Jewish World Review Oct. 25, 2000 / 26 Tishrei, 5761
Don't pay 'the rascals'
DEAR BRUCE: Out of the blue, right on my credit-card statement, I got a bill for $700 from the video store where I rented six video tapes a month earlier. A brief phone message on my answering machine said that I had ruined the tapes, no details, no bill, just the credit-card charge that I saw for the first time four weeks later. They never presented me with the alleged damage, they never enumerated what it was and never even let me know that the charge was coming. I repeatedly asked to speak to the owner of the store but was never able to speak to them. Please give me your thoughts. -- D.F., via e-mail
DEAR D.F.: I would immediately put this matter into contest with the credit-card company.
There is no way in the world that I would pay these rascals. If they had come to you and had described the "damage" and asked for an explanation, I might consider that there was some legitimacy to their claim. But with the way it was handled, I wouldn't let them get a penny. Unhappily for them, since they don't review the films the moment they are brought in, they give up any real argument that you damaged the films. I don't think that you have too much to worry about.
DEAR BRUCE: My mother passed away four months ago. My sister has been named the executor of her will. Under ordinary circumstances this would be fine.
However, the will was drawn up many years ago when my sister got along with the family, but subsequent to that time she became estranged. Now none of us trust her. When we ask her what she is doing with the will, she says that she is the executrix and she will do what she wants to do and doesn't have to answer to anybody. Frankly, we think that she will be manipulating things so that she benefits. How can we stop this? -- L.C., Phoenix, Ariz.
DEAR L.C.: The first thing that you should do is contact the surrogate in the county where your mom's will is being probated. The surrogate is responsible for seeing that the desires of the testator are carried out as far as is possible. Make the surrogate aware of your concerns, and he or she is obligated by law to keep an eye on your sister to see that she does what the will provides.
Understand, however, that there may be things in the will that you are not in sympathy with, but as long as they are legal requests, your sister has an obligation to carry them forward.
DEAR BRUCE: I owe almost $30,000 on credit cards, most of it spent foolishly, but hopefully I have grown up. I am making the minimum payments but just barely. I have almost $40,000 in my 401(k), and I realize that this is money that I should be saving for my retirement, but it sure would be nice to get this monkey off my back. My wife says that this is a bad thing to do, and she tried to explain why. She said that if she couldn't explain it to my satisfaction that you certainly could. Why would it be bad to get a fresh start? -- C.D., Fresno, Calif.
DEAR C.D.: The problem with this scenario is that not only are you taking the easy way, but you
are giving up the shelter that those dollars have for a good many years. You didn't mention your
age, but I'm suspecting that you are not all that far on the wrong side of 30. If that supposition is
correct, then you are throwing away 30 years of shelter. In my view this is very foolish.
If you must, and I underscore the word must, use the retirement money in some fashion to retire this obligation, then consider borrowing from the 401(k). This way you at least will maintain the shelter, and when you pay the loan back, it will then labor for you for a good many years. I am in no way sympathetic with attacking retirement funds unless the circumstances are truly dire, which yours are
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).
10/23/00: Mickey Mouse tax steps
10/18/00: Economizing is not always wise
10/17/00: Young investors should start a Roth IRA
10/13/00: Maybe your prices are too low
10/12/00: Dealing with underground home oil tanks
10/11/00: Go with simple interest!
10/05/00: When property is worth more than the home
10/04/00: Put part of windfall in a Roth
10/03/00: Not paying taxes on interest from house sale
09/28/00: Protection by Medicaid and Medicare
09/27/00: Refinancing home without alerting crooks
09/26/00: Base investments on trust
09/25/00: Do we really need a will?
09/21/00: She took off with the car
09/20/00: Diversify your financial advisers?
09/18/00: How to inherit a house
09/15/00: The tax scoop on student loans
09/14/00: House buying only for the young?
09/13/00: No reason to give credit
09/11/00: Must I pay for my gifted child's college tuition?
09/08/00: We got bitten on purchase of dog
09/06/00: Pools can soak you
08/28/00: When the insurance company has an 'out'
08/25/00: When to buy a home
08/24/00: More 'interest' to live on
08/22/00: Paying for private school
08/18/00: Don't make huge down payments
08/16/00: IRAs for people with pensions
08/15/00: She doesn't deserve a break
08/11/00: Her shopping will ruin us
Yes, a contract means something
08/10/00: Her shopping will ruin us
08/09/00: A $1,500 car ... for $3,000
08/04/00: Time to take on the airlines
08/02/00: How can I retire at 62?
08/01/00: Cash in your savings bonds
07/28/00: Hold onto a mortgage under 7 percent
07/26/00: I want my partner to buy me out
07/25/00: Negotiate with your neighbor
07/21/00: How can I finally start saving soundly?
07/20/00: Where's my prize?
07/18/00: Getting out of an upside-down loan
07/13/00: Death is no escape
07/12/00: Multiplying dollars
07/10/00: Making sense of retirement investing
07/07/00: 'Bankruptcy does follow us around'
07/06/00: In which state should I file my income tax?
07/03/00: When to diversify assets
06/30/00: I'm buying my dad's house
06/29/00: How social security seniors should invest
06/27/00: Waiting before re-establishing credit
06/21/00: Insuring an older car
06/19/00: Take the money and run!
06/16/00: Utility company incursion
06/15/00: Insurance settlement is no bargain
06/13/00: A straightforward form of bankruptcy
06/08/00: In the computer's clutches
06/07/00: The trouble with tenants
06/05/00: Do I really need title insurance?
06/01/00: The truth about nursing home insurance
05/30/00: Keep mother-daughter loan simple
05/25/00: CDs for security, not investment
05/24/00: Battling with collection agency
05/22/00: Are callable CDs a waste of time?
05/18/00: Building a college fund
05/16/00: Even death brings no relief
05/15/00: House is 'worth' what's offered
05/12/00: Borrow from Mom and Dad?
05/11/00: Your heirs, your choice
05/09/00: Mutual-fund investigations
05/05/00: Credit cards vs. debit cards
05/04/00: Lawyer are good for something
05/03/00: The binding nature of contracts
05/02/00: You know you are in trouble when ...
05/01/00: Can primary residence be rented out?
04/28/00: A full refund after five years?
04/25/00: Get a homeowner's title policy!
04/24/00: Beware of errors in your favor
04/18/00: $10,000 limit on gifts
04/17/00: Invest or repay student loans?
04/13/00: Beware of Internet auctions
04/11/00: Six percent is a pittance
04/10/00: Married couples should share windfall
04/07/00: How not to blow an inheritance
04/06/00: Get genetic screening for Tay-Sachs
04/05/00: Beating the look-back period
04/04/00: Providing for retirement
04/03/00: Readers disagree on time shares
03/30/00: The road back to good credit
03/29/00: Pre-tax dollars in IRA taxed later
03/27/00: Gambling on business ventures
03/22/00: Old cars as hobby, not investment
03/20/00: Tax on foreign gifts?
03/16/00: How to buy government bonds
03/13/00: Buying treasury instruments
03/09/00: Subcontractors must pay S.S.
03/08/00: Real-estate lawyers are essential
03/07/00: Don't expect compensation for ideas
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...