If you like them, stick with funds you have

DEAR BRUCE: I have $400,000 in various securities. I have been working with the same broker for more than 40 years.

He recently retired and this young man has taken over his accounts. He has suggested that I am not getting enough return and that I could do much better if I would let the company's management team take over.

He has shown me various options to think about. I have worked all of my life for this nest egg and living on Social Security and the money that it produces. I don't know if I am scared or just reluctant to turn over my entire portfolio to someone that I have no experience with. — Reader, via e-mail

DEAR READER: I can well understand your reluctance. This is another case of "if it ain't broken don't fix it." Very likely you could have a better return on your investment portfolio, however you are living comfortably, sleeping well and not doing without anything that you need or desire. Given that circumstance, I wouldn't change a thing.

DEAR BRUCE: My husband is 54. I'm 51. We both have full-time jobs and are trying to pay off our bills, including paying down our mortgage. My friend says that you would not say that this is a smart thing to do. We don't have a lot in our savings — everything goes toward paying down the debt. — Reader, via e-mail

DEAR READER: It would appear that since you are working so hard that you guys have gotten yourselves into somewhat of a hole. At your age it's time to dig out of that hole. I have said many times that if you have a favorable mortgage rate, particularly if you have decent-sized income which you guys must have, you are far better advised to keep the mortgage in place as long as possible and invest those extra payments elsewhere. Taking into account the tax break on the deductibility on the interest, it is the cheapest money you will ever borrow. Congratulations on putting forth the effort that you are to dig yourself out. A great many people do not have the character to do this.

DEAR BRUCE: My wife and I own a two-family house. We bought it in 1982 and lived in one half, renting out the other. Today the house is worth about $200,000. If we sell it, will we still have to pay tax on it? — Reader, via e-mail

DEAR READER: The portion of the building that you live in was your primary residence and is not subject to tax. The portion that you are renting out will be subject to tax. It's likely that it has been depreciated down to next to nothing. Your accountant can show you how this works. Assuming that the apartments are of equal size and value, you will only pay a profit on the half of the amount received less your base deductions and adding in any depreciation that has to be recaptured.

Send your questions to: Smart Money, P.O. Box 2095, Elfers, FL 34680. E-mail to: bruce@brucewilliams.com. Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.

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