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Jewish World Review March 7, 2000 / 30 Adar I, 5760

Bruce Williams

Bruce Williams
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Don't expect compensation for ideas -- DEAR BRUCE: Sometime back I submitted an idea to a brewing company for a tremendous pro-active marketing idea to directly address irresponsible drinking. They rejected my idea and then two months later came out with a similar program. They had said that they were moving in that direction in our telephone conversations, but I feel like they stole my idea. Is there anything that I can do? -- M.R. (e-mail)

DEAR M.R.: Not a whole lot, as I see it. However, you can probably understand why most companies are scared to death to talk to people about their ideas. If they come up with something parallel, you will swear that it was stolen, and understandably so.

I am reminded of the original "Star Trek," when Bones first came out with a thermometer built into the bed. Three different people across the country called to say that Gene Roddenberry had stolen their ideas.

All three had been working independently from each other developing beds with built-in thermometers.

Most big companies simply are not able or willing to accept ideas from outside without getting some kind of complete release. But having said that, you have little to lose by signing over all rights -- it would be difficult if not impossible for you to use the idea personally.

DEAR BRUCE: I have heard you say that one rule of thumb regarding investing in real estate is a return of 1 percent per month. What does that mean, and do you use a 15- to 30-year mortgage to figure that out? -- J.N., Conn.

DEAR J.N.: The length of the mortgage is not a factor. What I am referring to is a minimum return of 1 percent of the value per month. As an example, a $100,000 mortgage should garner at least $1,000 a month rent.

Frankly, I would be much more comfortable with a fraction above that -- up to 1-1/2 percent. Anything under 1 percent would be of absolutely no interest to me.

DEAR BRUCE: I own 101 acres in west Texas that I bought as a farm for retirement, but now I live in Florida and I have nothing to do with it. It has been paid off for 20 years and I keep the taxes paid up. I believe that there is water and electricity out at the dirt road that fronts the property. Can you think of any use or way to make money off of it? If not, how would you advise me to sell it? -- A.F. (e-mail)

DEAR A.F.: Well, it is difficult to do much from 1,000 miles away. The first thing to do is to spend a little time in west Texas to find out the property's value. Hire a competent appraiser, and get his or her point of view. It is entirely possible that a lot of things have happened and that the property has increased in value. On the other hand, it may be that nothing has happened and the property is lying fallow. The answer, however, lies in west Texas.

You can inquire as to comparable sales in the area, whether or not the property is zoned and how is it zoned, and then proceed from that vantage point.

Send your questions to JWR contributor Bruce Williams by clicking here. (Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.) Interested in buying or selling a house? Let Bruce Williams' "House Smart" be your guide. (Sales of the book help fund JWR).


03/06/00: Too rich for a Roth IRA?
03/01/00: Is time-sharing a scam?
02/29/00: Paying for nursing-home care
02/28/00: Rely on a real-estate lawyer
02/23/00: Keeping child's money safe from divorce
02/16/00: Just how important is a 401(k)?
02/14/00: Shaky partnership buying house
02/11/00: Protection by residential zoning
02/09/00: Benefiting from a reverse mortgage
02/07/00: Ensure your insurability
02/04/00: Absurd community zoning laws
02/02/00: Money or securities?
02/01/00: Can we KO a custodian?
01/31/00: Why sell a home you love?
01/26/00: Everyone needs a will
01/25/00: Will splitting stocks affect rollover?
01/24/00: Should early retirees contribute to SEP?
01/21/00: Strategies for paying off debt
01/20/00: Is 15-percent growth achievable?
01/19/00: Selling a second home
01/18/00: Running from a time-share
01/14/00: Don't be a spendthrift!
01/13/00: Who gets the house?
01/11/00: It all depends on size of estate
01/06/00: Check references before hiring an advisor
01/04/00: Savings bonds a bad investment
12/31/99: Out of state ain't that great
12/29/99: Warranty rip-offs
12/27/99: Checking up on investment handlers
12/23/99: Options good only when company's strong
12/20/99: Capital gains tax sometimes best
12/17/99: Don't give up your nest egg
12/15/99: Small-claims court no panacea
12/13/99: Termite company not liable for termites?
12/10/99: Services provided must be paid for
12/06/99: How do we minimize house-sale gain?
12/06/99: Maximize your tax shelter!
12/02/99: My neighbor won't maintain even a modicum of civility
12/01/99: Long-distance rentals a bad idea
11/29/99: Mortgage strategy A-OK
11/18/99: Students can work and learn
11/16/99: Value is what will sell
11/11/99: Y2K: No big deal for real estate
11/08/99: Real life is tough luck
11/03/99: The right time to cash a savings bond
11/01/99: Slow road for savings accounts
10/29/99: What do you want from insurance?
10/27/99: You have a right to see your tax forms!
10/25/99: Why own a house at 65?
10/22/99: Online fine, but CDs?
10/20/99: Love, honor -- and separate credit
10/18/99: Find the value of your stocks
10/15/99: Property lien prevents trade
10/13/99: Clear up debt, only then tie the knot
10/11/99: If it ain't broke...
10/04/99: Should I stick with the company IRA?
10/04/99: Get a financial education!
10/01/99: Insurance: Not much one person can do
09/30/99: Lost tickets are lost cash
09/29/99: Trusting only one financial planner
09/27/99: Adult children should help out
09/24/99: Tips for first-time home buyers
09/21/99: Use the rule of 72s!
09/17/99: Legal strategy can be a pain
09/15/99: Teen drivers drive up insurance
09/13/99: Always use an attorney!
09/10/99: Whose taxes are they, anyway?
09/08/99: How do I roll over my 401(k)?
09/03/99: How can I work out my IRS payments?
09/01/99: When your company can't pay you
08/30/99: Beware of shady viatical investments
08/26/99: Landlords vary on security deposits
08/25/99: Educational IRAs must be spent on education
08/23/99: Finding out the value of old stocks
08/20/99: How to get an FHA refund
08/19/99: 100 percent financing is a scam
08/16/99: Will I have to pay a capital gains tax?
08/16/99: Thinking about PMI
08/13/99: Short-term mutual funds a-OK
08/11/99: It's your job to shop around
08/10/99: Sometimes, roots need to be uprooted
08/09/99: 'Pre-approved' doesn't mean a thing
08/06/99: Only you can determine your investments
08/04/99: Bank IRA the lowest-risk option
08/03/99: Reverse mortgages good for the elderly
08/02/99: Get the survey BEFORE you buy the house!
07/28/99: Get a lawyer -- it's worth it!
07/27/99: If it ain't broke...

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