Personal Finance: Ask the Experts

Get advice on money matters from The Bee's Claudia Buck and a panel of local experts

July 30, 2012
Where can I get help re-writing my résumé?

Q: I received my certification as a clinical medical assistant from Boston Reed/ Sierra College. I applied to two openings but had no response from the employer. I need help in re-writing my resume. Is there any resources I could go to? Or can you recommend a person with expertise in resume writing? Kristy - Roseville, CA

July 30, 2012
How to find a job in computer graphics, video game design?

Q: What is the best way to find a job in Computer Graphics and/or Video Game/Media Arts design?

July 30, 2012
What resources are available for the older job seeker?

Q: I was laid off three years ago at the age of 59. I was a claims representative for two insurance agencies for about 30 years. I pursued job hunting rather vigorously for about two years and have pretty much given up. I would still like to work part time in some kind of clerical position, not necessarily in insurance. I am open to pretty much anything.

Please be brutally honest with me - at 62, do you think anyone would want to hire me? It is difficult to keep my self confidence up after three years. I am dependable, hard working and have great letters of reference from clients I worked with (but they are three years old). Thank you, Kathy, Sacramento, CA

July 30, 2012
Can I sue my boss for a bad job reference?

Q: All my past jobs have been lost due to outsourcing, including my current job. Now, not only have I been getting job interviews, but I am getting second interviews where the employers are paring down to the finalists. Due to some bad blood with my current manager, I think he may be giving me a bad referral. All my past supervisors wish they still could have me (and I have a long job history). Can I take legal action against my current manager for slander/defamation? Thanks.

July 30, 2012
What can I do if I can't find a teaching job?

Q: I got laid off from teaching and am subbing. Do you have any ideas for other careers I could get into with a teaching credential and BA in liberal studies? Subbing is not getting me very much work and I would like a full-time job. Any ideas or suggestions?
Zara, Auburn, CA

July 30, 2012
Looking toward retirement, should I buy airtime with CalPERS?

I'm almost 53 and would like to retire at 60. Should I use my 401(k) to pay for an additional 4 years of PERS? Advice from others indicates that I will never make a guaranteed 6 percent with my 401(k) in the next seven years , so I should pay for additional PERS years of retirement time. -Need advice - Sacto

July 30, 2012
He gives 2 weeks' notice but is terminated; any recourse?

Q: My son-in-law was working for a local construction company, and recently found a new job with another company. He gave the owner of the old company two weeks notice (in person and in writing), and understood that he would finish (and be paid for) his last two weeks before moving to the new job. At the time, it appeared to be a very amicable parting, and they appeared appreciative of his giving ample notice (this was on a Friday). It was important for him to leave on good terms and treat them with respect by giving the standard two weeks notice.

The following Tuesday, one of the company foremen (not an owner) came to his home and gave him a final check, paying him only through that day, and not for the full two weeks. In effect, they seem to have fired him on the spot in retaliation for giving notice.

Does he have any recourse to be paid for the full two weeks? He could easily have waited until his last day to give notice, but he didn't, and they seem to have punished him for acting responsibly. This somehow does not seem right. Thanks for any help. Doug, Sacramento, CA

July 30, 2012
Which websites are best for clerical or office support jobs?

Q: Do you know which temporary staffing agency/agencies in the Roseville and Sacramento areas would have job assignments with Kaiser Permanente? Which job seeking website (ie:, careerbuilder, or would be the best resource for clerical/office support job opportunities? Kate, Antelope, CA

July 30, 2012
'Bank On California' spurs a financial makeover program

My Sunday personal finance column looked at the "Bank On California" program, which helps "unbanked" consumers in 8 communities statewide get free or low-cost checking accounts. Part of the program includes free financial workshops by community groups.

In the Sacramento area, one of the program's community sponsors, Opening Doors, Inc., found that many consumers wanted more financial help.

The result: MoneyWork$, a 6-month "financial makeover" - free - with weekly sessions on everyday money matters (family budgeting, credit cards, credit reports, etc.), as well as group financial counseling and one-on-one help with money problems and goals.

It's designed to help consumers "unwind from debt and start have that financial cushion that everyone wants," said David Blicker, executive director of Opening Doors. Sessions are offered in English and Spanish. The next session starts in late September in Oak Park. For more information, call (916) 492-2591.

July 27, 2012
Which websites are best for education/social services jobs?

Q: Today's "Job Front" article was interesting and the information was surprising. I must be looking in the wrong places online. Which sites list the most jobs in education and social services? Thanks so much. Bob - Wheatland, CA

July 27, 2012
How do I apply for call center jobs?

Q: Since I was unable to attend the job fair on Tuesday, July 3, 2012, for the call center job openings for 2,000 candidates, are there any other job fairs I would be able to attend or was this the last chance? I hope not, because I really was interested in getting a job and working hard! Please respond as soon as you have time. Sincerely, Cindy B, Sacramento

July 26, 2012
Rental cars: Get the extra (often pricey) insurance?

If you've ever rented a car - here or overseas - you know it's always one of those confusing decisions: Should you get the extra - and often pricey - rental car insurance?

If you're a credit card user, buying that extra insurance may be unnecessary, because the major cards - American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa - all offer car rental insurance as a standard perk.

That's the message from a new study by, which recently compared car rental coverages of all four major credit cards. Overall, it ranked Visa highest for the most comprehensive coverage.

To be eligible for your credit card's coverage, the full vehicle rental must be charged on your credit card and you must decline the supplemental insurance offered by the rental company.

But there are some quirks and odd little twists:

July 24, 2012
How should I save for grandchildren's college education?

Q. Your column today (Paying College Tuition) reminded me of a question I've been asking myself. I have two young grandchildren for whom I would like to set aside about $10,000 each. I would like to keep this money in my name in case I need it myself for some unforseen event.
Where would be the best place to park this money (if used for college, I will not need it for 12 or so years)? I'm not a good investor (makes me too nervous). Savings and CDs don't pay jack, so I've been thinking of an annuity, or maybe even savings bonds. Savings Bonds do not pay much interest, but I believe they're better than CDs, and they are state tax free. I understand if I use it for tuition, it can also be federal tax free. I'm 69. Wadda ya think? Thank you. James - Sacramento

July 24, 2012
I'm applying for jobs but can't find the right niche -- any advice?

Q: I retired at age 50, two years ago from Sacramento County Dept. Of Human Assistance as a social worker with a master's degree. All the master level social workers were either demoted or laid off due to budget cuts. During this time I have become a certified drug and alcohol counselor and volunteer at a facility one time per week. I feel very stuck. I have applied for many jobs and can't seem to find the right niche. I'm sure my age is not helping. I change my cover letter each time to reflect the job for which I'm applying, and although I've had some interviews, no luck. Any advice would be helpful.
Tonia - Sacramento

July 24, 2012
How best to handle loans between family members

Q: I have a rental property valued at $265,000, the mortgage balance is $151,000 at 5.75%. I'm considering a loan to pay off this balance from my father's living trust account, which is in excess of $400,000. I am the sole heir and these funds are just sitting in money market accounts making .25%! I would set up documents for the loan for tax purposes pay the monthly interest to my father's account at 2.00% with a 5-year payback schedule. If my father passed, how would these funds $151,000 which would be outside the trust be viewed by the IRS? Is there an amount of money that can be outside the trust without being subject to probate or tax? - Walt, Sacramento, CA

July 23, 2012
On the up: Airline fees for same-day flight changes

With the summer travel season in full swing, we wrote recently about airline travel tips, including all those pesky fees on everything from excess bags to pillows.

One website,, just added a new chart of same-day fees that airlines charge when you need to fly earlier or later than your ticketed flight.

It used to be you that if you got to the airport early - or were delayed and needed a later flight, you could grab a different flight on the same day with no penalty. But today, on most airlines, "that perk has gone the way of free food and pillows," says

The same-day fees vary. American and United have upped their change fee to $75. Southwest doesn't charge a same-day fee but requires passengers to pay the difference between their original fare and their new flight.

Check it out: it's another way to be an informed consumer.

July 23, 2012
Use career coach to help develop a plan for finding a job

Q: What would be my best choice in order to ask for a job? I've been teaching English for a pre-school for four years to Spanish-speaking children. I have all certificates from Richmond Publishing Corp. and years ago I graduated from school as a medical assistant. Besides all the experience I have from working, I really need a job. Ana - Sacramento

July 23, 2012
I want to change careers; what's a better path: a bachelor's or vocational degree?

Q: I am dissatisfied with my job skills and am thinking about going back to school for something completely different than what I'm experienced in. I've been doing research and visiting local vocational schools. So far, I've narrowed my programs of interest to: pharmacy tech, medical assisting, medical billing and coding, and paralegal.

I have found many factors must be considered: level of interest in doing this as a career, the ability to be accepted into and complete the program, cost/benefit, the college's location and accreditation, professionalism and honesty of the admissions staff, on-time graduation/placement rates, salary/ability to pay back school loans, etc.

I have an AA from ARC in liberal arts and over 10 years of sales/customer service/marketing experience. I am somewhat overwhelmed with this process of finding a different career path.

Of the programs I've mentioned above, do you recommend one over another as far as growth, salary, job satisfaction and the like? Or is there a program that maybe I'm not considering in the Sacramento area? Do you think I should consider going back to get my bachelor's degree instead of the vocational school route?

I have looked at and for info but wonder if you can shed any additional insight on my personal situation. Thank you.
Raja - Sacramento

July 19, 2012
Boyfriend wants to leave half of vacation home to his son

Q: My boyfriend and I recently purchased a vacation home. For now, the title is held in joint tenancy because we could not come to an agreement as to what would be the fairest thing to do if one of us should die. We both have living trusts set up where each of our assets are transferred into upon death. The problem is that my boyfriend wants his son to inherit his half of the property after he dies.

I see potential problems in having to share ownership with his son. What if something happens to him and he needs money? Can he force me to sell the house or buy him out? I don't think it's fair to me that the son would be entitled to assets from the property just because he is kin. I would be the one paying the mortgage and keeping up with the maintenance. I am fine with leaving my half to my boyfriend, but he wants to revisit the lawyer in a few years and change the trusts so that his son has a stake in the house.

Can you offer any solutions so that both parties are satisfied? I should mention that the son is currently 17 years old and my boyfriend is 20 years my senior. Thank you for your time.

July 18, 2012
What about legal fees that are lower than typical fees?

Q. I noticed that an earlier Bee column stated that $1,500 - $4,500 is the going rate for a will and trust; however, I have family members that claim that they have attorneys that can do it for as little as $750. Why the huge difference? - Bryan, Sacramento, CA

July 17, 2012
Here are some more options for financial 'beach books'

If you're looking for some good reads this summer, my Sunday column on so-called financial "beach books," has some great picks by local financial professionals.

We also recently chatted up Jean Chatzky, the personal finance author and Today show TV commentator, who shared her summer reading list.

"I just downloaded a few mysteries, including "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn. And "The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business" by NY Times reporter Charles Duhigg."

Not surprisingly, Chatzky also recommended her newest book, "Money Rules: The Simple Path to Lifelong Security."

"It's an easy read; there's one rule to a page. It's a good one to send with a kid going off to college, for sure."

July 13, 2012
Foreign travel: Is it worth it to exchange $$ at your local bank?

In a recent Sunday column on summer travel tips, one of the topics was the best way to get cash while traveling in foreign countries.

A Davis reader, who's planning a trip to England, asked a follow-up question: Is it a good idea - or a waste of time - to get foreign currency at your local bank before leaving the country?

Here's the blunt reply from Ed Perkins, travel writer for "It's a waste of time - and a waste of money. Unless you're trading really big amounts, your own bank likely gives you a lousy rate - maybe not as bad as an airport kiosk, but worse than you get with almost all plastic."

His advice for overseas cash still holds: Use a credit card for major purchases like hotels and restaurants, but get cash using your debit card from a foreign bank's ATM machine.

July 10, 2012
Should I pay off my mortgage early?

Q. Hello, I bought a house in 2006 for $1.1 million. I put down $850,000 and now have a mortgage of about $230,000. My house is probably now worth about $750-800,000. Should I work on paying it off, or just make the payments on this 30-year loan? I am retired and plan to be here about10-15 years. Thank you! Mick - Sacramento

July 7, 2012
UCDavis: Another way to get an accounting education

In a recent Sunday column, I wrote about the demand for college accounting majors, who are avidly sought-after by employers. To meet the demand, there's a new UC Davis master's degree in professional accounting that's starting this fall, as well as a longtime master's degree at CSU Sacramento that's taught online-only.

But it turns out there's another route to getting an accounting education at UCD, through a certificate program designed for working professionals. Here's what John O'Neill, marketing director for UC Davis Extension, wrote us:

"UC Davis Extension has been offering this program for nearly a year, and it's designed for professionals who want to switch their focus to accounting or just become compliant with the new CPA regulations going into effect in 2014. The total cost is less than $5,000, and graduates are fully prepared to take their CPA exam."

July 6, 2012
Reverse mortgages: Tips for seniors

In a recent post, we wrote about a new report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is concerned that seniors may be confused or unclear what they're getting into with a reverse mortgage.

That scrutiny prompted the industry group, the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association, to announce a "Borrow with Confidence" campaign to more fully explain how a reverse mortgage works. It created Your Road Map to a Reverse Mortgage.

July 2, 2012
How do I leave overseas property to heirs?

Q: I have a common situation, but with an interesting twist. I am 87, have enough money to live on but am not rich (about $300,000 or so), and get Social Security. I live in California with my granddaughter, but I also have a house in Croatia where I visit part of each year. I have a Totten trust on most of my funds and so if not for the house in Croatia I don't think I'd even need a probate. How do I pass on my house in Croatia? Do I need a will here or a will in Croatia? Can I set up a trust in California? Is this something that I need a lawyer for in California, in Croatia, or both? Thanks for your help. - Tom; Sacramento, CA

July 2, 2012
Beware possible penalty for cashing out CD after a death

Q: My father passed away in October, 2011. All of his assets, including CDs, are held in a trust and I am the executor. Prior to his death, he invested over $200,000 in a CD with Wells Fargo that is due to mature in 2016. I went to the bank to try and break the CD and was told in order to cash it out, I would have to forfeit over $5,000 in interest.

Is this accurate? My siblings will need the money before 2016, but a $5,000 penalty seems excessive. What do you think? - Elaine; Sacramento, CA

July 2, 2012
Road trippin': Save time, money with these summer travel tips

My Sunday column on summer travel tips is designed to save you time and money. Here are some extra tips that weren't in the column:

Road trippin'
If you'll be driving long distances, consider roadside assistance coverage. It's there if you need a tow truck, a dead battery jumpstart or you lock your keys in the car. There's the tried-and-true AAA, as well as plans through some insurance companies, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and others. Fees vary. Basic AAA and AARP plans, for instance, run about $60 a year.

Local eats
If you want to avoid fast-food freeway meals, stop at produce stands or farmers' markets for fresh fruits, nuts and snacks. For restaurants, ask the locals or check websites like, which lists readers' favorites nationwide. In the Sacramento region, its picks for "authentic regional eats" run from Ford's Real Hamburgers in Land Park to Al's Place in Locke to Putah Creek Cafe in Winters.

Foreign travel extras
Here are a couple extra notes about overseas travel from Ed Perkins, a correspondent:

Meet Our Financial Experts

Claudia Buck

Claudia Buck is The Sacramento Bee's personal finance columnist. Read all her columns here. Contact her at

Terri Carpenter

Terri Carpenter offers advice on job hunting, retraining and career counseling. Carpenter works at Sacramento Works Inc., the career and job training arm of the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency (SETA). With 15 years in the field, she has hands-on experience with everyone from first-time job seekers to career professionals seeking advice after a layoff or looking for a mid-career change. Ask her a question.

Carlena Tapella

Carlena Tapella is a partner in the law firm of Webb & Tapella Law Corp. in Sacramento. The firm specializes in estate planning and probate, such as estates, trusts, conservatorships and litigation. She is a past president of the Sacramento County Bar Association's Estate Planning & Probate Section. Ask her a question.

Kimberly Foss

Kimberly Foss, certified financial planner, is the founder of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville. With nearly 30 years in the financial industry, her clients include women in transition, small business owners, retirees and "pre-retirees." Ask her a question.

Jesse Weller

Gregory Burke, a CPA and tax expert with John Waddell & Co. in Sacramento since 1984, worked as an IRS tax auditor for six years. He’s a past chairman of the California Society of CPAs. Ask him a question.

Daniel Tahara

Daniel Tahara takes your questions about California taxes. Tahara, a spokesman for the state Franchise Tax Board, has 10 years of experience as a tax auditor. Ask him a question.

Personal Finance columns

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