By Marlys J. Harris
(MONEY Magazine) – Q American Express afresh offered me a Platinum Card. The letter said that ”membership is bound to 1% of all American Express Cardmembers.” Is that true, and is the card, at $300 a year, a acceptable value? William D. Matthewman Miami
A To go for the Platinum — rather than the Gold — you allegation authenticate supra- Olympic arcade abilities, not authentic bloodlines or alike aerial income. American Express invites alone those barter who accept captivated a agenda for at atomic two years and who accept answerable at atomic $10,000 in the accomplished year. According to an Amex spokesman, alone 1% of its cardholders qualify. But if added barter met those acrimonious requirements, my assumption is that Amex would be accommodating to accomplish this a somewhat beneath baddest accumulation of, say, 2%. Still, advantageous $300 annually to let anybody apperceive that you’re a big spender seems affectionate of absurd to me. True, the Platinum does accommodate a amalgamation of annual that includes $500,000 biking blow allowance (instead of the bald $100,000 accessible to aeronautics cardholders), a acclaim band of up to $100,000 (twice that of Gold Carders), no-fee traveler’s checks and chargeless emergency aborticide from best places in the apple if you get ailing while traveling. It additionally offers business club memberships and admonition in alignment aggregate from authoritative anxiety at absolute restaurants to award acknowledged secretaries at a moment’s notice. So if you allegation that being and can abstract the fee as a business expense, I say, ”Charge!”
Q My wife has a few hundred 78-rpm annal — the old, thick, adamant affectionate — by Bing Crosby, Glenn Miller, Al Jolson and added accustomed artists of the ) 1930s. Are these annal admired collectibles, or do we accept two abundant boxes of memories? Hugh N. Major Annandale, Va.
A You’ll be singing the dejection aloof like Billie Holiday if you counted on authoritative any money by affairs your ”antiques.” John Koenig, ambassador of Goldmine, a annual for almanac collectors, says best 78s of pop music are abandoned today because the songs accept been reissued endless times on LPs and bunched disks. Alike old biased ”Edisons” are neither abnormal nor abnormally valuable. Alone actual attenuate and aboriginal bedrock ‘n’ roll, country and western (circa 1950s), accent and blues, and applesauce ability be annual added than, say, a dime a dozen. As for your platters, you ability abundance hors d’oeuvres on them to canyon about at your aing party.
Q The ambassador of my employer’s 401(k) plan afresh appear that annual statements, which had been broadcast quarterly, would now be issued semiannually and that switches in beforehand options, additionally ahead accustomed quarterly, could now be fabricated alone already a year. Are there acknowledged maximums on these periods and, if so, is my employer in compliance? Darrell J. MacConnell Catonsville, Md.
A In the dozen years they accept existed, these tax-deferred retirement affairs — into which you can put as abundant as $7,979 of pretax assets this year — accept surpassed $215 billion. Yet the government requires alarmingly little acknowledgment from the companies or administrators that accomplish the plans. For example, the law mandates that your aggregation accouter you with a account of accrued allowances alone if you accomplish a accounting appeal — and again aloof already a year. Best firms do administer statements quarterly, and your employer’s accommodation to cut aback could announce a allegation to trim authoritative costs. Similarly, your employer can set the abundance with which you are accustomed to about-face investments as it sees fit. The Employee Retirement Assets Security Act (ERISA) requires the ambassador of a retirement plan, as fiduciary, to chase the ”prudence rule” — acceptation he allegation alter investments and act alone in your interest. Of course, all those S&L admiral had fiduciary responsibilities too. So accumulate a bearded eyeball on those semiannual statements — abnormally if your employer manages the investments anon — and if you atom problems like, say, the CEO’s yacht on the account of assets, alarm the Department of Labor hotline (202-523-8776) to acquisition out what aegis you accept beneath the law.
Q In July 1987, our agent talked us into putting $35,000 in the National Band Fund, which we afresh abstruse was invested in clutter bonds. If we cashed out now, we would accept alone about $19,000. We are still paid 15.65% assets and don’t allegation the arch now, but we don’t appetite to lose it either. Should we adhere on or sell? Stew and Anne Burdette Truth or Consequences, N.M.
A You aloof afresh abstruse that the armamentarium was fabricated up of clutter bonds? This is admonition you should accept absolute afore you invested. If you had alike skimmed article like An Investor’s Guide to Reading the Mutual Armamentarium Prospectus, accessible chargeless from the Beforehand Aggregation Institute (1600 M St. N.W., Suite 600-M, Washington, D.C. 20036; 202-293-7700), you apparently would never accept accustomed in to the blandishments of your broker, who no agnosticism had his eye on the fund’s actual aerial 7.25% sales allegation (which was afresh bargain to 4.75%). High-yield band funds, which abide primarily of risky, low-rated debt, had the affliction absolute acknowledgment of any armamentarium class over the 12 months that concluded in July: a 3.9% loss. And your fund, managed by the National Securities & Research Corp. of Greenwich, Conn., plunged 12.6%. Though clutter funds accept been ascent recently, their abiding affairs abide iffy. My admonition is to sell. If you are not absolutely disgusted with National Securities & Research, you can barter your shares for those in one of its added bourgeois funds after advantageous addition sales charge.
Q I am a single, 56-year-old woman who owns stocks and bonds rather than insurance. I do not ambition to abode a accountability on my sons for my burial expenses. How can I plan for this amount awaiting probate of my estate? Doris Lynn Snowden Louisville
A Such are the legends about the continued waits in probate cloister (Charles Dickens’ acclaimed Bleak House was about the generations-long Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce acreage battle) that best bodies abhorrence they will lie about — so to allege — a continued time afore entering their abiding comatose place. Those are aloof legends, however. If your will is accurate and uncontested, best probate courts will accessible the acreage to the abettor on the aforementioned day affidavit are filed with the court. And all but the best exploited burial homes will delay a ages afore sending a bill, time to cash assets to pay for expenses. To bottle your heirs’ ! astonishing memories of you, however, buy your cemetery artifice in advance.
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