Personal Finance: Ask the Experts

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

December 31, 2012
Financial advice? Top 5 most popular 'Ask the Experts' questions

Each quarter or so, we rotate a new panel of Sacramento-area experts, who answer readers' questions on financial topics: taxes, investing, personal finances and wills/trusts. The "Ask the Experts" advice is free; the questions are all over the map. Here are the Top 5 most popular posts of 2012:

Estate taxes:
Should Mom gift now, or wait for Congress to act on the estate tax?
Should a parent be gifting in 2012 to avoid estate tax in 2013?

Selling Mom's house after a reverse mortgage:
Do heirs pay tax on sale of inherited residence?

Buying CalPERS "airtime" retirement credits:
Looking toward retirement, should I buy airtime with CalPERS?

Social Security benefits:
Did Social Security pull the rug out from some early retirees?

Other popular posts:
How much is Mom/Dad worth around the house?
Tax debtors could lose DMV or professional licenses
IRS wants volunteer tax preparers; no experience necessary

For 2013, we hope you'll be among the first to post an "Ask the Experts" question! To submit a question, click on one of the ASK A QUESTION topics on the right of this blog.

December 28, 2012
Top picks for 2013 credit cards

A new year, a new credit card? If you're in the market for a credit card with better rates than what's now in your wallet, a number of credit card-comparison sites are listing their top picks for 2013. Take a look:

Best Cash Back:
Chase Freedom Visa
Blue Cash Preferred (American Express)
Fidelity Investment Rewards

Best Airline/Travel:
Starwood American Express
Capital One Venture
Chase Sapphire Preferred

Best Low-Interest:
Citi Simplicity
Capital One Platinum Prestige
Simmons First Visa Platinum
Navy Federal Credit Union Visa Platinum

Best Small Business:
Chase Ink

Best for College Students:
Citi Forward
Citi Dividend

For details, go to, or

December 27, 2012
Can my daughter in Sweden be successor trustee of my trust?

Q: Can my daughter, who is an American citizen but lives in Sweden, be administrator of my revocable trust (which is small and mostly insurance proceeds)? --Wanda, Rocklin, CA

December 20, 2012
FDIC's money tips for teens and young adults

In Sunday's column on money-minded holiday gifts for kids, we offered parents and grandparents some ideas for giving to kids, teens and young adults.

Add to that: The FDIC recently issued an online newsletter aimed at young adults and teens: "Quick Tips for Managing Your Money." It covers practical info on borrowing, banking, saving and avoiding scams. There's advice on getting the best car loan, avoiding costly credit card mistakes, starting a savings account, how to do mobile banking safely and how to spot email/texting scams.

There's also a section for parents/grandparents on teaching money-managing skills to kids. Best of all, it's free.

December 17, 2012
Free tax-filing help for U.S. military families

TurboTax is offering free tax help to those currently serving in the U.S. military.

On Wednesday, the company is hosting an online webinar, "Last Minute Tax Tips That Save You Money and Get You a Bigger Refund" on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. PST. It will include year-end tax tips for military families. You can log in online.
Also, through Feb. 14, TurboTax is letting enlisted military families file their taxes - for free - using its new military tax software. The software covers tax-filing issues specific to U.S. military members and their families, such as tax deductions/credits for uniforms, relocation, combat pay, travel and/or job training expenses.

The software is available free for junior enlisted personnel. Those ranked E-g through officer can get the $30 software at a discounted price.

December 10, 2012
Financial pros offer more ideas on charitable donations

In Sunday's personal finance column, we wrote about ways to make smart donations to your favorite charities. Here are some other ideas from financial pros:

1) Donate stocks, bonds or mutual funds - held for at least a year - that have gone up in value:
"Rather than just writing a check to a charity, review your portfolio for appreciated securities you have held for more than a year," said consumer advocate Eleanor Blayney, in a recent release from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc., in Washington, D.C. "Not only do you get a (tax) deduction for the market value of the securities donated, but you get the additional benefit of avoiding the capital gains when the security is sold."

2) Another idea: Create a charitable gift annuity. Essentially, it's a swap: You give a charity a sizable monetary donation; in return, the charity pays you a set amount of income for life. Typically, it's a fixed interest rate and is partly tax-free. As money columnist Jane Bryant Quinn notes: Although they pay lower interest rates than annuities sold by insurance companies, gift annuities give donors two benefits: a tax break and the reward of giving to a favorite charity.

If you have questions, consult with a certified financial planner or your tax adviser.

December 9, 2012
Who gets burial plots left out of divorce settlement?

Q: We bought 2 burial plots when we were married. The plot is listed in both our names. We got divorced and he remarried. It did not come to my mind about the burial plots in our settlement. He died 2 yrs ago and was cremated and is not using the plot. Am I entitled to the other plot or does the new wife get it? The plot is listed in our names. --hungsen77, Sacramento, CA

December 7, 2012
What's your best financial gift for kids/grandkids?

Whether they're young adults or tiny toddlers, what are some of your favorite money-minded gifts for kids and grandkids? A piggy bank, a share of stock, a wad of cash, a teachable moment?

We're gathering ideas from parents, grandparents and professional advisers on some of the best money-minded holiday gifts for kids - of any age.

If you'd like to share yours, please contact personal finance writer Claudia Buck at (916) 321-1968 or

December 6, 2012
Can a QPRT be used for residential rental property?

Q: Can a Qualified Personal Residence Trust or "QPRT" be used for a residential rental property? I do not live at this residence which has a value of about one million. I would like to protect this property from as much taxation as possible and give it to someone who is unrelated to me. --Margaret, Santa Barbara, CA

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.

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