Personal Finance 

Help a Reader: What to do with unwanted land?

LandToday’s question is really intriguing because it’s a problem I probably won’t ever experience but it does pique my interest. Cyndie emailed me to say that she had a large piece of land that she no longer wants and isn’t sure what she should do with it given that it’s likely difficult to sell. It’s costing her quite a bit each year in property taxes so she’d really like to be rid of it.

Here’s the question from Cyndie:

About 10 years ago I bought a piece of land. Was going to build on it but that didn’t happen and at this point I don’t really want to. So, it is up for sale. Now, I highly doubt that it will sell, it is a beautiful piece on a hill overlooking a creek, but building there would be more expensive. As soon as I bought the land the taxes went sky high. I have worked with the county to get them lowered.

So, what my dilemma is that I feel it is not going to sell (similar piece has been for sale for 10 years) and I basically need to get out from under it. I have thought about donating it to the city, but don’t know if they would want it. Any other suggestions would be wonderful.

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Help a Reader: Settling Old Collection Debts

Reader Shaun sent me an email about an old credit card debt from six years ago that, as a result of not paying, was drawing from his bank account. Technically, it went to court and the courts ordered a garnishment on his bank account. As it happens, since the creditor wasn’t garnishing his paychecks, though they could have, he stopped using that bank account.

In his words:

I have an old credit card debt from 6 years ago that had a judgement placed on it. They garnished money from my bank account only, not my paychecks. It has been 6 years and I have not had a bank account since. I finally have the money to clear up this issue. I have a few questions about what i can do. Can I have a lawyer send them a letter asking to settle for less than the $4000 that i owe? Can they charge me interest on top of the $4000 from 6 years ago? Is it likely that they will settle for less than judgment amount?
Any help would be greatly appreciated!

To be 100% honest, I’m not an expert on credit card debt, especially after you’ve defaulted and it goes as far as garnishment. I do know that this typically happens after the debt is sold to a debt collector and the debt collector can’t collect on it or settle. They simply turn to the court system for garnishment.

Here’s the interesting part… it’s been six years. If you declared bankruptcy six years ago, a lot of the pain, at least to your credit score, will have subsided. The bank account levy (which is the official term) is only on that bank account and I’ve read experts online suggestion that you just open another checking account.

To be 100% honest, I don’t know what the answer is for you. I do know that you should talk to an expert on debt collections before you offer to settle or contact the debt collector.

Anyone have any suggestions?


Help a Reader: Inheriting a Financial Adviser

This week’s Help a Reader strikes me as a sticky issue that happens a lot. What happens when a loved one passes away and your inheritance includes a financial adviser you may or may not need (or want)? This situation happened to reader Cindy when her father passed away and she’s not sure if she should keep the adviser or not.

Here’s her dilemma in her words:

My dad passed away last year, and as a result, I have inherited some of his investments. I now have my own account at the same investment business and I have apparently inherited my dad’s investment manager, also. I’ll call him Jack. The thing is, I have no clue what to do now. I’m not crazy about paying for Jack and the big-time services of a business like Morgan Stanley, but I’m most definitely not qualified to jump into this on my own. My dad trusted this guy completely and Jack has also helped me a lot since my father got sick a couple years ago and I stepped in as PoA. But at the same time, my father used to be very active about buying, selling, researching, etc. All things I’m not really into.

So I now have these investments that were tuned to my dad’s age (85) and retirement goals, meaning a lot of municipal bonds, just a few stocks, and a few index funds. What the heck do I do next? Just let this guy keep doing whatever it is he does that results in a pretty big chunk of money being deducted each year (and maybe more, he may get commissions, too)? Do I try to find a new “guy” of my own? I’m really stumped.

— Cindy

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Help a Reader: Employer Doesn’t Offer 401(k)

401(k)I’ve been fortunate in that every employer I’ve ever worked for has offered a 401(k) defined contribution plan. I know that many people are not so lucky and reader Jennifer is one of them. Many smaller businesses can’t afford to set up a plan or simply don’t want to. Whatever the reason, Jennifer doesn’t have the option available to her. This week’s Help a Reader will focus on the options available for someone without a 401(k) at work.

Here’s an excerpt from her email:

My employer does not offer a 401(k) plan and I know I need to start one soon, I’m in my early 20s. I know that I can open up an independent 401(k) but I’m not sure where to start or if a 401(k) is even the best option. Help!


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 Personal Finance 

Help a Reader: Financial Aid Charities for Dogs Needing Surgery

As the owner of an older dog, our beagle Tobey, we know how expensive surgery can be for our four legged friends. I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it is when the dogs get older and when their owners have trouble paying for their care.

When I asked for readers to email me their problems, one stood out both for its length and because it was a subject we could see ourselves facing. The email from Linda is quite long, and I included it below, but the summary is that one of their Yorkies, who is ten, developed cataracts and needs surgery. Her husband is on disability and she recently lost her job and she doesn’t know how she’ll pay for it.

Here’s her email:
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 Personal Finance 

Help a Reader: Need a New Rewards Credit Card

Like many other personal finance bloggers, I get a lot of emails asking for my advice on things from 401(k)s to credit cards. I’m not comfortable giving advice but I usually respond by saying “If it were me, I would…” Giving advice, especially on difficult and complex issues, is very risky because if things don’t work out then I might get in trouble. Many pundits and advisors have errors & omissions (E&O) insurance, also known as professional liability insurance, for this very reason.

That said, I still want to help so I’m going to start a series, called Help a Reader, in which I include a reader question from the week before, provide a “If it were me, I would…” type of answer and hope you guys can chime in with your suggestions. They say crowdsourcing is the new thing these days and I can’t think of a smarter crowd than this one.

This first one is pretty straightforward (I wanted the first one to be a bit of a softball) – Reader P.K. emailed me the other day asking for suggestions on a new credit card. He’s 31, has “great” credit, and just wants to know what the best options out there was. Here’s an excerpt from his email:

I am still using the Capitol One Sony Card that I have had for over 10 Years. I get Sony Points which I can redeem at the Sony Card website but I am not longer interested in this card. I am looking for a credit card that will give me the highest percent in cash back. I am married with one kid and so I will be using my card for everything from groceries, gas and travel.

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