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Jewish World Review July 27, 1999 /14 Av 5759

Bruce Williams

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If it ain't broke... -- DEAR BRUCE: Recently, I was appointed to look after my aunt's affairs. She is 86 years old, has done nothing to improve her financial condition and has left things just as they were when her husband passed away seven years ago. She has almost $1.5 million in, as hard as it is to believe, certificates of deposit. She also has her pension and Social Security income. Even with this miserable rate of return, she is still saving a considerable amount of money every year, thereby increasing her estate. I want to redeem these CDs and invest the money in solid equities, where I know she will have a much better return. She is very resistant to the idea. Can you give me some arguments I could place before her to have her see that she is giving up a great deal of income? -- L.W. Dayton, Ohio

DEAR L.W.: You know the expression, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it?" I don't think this needs to be fixed. Your aunt has more money coming in then she can spend, evidenced by the fact that her estate is growing. She is doing the same thing her late husband did to acquire this money. This is pretty hard to argue with. The only people that might have a different point of view are those who will inherit this money and would like to see the estate grow. In my opinion, it is in your aunt's best interest to tell her that everything is doing well and you are going to leave things just as her husband intended them to be.

DEAR BRUCE: My son was in a multi-car accident where one of the many drivers was a juvenile. We eventually received a summons to appear at a hearing concerning the incident. I am concerned that we should perhaps have our own attorney represent us at this hearing. It's an expense I can ill afford, but I don't know that I can afford not to be represented. -- T.W. Cincinnati

DEAR. T.W.: The reason one carries liability insurance is not only to pay any awards that are assessed against you, but also to pay for the appropriate defense. Simply turn this summons over to your insurance agent, with instructions to see that the legal department receives it. If, in their judgment, representation is needed, they will provide it without additional cost to you.

DEAR BRUCE: When I was young and footloose (I didn't even know my wife), I leased an automobile for five years. There are two-and-a-half years to go on the lease. I am now married, with responsibilities, and I simply cannot afford the large lease payments for what is essentially a "boy-toy." When I went to the leasing company, I told them that I wanted to give them back their car and cancel the contract. They all but laughed in my face. They told me the residual value was far less than I owed on the automobile. I would have to make good on that before I could consider trading it in. The fact is, it is worth about $5,000 less than I owe on it. They offered me an arrangement where I could trade the car in on another, less-expensive lease, but it just looks to me like I am getting in deeper and deeper. I don't have the $5,000 to give them even if I choose to go that route. What do you suggest? -- B.T., Salt Lake City

DEAR B.T.: Live with it! The likelihood is that you are stuck with this one. So many others have gone the same route, leasing an automobile for entirely too long a period. Leasing is simply another way of financing. Often, your mileage estimate is low. That way, the payments are low with the lease -- and you pay at the end, not the beginning. Your best bet is to continue with the lease, take extra-special care of the car and at the end of the lease, exercise your right to purchase -- even if you intend to sell the vehicle immediately. There's a lesson here, and I hope that you and many others have learned it.

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).


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