Personal Finance: Ask the Experts

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

April 10, 2013
Can I put my current savings in a 401(k) plan from a former employer?

Q: I have about $50,000 just sitting in a regular savings account, not gaining much interest. Recently, I was sent a 401(k) account statement from a job I had over 12 years ago. It only has $100 in there now. Would I be able to use that account and incorporate some of my savings into it and manage my investments? My hope is to place some money in the account where I can gain some interest. I would be open to stock account or an IRA as well, but I am not too familiar with these. I could use some help.

Roseville, CA

March 2, 2013
Should I accept an "enhanced surrender" offer for my variable annuity?

Q: I have a variable annuity with a major insurance company. They have made me an offer of an enhanced surrender. The offer is my contract value plus 20 percent of my payment base. They are making this offer because of high market volatility, decline in the equity markets and low interest rates. In other words, it's costing them money to maintain these accounts. I don't have to accept the offer. My question: Should I go for this or not?

Ray, Sacramento

January 29, 2013
Can I make any money on these stocks?

Q: I wondered what your opinion was for stocks like Coke, Abbott Labs and PG&E?
Darwyn, Davis CA

January 22, 2013
How do I create retirement income from my nest egg savings?

Q: I am 69 and have $400,000- $450,000 to set up in a retirement plan to have a monthly income of $1,000 - $1,500 per month. What is the best way to go about this? What bond funds, mutual funds and ETFs would be good?

January 22, 2013
What about fees when investing in a 529 college savings plan?

Q: We recently changed financial advisors and are now putting away money for our grandkids in a different 529 fund. Previously, the fund was "CollegeBound" managed by "National Planning Corporation." The quarterly statements never listed any investment costs.
Now with our new financial advisor's recommendation, we are investing with Franklin Templeton Investments in the "Franklin Templeton 529 College Savings Plan" and are paying an initial 3.5% each time we invest.

We never saw any costs associated with investing with "CollegeBound". You recently recommended taking a look at California's 529 college savings plan called "ScholarShare". The most that any of the ScholarShare plans charge is summarized as an annual "Total Annual Asset Based Fee" of 0.61 percent (most charge .3 percent or less).

My question: Is 3.5 percent a reasonable fee for each monthly investment? I did ask our advisor about it, but her response didn't make sense at the time and I wasn't aware of the Scholarshare plan with its documentation detailing expenses.
Thanks, Papa - Roseville

October 4, 2012
How should I protect my money from inflation?

Q: Inflation has been quite low the last several years and many people do not recall the 10%+ inflation during the Nixon/Ford/Carter administrations. If I believe inflation were to rise significantly and be persistent in the future, then where should I invest my cash? CD's, bonds, certain classes of equities, natural resources & commodities, real estate or other types of investment vehicles? Thanks
Mike - El Dorado Hills, CA

October 4, 2012
Are trust deed investments as good as they seem?

Q: With savings interest rates at practically zero percent, I have been looking at the idea of Trust Deed Investing. I have located multiple Brokers and direct lending opportunities, which would pay 7%-8% and is secured by a house in Sacramento. If I invest through my IRA, the interest is tax deferred. With the real estate market having bottomed out in Sacramento, I feel good about the security behind this type of loan.

Do you feel this is a good investment vehicle to consider in these times?
Brent - Folsom

September 12, 2012
Should I roll over my current 401(k) to improve performance?

Q. My wife and I are 53 and 56 and have been saving and investing in our company 401k plan for over 20 years. My wife will get a small pension but for the most part we will have to use our savings during retirement. We hope to pay our mortgage off in a few years and both potentially retire in eight years.

We are currently looking through our accounts and feel the performance of our accounts (my wife especially) have performed terribly! We also receive zero advice from our company.

We only have a few years to work and want to make sure accounts are growing and getting good returns while we're preparing to retire. What are our options to find a manager if most of our money is in our 401k but we don't want our company to manage our investments anymore? Is it advisable to move our money to an investment firm this late in our lives? What are the advantages of moving our money? (FYI my wife's account is with PERS and mine is with Fidelity.) Thanks -- M. Chin, Sacramento, CA

September 7, 2012
How do interest rates affect bond prices?

Q. When looking for a bond, at what point should you be concerned with interest rates? How much do interest rates affect bond prices? Thanks! Blake - Rocklin, CA

August 22, 2012
How should a 22-yr-old start saving for retirement?

I have a question about a 22-year-old recent college graduate who was fortunate to secure a job before graduation. Can you suggest a retirement investment? With the long investment horizon, I assume a Roth IRA would be best? Is there a particular product that allows monthly investments of $50 - $100 and has low fees? Do you have an opinion on ING Direct IRAs? Thank you!
MommaC - Roseville, CA

August 22, 2012
How do I find a Roth IRA with a reasonable expense ratio?

Q: I'd like to start a Roth IRA that is invested pretty conservatively, since I have other investments that are more aggressive and growth oriented. I've heard a lot about paying attention to expense ratios and management fees to ensure your money isn't eaten up by high fees. What is an average expense ratio or fee, and do you have any suggestions for finding a Roth to meet my needs? Denise - Elk Grove

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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