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Jewish World Review Sept. 30, 1999 /20 Tishrei, 5760

Bruce Williams

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Lost tickets are lost cash -- DEAR BRUCE: On a recent vacation, I lost a package of tickets which were the coupons for the second leg of our journey. The proof of purchase of these tickets was not available. The airline was very understanding, but they said we would first have to purchase tickets for the second leg of our journey -- Chicago to Dallas. The prices were very high. We were then told that we had to file a lost ticket report and pay a fee, and then the balance of our money would be refunded. It seems to me that since identification is required at all airports and we knew what flight we were on, the gate agent could have prevented the tickets from being used by someone else by checking the people that checked in. It isn't as if they could be used anywhere across the airline. What do you think, and what can we do? -- R.S., via e-mail

DEAR R.S.: I see very little that you can do. You are correct in your observation that at one time it was very easy to use an airline ticket. You either used it or got a credit. It is much more difficult today with "security" regulations which are really just an instrument to help the airlines restrict the use of tickets by anyone other than the person they were sold to. That is something that needs to be revisited. Losing an airline ticket is very similar to losing cash. I can sympathize, because I have done precisely the same thing.

DEAR BRUCE: We are a young family and are very much on a budget. A conventional car just doesn't suit our needs with four young children. The cost of a new S.U.V. is staggering when we compare it to the amount of money that we can allocate for this purchase. I have suggested to my husband that we should consider a used automobile. He says that he has never owned a used car in his life and he is not going to start now. The reality is that we are not going to have a car big enough for our family unless we buy a used one. He maintains that you are buying someone else's troubles. Can you help me persuade him that this is not a bad thing to do? -- M.R., via e-mail

DEAR M.R.: Your husband is living in another age. Today, a well-maintained automobile can be driven 100,000-plus miles with no serious repairs needed. You are the wiser one in the family. If you can't afford a new large vehicle at this time, and I congratulate you for recognizing that fact, what is wrong with one that is four or five years old? Older automobiles are a little harder to purchase, given the fact that you will have to spend some time in the selection process, but I can tell you from first-hand experience that there are some excellent automobiles that will give you satisfactory service and offer the space that you require for your family. Given your budgetary constraints, this is the only way to go. If you are nervous about buying a used car, by all means engage a mechanic to give the car a once-over. This way you will feel confident that you are getting a decent mode of transportation at a price that you can afford.

DEAR BRUCE: I received a very pleasant surprise in my bank statement two months ago. There was an extra $2,500 in my account. I know that I have never had that much money in the account during this lifetime. I am 23 years old and consider this quite a windfall. I did nothing other than accept what they showed on my statement as being accurate. Is there any problem with me spending this money? -- R.W., via e-mail

DEAR R.W.: Sure, go ahead and spend it -- though you may do some jail time. The fact that a mistake was made and you realized that it was an error prohibits you from taking advantage of that mistake. What you should do is to go down to the bank and point it out to one of the officers so that it can be corrected. By absolutely no stretch of the imagination should you feel free to spend it, because spending that money knowingly would very likely be a criminal offense.

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).


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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