Mitsubishi.

You can find bargains if you’re open to buying an American car. Scroggs says his auction experience has shown him you could snag a Ford Focus, a model that has a strong history of reliability, for less money than Japanese cars.

Holthoff started Klipnik to repost great used car deals he’s found on other classified sites. Auto enthusiasts then comment on the listings, sharing their expert knowledge of the cars for sale. To prove that cheap used cars are readily available, Holthoff quickly located a one-owner 2000 Toyota Camry for only $2,000.

Cars to avoid

Steer clear of European cars because of the high cost of maintenance and repairs, Scroggs advises. Also, don’t expect to be able to buy an SUV, because everyone wants one these days. Avoid cars with salvage titles, which are those that have been in a serious accident, flood or fire. Although such a car might have been fully restored and run well now, you’d have a lot of trouble reselling it.

Test-driving and inspecting used cars

Begin by looking at the general appearance of the car and how the present owner has maintained it. “If there are hamburger wrappers all over the interior, they probably weren’t changing the oil,” Scroggs says. It’s especially important to look at the tires, since a new full set could easily cost $350.

If the car passes your inspection, spend the $50 to $100 to have a mechanic look at it. Expect the shop to recommend a long list of repairs both to avoid liability and perhaps drum up business. You might be able to use some of the repair recommendations as leverage with the seller when negotiating.

Finally, don’t spend all your savings buying the car in case you do need new tires or other equipment. And remember, you’ll also need money for registration and insurance.

Philip Reed is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: preed@nerdwallet.com.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by USA Today.

Mortgage Rates Today, Wednesday, Nov. 30: Up Just a Hair

Mortgage rates across the board inched up slightly on Wednesday, according to a NerdWallet survey of mortgage rates published by national lenders this morning.

Mortgage Rates Today, Wednesday, Nov. 30 (Change from 11/29) 30-year fixed: 4.30% APR (+0.03) 15-year fixed: 3.70% APR (+0.01) 5/1 ARM: 3.79% APR (+0.01) First-time homebuyer activity increasing

Released Tuesday by the American Enterprise Institute, a public policy think tank, the First-Time Buyer Mortgage Risk and Mortgage Share Indices showed a 14% year-over-year increase in August for first-time buyer volume for agency-purchase loans — those backed by government-sponsored agencies, like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. First-time buyer volume was up 39% compared to two years ago.

“Contrary to news reports, the first-time buyer is alive and well in today’s home purchase market,” wrote Edward J. Pinto, co-director, and Tobias Peter, senior research analyst, of the American Enterprise Institute’s International Center on Housing Risk.

First-time buyer loans that were subprime — loans that usually have higher interest rates to offset higher credit risk — fell by 1% to 53% compared to August 2015. The combined First-Time Buyer Mortgage Share Index, which measures first-time buyers for both government-backed and private-sector mortgages, was down from 51.2% the prior August to 50.8%.

According to the release, the national seller’s market reached its 50th month due to solid job gains, low mortgage rates and high and growing leverage. Helping out the seller’s market is the rising national median home price in comparison to median income, limiting affordability.

“House prices will continue to rise as long as too much demand keeps chasing too little supply,” the report said. “Therefore, proposals such as lower mortgage insurance premiums or higher loan limits will only stimulate more demand, worsening affordability — not improving it.”

Homeowners looking to lower their mortgage rate can shop for refinance lenders here.

NerdWallet daily mortgage rates are an average of the published APR with the lowest points for each loan term offered by a sampling of major national lenders. Annual percentage rate quotes reflect an interest rate plus points, fees and other expenses, providing the most accurate view of the costs a borrower might pay.

Michael Burge is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: mburge@nerdwallet.com.

Average U.S. Credit Score Rises; ‘Silent Generation’ Wins Bragging Rights

The nation’s average credit score rose a bit in the past year, from 669 to 673, according to Experian’s annual “State of Credit” study. Diving deeper into the credit reporting agency’s data reveals that age and life stage can make a big difference in the credit score you’re likely to have.

The average credit score, broken down by generation:

  • The “Silent Generation,” people around age 70 and older, had the highest average score: 730.
  • Baby boomers, those about ages 50 to 69, had the second highest average, at 700.
  • Gen X (ages about 35 to 49) scored an average of 655.
  • Gen Y (21 to 34) and Gen Z (20 and younger) clocked in at averages of 634 and 631, respectively.

Experian’s report, based on a statistical sample of its consumer credit database, reflects VantageScores, the main rival to FICO. Both credit scoring systems use information in consumers’ credit reports to estimate creditworthiness, usually expressing it on a scale from 300 to 850.

Every lender sets its own standards, but most consider scores above 720 excellent, which is good news for the Silent Generation. Baby boomers are solidly in the “good credit” range of 690-719. The younger generations fall in the “average” or “fair” band, which runs from 630-689 — but Gen Y and Z are uncomfortably close to the “poor” range, which includes scores below 630.

Curious about your score and how it compares to the averages? You can check your VantageScore and see free credit report information with NerdWallet.

Why are scores lower for younger age groups?

Experian also considered the amount of available credit used by each age group — called the credit utilization ratio — and the number of missed payments — or delinquencies — each had racked up. Those two factors have the biggest influence on credit scores.

Younger consumers had the highest utilization rates: Members of Generation X used an average of 37% of their available credit, and Generations Y and Z used an average of 36%. Boomers used about 29%. The Silent Generation’s much lower 16% utilization brought the national average rate down to about 30%.

Younger consumers, who are in the early part of their careers, are more likely to have lower salaries and thus lower credit limits. They might also have less discretionary income because of student loan debt. And those new to credit might not yet be aware that using more than 30% of their approved limits can hurt their scores.

As far as delinquent payments go, Generations X and Y were twice as likely as the Silent Generation to have an account 90 or more days overdue (40% vs. 16%). Delinquent payments stay on a credit report for seven years, so that could account for a good chunk of the difference in younger generations’ scores and those of the Silent Generation.

How can you build your credit?

The good news is that once you identify the factors holding your credit score down, you know where to focus your efforts. Making on-time payments and reducing your credit utilization could add some points if you’re hoping to build credit.

Experian said it will offer 45,000 free credit education sessions to nonprofits in some of the cities where it saw the lowest scores. If that’s not available in your area, you can find help managing credit or debt through a nonprofit credit counseling center.

Bev O’Shea is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: boshea@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @BeverlyOShea.

How Does Michigan Insurance Regulation Spending Compare With Other States?

The Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services had a budget of $33 million in 2015, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. That seems like a lot of money at first glance, but how does it compare with budgets of other state insurance departments around the nation? A new analysis looks beyond the total dollar amount to provide a different perspective on resources available to state insurance departments.

These insurance departments are responsible for regulating the rates for auto, health, homeowners and life insurance. The departments also license agents and companies, resolve consumer questions and complaints, enforce insurance laws and investigate fraud allegations. The ability to do all of these things depends on money, staff and legislative support.

According to the data analysis by NerdWallet, Michigan’s Department of Insurance and Financial Services’ budget in 2015 was 0.06% of total state expenditures; the national average was 0.07%. The state spent $3.36 per capita to regulate insurance, less than the U.S. average of $4.20. The department kept 84% of its total revenue — the money brought in through fees, taxes and penalties paid by insurers and agents — compared with 5.98% nationally.

“DIFS is fiscally responsible in allocating the assessments to provide efficient and effective regulatory services,” department spokesperson Andrea Miller says. “We have been able to effectively operate under the same budget constraints since becoming a department in 2013.”

The new report also looked at how many staffers were dedicated to consumer services. These are the people who answer phones and resolve complaints against insurers. In Michigan, 17.75% of insurance department staff worked in consumer affairs, compared with the national average of 12.82%.

Elizabeth Renter is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: elizabeth@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @ElizabethRenter.

California’s Insurance Regulation Budget Is Biggest Among the States

The California Department of Insurance had a budget of $195 million in 2015, the largest budget of all insurance departments in the U.S., according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. That seems like a lot of money at first glance, but a new analysis looks beyond the total dollar amount to provide a different perspective on resources available to state insurance departments.

These insurance departments are responsible for regulating the rates for auto, health, homeowners and life insurance. The departments also license agents and companies, resolve consumer questions and complaints, enforce insurance laws and investigate fraud allegations. The ability to do all of these things depends on money, staff and legislative support.

According to the data analysis by NerdWallet, the California Department of Insurance budget in 2015 represented 0.08% of total state expenditures, higher than the national average of 0.07%. To regulate insurance, the state spent $4.98 per capita — slightly above the U.S. average of $4.20.

And the department kept 7.17% of its total revenue — the money brought in through fees, taxes and penalties paid by insurers and agents — compared with an average of 5.98% nationally. The analysis was based on data submitted by states to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and the National Association of State Budget Officers.

The department’s deputy press secretary, Madison Voss, says the agency doesn’t believe some of the data analyzed are useful for assessing California’s resources. For example, a portion of the revenue the department raises is required by California law to go into the state’s general fund, and these figures don’t include federal grant money, Voss says.

The new report also looked at how many staffers were dedicated to consumer services. These are the people answering phones and resolving complaints against insurers. In California, 9.57% of insurance department staff worked in consumer affairs, less than the national average of 12.82%.

Elizabeth Renter is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: elizabeth@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @ElizabethRenter.

Georgia Falls Below US Average on Insurance Regulation Spending

Georgia’s department of insurance had a budget of $21.5 million in 2015, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. That seems like a lot of money at first glance, but how does it compare with budgets of other state insurance departments around the nation? A new analysis looks beyond the total dollar amount to provide a different perspective on resources available to state insurance departments.

These insurance departments are responsible for regulating the rates for auto, health, homeowners and life insurance. The departments also license agents and companies, resolve consumer questions and complaints, enforce insurance laws and investigate fraud allegations. The ability to do all of these things depends on money, staff and legislative support.

According to the data analysis by NerdWallet, Georgia’s insurance department 2015 budget represented 0.05% of total state expenditures, below the U.S. average of 0.07%. To regulate insurance, the state spent $2.11 per capita, less than the national average of $4.20. And the department kept just 2.21% of its total revenue — the money brought in through fees, taxes and penalties paid by insurers and agents — compared with 5.98% nationally.

The new report also looked at how many staffers were dedicated to consumer services. These are the people who answer phones and resolve complaints against insurers. In Georgia, 15.38% of insurance department staff worked in consumer affairs, compared with the U.S. average of 12.82%.

Georgia’s insurance department, the Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Elizabeth Renter is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: elizabeth@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @ElizabethRenter.

How Does Texas Insurance Regulation Spending Measure Up Nationwide?

The Texas Department of Insurance budget in 2015 was $116 million, the third-largest insurance department budget in the U.S., according to data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. That seems like a lot of money at first glance, but a new analysis looks beyond the total dollar amount to provide a different perspective on resources available to the departments.  

These insurance departments are responsible for regulating the rates for auto, health, homeowners and life insurance. The departments also license agents and companies, resolve consumer questions and complaints, enforce insurance laws and investigate fraud allegations. The ability to do all of these things depends on money, staff and legislative support.

According to the data analysis by NerdWallet, the Texas department’s 2015 budget represented 0.10% of total state expenditures, higher than the national average among states of 0.07%. Texas spent $4.22 per resident to regulate insurance, just over the U.S. average of $4.20.

And the department kept 5.24% of its total revenue — the money brought in through fees, taxes and penalties paid by insurers and agents — compared with an average of 5.98% nationally. The analysis was based on data submitted by states to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and the National Association of State Budget Officers.

Texas insurance department spokesperson Jerry Hagins declined to comment on the specifics of the agency’s financial resources.

“We feel like we do a good job with the resources we have,” he said.

The report also looked at how many staff members were dedicated to consumer services. These are the people answering phones and resolving complaints against insurers. In Texas, 17.11% of insurance department staff worked in consumer affairs, more than the national average of 12.82%.

Elizabeth Renter is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: elizabeth@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @ElizabethRenter.

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