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Jewish World Review Dec. 10, 1999 /1 Teves, 5760

Bruce Williams

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Services provided must be paid for -- DEAR BRUCE: My children gave me a satellite dish, a receiver and installation for my birthday. I called the phone company to have the provider turn on the service. I couldn't get the volume up to a decent level. After three different receivers were installed, which took over a month, this problem still persisted. The technician advised me to return the receiver to the store and get one by a different manufacturer. I did, and it solved the problem. In the meantime, I have been billed for satellite service since day one. After complaining, I paid for services up to that point and then had them discontinue the service. What do you think? -- L.H., Broussard, La.

DEAR L.H.: If you were unable to receive the signal, you should have notified the satellite company. If they provided the signal, whether or not you were there or had the ability to listen to it is not an issue.

Unless you notified them that you were unable to use it -- and I doubt that you did, because you were testing other receivers -- it is my view that you paid the bill properly.

DEAR BRUCE: I am 27 and my husband is 30 and we make $34,000 a year combined. I contribute 6 percent to a 401(k) program which matches 50 cents on the dollar. My husband is a self-employed artist and puts $50 a month in an SEP. I also put $100 a month into a regular savings account which we do touch when things get tight. We also take $50 a month from our checking account to buy mutual funds. We would eventually like to use this invested money to buy a home. We owe $10,500 on a low-interest school loan, $1,500 on our car and our rent is $530 a month. My question is, are we saving enough for retirement at this stage in our life? -- K.K., via e-mail

DEAR K.K.: I think that you are doing well. If I had to guess, I would bet that the majority of the money is being earned by you and I think that bears some consideration. If your husband chooses to go the "starving artist" route, I think that's fine as long as you agree to it. Over a long period of time it might be better to turn the art into an avocation.

DEAR BRUCE: I am constantly juggling with credit cards. I take advantage of their teaser rates and then switch off when the time has expired. As long as I can continue to find these low rates, it seems to work for me. I also have a home-equity loan which is currently only 5.9 percent, but in a month it goes up to prime. I have a credit card debt of $4,000, and in five months the interest on this amount will increase to 14 percent. Am I better off with the home equity loan, which is deductible, or the credit card loans? -- C.M., Topeka, Kan.

DEAR C.M.: All else being equal, as long as you can keep playing the credit card roulette and get new cards at the teaser rates, things will work out fine. If there comes a time when you are unable to do that, then the home equity loan becomes a much more attractive choice, with its lower interest rate and its tax deductibility.

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).


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...

©1999, NEA