Ask The Expert - 5/3 Q & A

Question:  My employer does not have a 401k plan. Can you explain a IRA account and how much does it cost to open? I am in my early 20's, how will this affect me now if I start early? What are the benefits to this?
Answer:  In regards to your question on IRA accounts the simple answer is that they can be similar to 401k accounts only you are solely responsible for contributions towards it.  You will have the options of how you want the money invested such as in CD's or in stocks and so forth. The earlier you start in a retirement account the better off you are.  The key to being successful at retirement accounts is time.  That is something that cannot be replaced.  A person who starts a retirement account in their early 20's and makes regular contributions to it, even if they are small, will have the benefit of compound interest for around 40 years. The longer money is invested the more it will earn and the enjoyable your retirement will be.

Question:  I am not working due to a disability.  I was receiving money from worker's compensation and social security disability.  I have reached my medical maximum improvement and worker's comp. has discontinued my
benefits until I am approved for permanent disability.  I am receiving a reduced SSA benefit.  Upon notifying SSA of the discontinuance of worker's comp, I was informed that I would not receive my full SSA disability
benefits for at least four (4) months.  The only money coming in now is $350.00 a month from SSA.  I have a 403(b) with approx. $21,000 in it and two small loans against it.  I realize that I would have to pay a 28% penalty plus state/local tax, but I'm unsure what else to do to get me through this period of time when I have insufficient income.  I believe that if I file for SSI or welfare/food stamps I would have to spend down my 403(B) to $1,500 to be eligible.  I also have two loans with area credit unions that are being paid through disability insurance so taking a short term loan to carry me through is not an option.
Answer:  In regards to your questions regarding your 403(b), there is usually the ability to withdraw from it without penalty due to hardship. You may qualify for this. Check into it. 

Question:  My question is how long from time of purchase with a credit card does the amount show up in home mail billing? Also, why don't they have dates on the day of purchase with the card for the time of use.
Answer:  In regards to the billing methods of credit card companies I am afraid I will only be vague. The purchase should show on the bill received after the cycle date of your account. Even though the purchase is made on one day it may take a couple of days for the actual transaction to come through to your bank and post on your account. I hope this helps.

Question:  I took out a signature loan for $2,500.00 in 1991 and never paid it off.  The institution is now suing me for payment.  This has hurt my credit rating for all this years and now it is going to hurt me financially as well as remain on my credit history.  How is it possible to be sued for this after so many years?
Answer:  In regards to your question about if it is possible for the institution to sue you for this debt the answer is yes. No matter how long the time may have been since the original agreement was made with this institution the money is still owed to them and they can take whatever measures deemed necessary to collect this loss.

Question:  We are planning on doing some things in the near future and are trying to decide the best way to finance them.  We are finishing our basement, doing some home decorating and purchasing a car.  What are the pros and cons with borrowing from our 401k versus getting a home equity loan?
Answer:  In regards to borrowing from your 401k or taking out a equity loan I would strongly advise to go with the equity loan. 401k's work off compounded interest and the longer you keep your money invested the better off you are. If you borrow from it you can only replace the money you borrowed plus the little bit of simple interest that you are charged but you can never replace the effects that time can have on your money. A home equity line or loan will only charge you simple interest and rates are very low right now. In addition the interest you pay may be tax deductible.

Question:  Three years ago our company went union, at that time our 401 k had been stagnent. I have about $2500 in my account that is growing less and less, the way the stock market is right now.  My question is - Can I roll this account over and if so,  will I be getting a better return on my money? I was told it's a federal law that I can't get my money out, is that true ?
Answer:  In regards to your question about withdrawing your 401k funds they can be withdrawn with penalty. The Federal government allows the funds to be deposited into your account tax free in order to save for your retirement and if you choose to withdrawal early then the funds are taxed heavily before they are given to you. Many 401k plans allow you to change the way your funds are invested. You may want to look into that to see if there is a better or safer way to have your funds invested before you try to remove it. Also keep in mind that the stock market has its ups and downs and that in the long run you will probably be better off by staying put.

Question:  I was denied a free checking acct  by Charter One Bank because my credit rating is bad, very bad, granted.  Do all banks do a credit check now for new customers applying for a checking account, or are there
any banks in Toledo that do not require a credit check to open a checking account?

Answer:  In regards to banks checking credit reports I can say that it is becoming more common for them to do so. However, not all do. The more common safeguard that banks use is Check Systems or other services like them. It will keep a record of any checking accounts that have not been paid off completely and banks will not permit you to open an account with them until it has been resolved. I hope this helps.

Question:  What is the current rate on a 15 year mortgage?  I am thinking about refinancing.  Is there any closing cost and if so what is that amount? Currently I am at 7.25%.
Answer:  I think that you will find that you may be able to get a lower rate. I would advise you to contact a mortgage representative or feel free to check out our Website at www.53.com or call 1-866-53-LOANS.

Question: I am 49 years old and have no retirement. What would be the best thing for me to do to have a retirement account?
Answer: In regards to starting a retirement account the best choice I could recommend would to get involved in a 401k if your company has one. If not you may look in to an IRA from a financial institution.  The downside is starting late to prepare for your retirement. Most retirement opportunities use the process of compounding interest and the more time you are able to leave your money in these accounts the better.

Question: I am looking to invest some money and I would like to know what is my best option.  I am in my 20's and this would be my first real investment.  Could you help me to understand what would  be a good investment and fairly safe?
Answer: In regards to you investment opportunities I would highly recommend investing into a 401k. The earlier you start one the more money you will have for retirement and the amount is greatly affected by the extra years you could be involved.

Question: How can I get out of a locked interest rate?  We're thinking about approaching a different banking institution,  but have already told another bank to lock a rate for a mortgage refinancing. We haven't signed anything yet. And it really hasn't been going very well with the current bank.  We don't feel that we've received very good service and would like to reconsider.
Amswer: In regards to your question concerning your mortgage, you are not obligated to complete the transaction with the existing lender. If the transaction is a refinace, you have up to 3 days after you sign the contract to cancel.

Question: My Godmother has had a savings account for me since I was first born and there is now approximately $560 dollars in the account. I want to take $500 of it and put it in some sort of savings, such as my retirement or invest it or something of that nature.  The problem is I am only 18 years old and I don't have much knowledge  about this sort of thing so I need some help.
Answer: In regards to your question concerning  moving your money into a savings account, please go to our website at  www.53.com and take a look at the information pertaining to CD and savings accounts. The minimum amount to open a CD account is $500.00 and the minimum deposit required for a savings account is $50.00. In either a CD or savings account, your money will earn some interest while you determine if there are other investments you want to pursue.

Question: Is it wise to transfer credit card balances to save on interest?
Answer: In regards to your question concerning the transfer of credit card balances, there are opportunities to save money on your credit cards by taking advantage of lower interest rates. This is a chance to save money, and depending on the circumstances it may be wise. When shopping, check for annual fees that might limit the actual savings.

Question:If someone wanted to pursue a career as a title examiner and/or escrow closer,  where can they get experience or  education to pursue a job position with a title agency?
Answer: In regards to your question concerning a career as a title examiner or escrow closer, there is no additional schooling required to work as an examiner. The best way to learn, is to work with an examiner. There are hundreds if title agencies looking to hire help. If you meet with enough title companies you are certain to find an open position that may lead to an examiner position.

Question: Can a credit card company freeze a savings account if a person can't pay the balance?  I have my social security check electronically deposited in my savings.
Answer: In regards to your question concerning the freeze of a savings account, if  both accounts are with the same bank then they hold the right to freeze any of your accounts until the balances are paid. If it is with another financial institution then they cannot freeze your account, but they can place a garnishment on the account.

Question: My spouse & I each have IRAs.  We each have the other listed as the primary beneficiary & our two minor children are listed as the contingent beneficiaries(50% each). My question is, should my spouse & I die at the same time, would there be a greater taxable event having the  children as the contingent beneficiaries or having our Family Trust listed as the contingent beneficiary of our IRAs?
Answer: In regards to your question as to a greater taxable event, it would be having your children as the
contingent beneficiaries. At the end of the year they would receive a 1099 (tax form)which would show the interest gained on the account. This would have to be claimed by one or both of the children or by their legal guardians claiming them as dependants. Taking all this into consideration, before you make any decision, it would be best to talk to your Trust Officer to advise you on the best course for you.

Question: I paid off my credit card last month and my check was received by them on 01/03/02. The new billing cycle starts a couple days after I've received my bill. This month they sent me a bill charging me $20.86 in  finance charges. My qustion is, can they legally charge me finance charges even though the balance was paid off in full before the end of that  billing cycle? Do I actually owe them anything?
Answer: In regards to your question concerning the interest you have been charged the answer is yes they can. In the contract that you have with the company they explain the way finance charges are assessed to your account. For instance many credit card companies will not charge you interest on "purchases" as long as you pay by the due date but usually "cash advances" have interest charged from the day the "cash advance" was made with no grace period. Of course,  I am speaking in general terms and the only to be sure how your credit card company charges interest is to check with them.

Question: What do the banks exactly look at in my credit report, is it all the of my credit history?
Answer: In regards to your question on what banks look at in credit reports the short answer is everything.  A
credit report gives a score that reflects your past credit history. That score is made up of positive things such as having paid a loan or bill on time, and of negative things such as being late on payments.

Question: When you pay off your mortgage, shouldn't you receive any type of paper work from the bank you had the mortgage through.  I paid off my mortgage from your bank in May 2001 and received a letter stating it was paid off and that I was to start paying my property taxes and insurance directly, because that was included in my house payments.  The head lady at my bank (Fifth Third) says I should have received some sort of  (closing) paper work.
Answer: In regards to your question regarding closing paperwork for your mortgage the answer is that the letter you received is really the only formal response Fifth Third gives.  Once you have paid off your mortgage Fifth Third will contact the county and have the lein released for you.  Your deed is held by you so there is nothing else that you should need.  If you have any further questions feel free to contact Fifth Third Customer Service at 1-800-972-3030.

Question: I recently got divorced, and had to file for bankruptcy, and now I am remarried and would like to know if it is possible for me to get a  home loan? or is there a grace period after the bankruptcy is discharged?  I have no monthly bills other than a car payment, and I make aprox.  $70,000. a year.
Answer: In regards to your question on if you are able to get a home loan the answer depends on a number of things. Of  course bankruptcy is a mark on your credit but some institutions are willing to look for ways to still give you that loan based on other credit history,  the amount you are asking to borrow, the amount of bills you currently have versus your income, and the amount you have to put down. You may also want to look into a FHA loan. This is a loan that the government will help you get to buy a home.  The best course of action is to talk to a mortgage loan originator, a real estate agent, and/or the FHA to see what options are available.

Question: If I start with $2500.00 to $5000.00,  what is my best investment that 5/3 offers now?
Answer: In regards to what the best investment Fifth Third Bank offers you to invest $2500.00 to $5000.00 in really depends on your level of comfort. Let me give you some examples of investment opportunities.
1.      Savings Account/Money Market Account. This will offer the least amount of interest earned but the funds will be readily available to you if  you need it.
2.      CD. This choice offers a considerably higher interest rate than option one but the money is not available to you to withdrawal. The funds are held for an agreed amount of time and interest is compounded through the  term.
3.      Fifth Third Securities. This will allow you to invest in the stock market with the potential of an even greater gain but also the potential for loss.
4.      IRA.    If you are interested in preparing for retirement then this option is the best choice. It allows you to save for the future by having your money invested in many different ways so that you can choose the level of risk you are comfortable with. The tax on the interest earned may also be differed until retirement.
 I would advise you to go into a branch nearest you and talk to an advisor but before you do this decide the level of risk you are willing to take and the length of time you wish to have your funds invested.

Question: Do I have to get a home change over to my name (It my father home) if I take over the mortgage payments becasue his house is about to foreclosed,. If so why and do I have to pay money for the change? (My
father is still living).
Answer: In regards to your question as to if  you would need to transfer the house into your name the answer is no. You  can make the payments for your father in order to keep the payments up to date. However, the credit history and the tax information would all be in your father's name as well. Also, if something was to happen to him and he had not set up the proper paperwork, the house would be sold in order to pay off outstanding debt. It may be of benefit to you see if you can have your  name added to the mortgage and then have the deed put in your name. This may be of some cost but would protect your families interest in the future as well as give you the tax benefits now.

Question: I want to buy my granddaughter some stock.  Should I make it  joint owenership, unified gift, or just her name,  she is 3 yrs old.  Also,  what is the lease complicated if I die?
Answer: In regards to question on buying stock for your granddaughter, you will want to consult your stock broker for what the best way to arrange this. If you decide to make it a Payable Upon Death  (POB) account then the beneficiary would receive this at the event of your  death.  It is also probable that she may not be able to redeem it until she is eighteen years old.

Question: We recently started seeing a financial advisor (2 visits so far). we are in our mid 50's and plan to retire at age 62. we will both have pensions from work and i will have money from a 457 plan. My significant other wants to put  money into an annuity at work and I want to increase my deferred comp contributions (457). Our advisor told us not to do that. instead, what we needed was a variable universal life insurance policy (details to be worked out). His rationale was no taxes had to be paid?  I've always heard the best way to save was to first max out a 401/457 plan and go from there.  I have never heard of life insurance as a retirement vehicle.  We both have life insurance policies thru work and there are no dependents.  Is the life insurance policy mentioned a better way to save money than a 401/457 plan or is someone looking to make a comission?
Answer: In regards to your question about saving money for retirement, it all depends on what you want.
Insurance companies do offer such a plan that allows you to save money for retirement but I am not sure of how it works so I cannot say if it is a good idea. However the closer you get to retirement age the safer you want to be with your money.  A 401 plan usually invests in the stock market which allows for greater returns depending on the plans that are offered.  There is still a chance for loss with this.  In an annuity your money is much safer but the rate of interest received is usually less.  The choice would be how much more you feel you need to retire on, how much longer will you be saving for retirement, and how big of a risk are you willing to take.  Weigh all your options and choose the best one for your situation.

Question: My son and his fiance are looking at buying a house. They have a small down payment but have no established credt for a bank to look at. How can they begin building credit in the next year so they can buy a house when they are ready?
Answer: Regarding your question about ways your son can build credit, he primarily needs to be paying the bills he has at this time such as the phone company and utilities.  He also may try to take out a small loan for anything and pay it off according to the terms agreed upon. The main thing will be to show that he is regular in
making payments no matter what the amount is.  In one years time it will be difficult to establish his credit so he may also consider getting government help by seeking a FHA loan.

Question: Is all of my savings insured by FDIC ? Most banks guarantee up to $100,000. I was wondering if there is any type of loss to the bank that my money would not be covered such as embezzlement or improper
investing or something like this?
Answer: In regards to FDIC insurance, you are correct that banks that are FDIC insured have each individual insured up to $100,000.00 per account type. What this means is if you have a single savings account it is insured for that amount and if you also have a joint account it is insured as well.  You can visit their website at
www.fdic.gov to get a detailed explanation of what is insured and what is not.  The FDIC is in existence to protect banking customers in case a bank has a financial disaster no matter what the cause.  The way it has been set up to protect means you can keep your money within one bank and still have this insurance as long as you have your money diversified into different types of accounts.

Question: I would like to know how to go about getting a loan for "Debt Consolidation." My wife and I have outstanding credit card bills (prior to our marriage) that we are trying to pay down, but unfortunately, the
interest rates are so high, that trying to get them paid down is almost impossible. What we discussed was getting a consolidation loan, paying off all of our debt and making one payment (preferably electronic pay or autopay) on a monthly basis. We have problems with our credit because of this, and would like to try and get on track. I investigated a "Credit Counseling" service, but found out that joining one of those services does much more harm than good on your credit and it reflects on your credit report for 7 years.
Answer: In regards to your question on consolidation loans, this is a method that many have found very helpful
to get their bills under control. Finding the best lender for you may be difficult because even though rates are extremely low at this time, a bad credit history could increase the interest rate for you. However, the rates
should still be considerably less than the rates the credit cards have. Many lending institutions offer electronic pay of their accounts in one form or another and some like Fifth Third offers a discount when you sign up for
it at the beginning.

Question: What do the banks look at in my credit report, is it all of my credit history?
Answer: In regards to your question on what banks look at in credit reports the short answer is everything. A credit report gives a score that reflects your past credit history. That score is made up of positive things such as having paid a loan or bill on time, and of negative things such as being late on payments.

Question: I paid off my credit card last month and my check was received by them on 01/03/02. The new billing cycle starts a couple days after I've received my bill. This month they sent me a bill charging me $20.86 in finance charges. My question is, can they legally charge me finance charges even though the balance was paid off in full before the end of that billing cycle? Do I actually owe them anything?
Answer: In regards to your question concerning the interest you have been charged the answer is yes they can. In the contract that you have with the company they explain the way finance charges are assessed to your account. For instance many credit card companies will not charge you interest on "purchases" as long as you pay by the due date but usually "cash advances" have interest charged from the day the "cash advance" was made with no grace period. Of course I am speaking in general terms and the only to be sure how your credit card company charges interest is to check with them.

Question: My spouse & I each have IRAs. We each have the other listed as the primary beneficiary & our two minor children are listed as the contingent beneficiaries (50%each). My question is, should my spouse & I
die at the same time, would there be a greater taxable event having the children as the contingent beneficiaries or having our Family Trust listed as the contingent beneficiary of our IRAs?
Answer:In regards to your question as to a greater taxable event, it would be having your children as the contingent beneficiaries. At the end of the year they would receive a 1099 (tax form) which would show the interest gained on the account. This would have to be claimed by one or both of the children or by their legal guardians claiming them as dependants. Taking all this into consideration, before you make any decision, it would be best to talk to your Trust Officer to advise you on the best course for you.

Question: I just consigned a car loan for a family member and understand that I become obligated should this person default on the loan. I plan to buy a house within the next two years and want to know if the full car
payment, because is shows on my credit report, will be used as an obligation when figuring my income to debt ratio.
Answer: In regards to your question on whether he car loan you are a cosigner on will be used on your income to debt action, the answer is yes. The mortgage company will want to know what debt you are responsible for and since you are a "cosigner" you are equally responsible for this debt as is the primary account holder. However, the credit report should show that you are not the primary and the mortgage company might take that into consideration. Either way whatever the primary borrower does will also reflect on your credit report good or bad.

Question: What should I look for when choosing a trust manager?
Answer: There are some important factors to consider. (1) Trust - you must be able to trust the money manager's judgment and expertise that the he will invest your money to meet your goals and objectives. (2) Performance - how has the manager performed in similar situations in both an up market and a down market (3) Service - does the manager have available resources to offer additional services such as estate or tax planning

Question: At what age can I take from an IRA without penalty?
Answer: You can begin at the age of 59-1/2 without penalty.

Question: My husband's home loan still has his and his ex-wife's name on the loan. In their divorce he was awarded the home (as it was his before their marriage). Do we have to refiance to get her name off the loan? What options do we have?
Answer: You would in fact have to refinance your home in order to have her name removed.

Question: How much are your car loans for a l998 Pontiac Montana minivan?
Answer: A car loan for a 1998 Ponitiac Montana minivan, for a 12-60 month fixed rate loan, the rate in the toledo area ranges from 7.10% to 10.10%.

Question: On tv you see all these commercials for debt consolidation. What I was wondering is that by consolidating, does that effect your credit? I have a couple of credit cards with balances that I would like to consolidate without a home equity loan.
Answer: In regards to your question concerning debt consolidation, normally, consolidating debt requires the customer to close the old accounts being consolidated. Therefore, you do not create new debt that would negatively impact your credit rating. Applying for a Home Equity Loan does require a credit check or inquiry. If possible, customers should avoid an excessive number of credit checks or inquiries.

Question: I have a 2000 Impala that I would like to refinance to lower the payments. The balance is approx. $22,000. How much would I have to put down to lower the payments to around $300.00/month?
Answer:You would have to put down $6,905.08 if you would like to finance the vehicle for 72 months. The interest rate is currently 9.75%. You would have to put down $7,833.55 if you would like to finance the vehicle for 66 months. The interest rate is currently 9.50%. You would have to put down $8,840.80 if you would like to finance the vehicle for 60 months. The interest rate is currently 9.25%. All three of these examples will drop your payment to $300.00 per month. Please compare your existing interest rate on your loan.

Question: We are selling a rental property. The buyer, who apparently has a history of bad credit, has asked us to finance 15% of the purchase price through a second mortgage at 8% for 10 years. Apparently she has no down payment and her mortgage lender will only finance 85% of the appraised value. Are there other options available? I really don't want to carry 15% in a second mortgage. Is the purchase price and the appraised value the same? Isn't it possible that 85% of the appraised value may cover 100% of : the purchase price? If we agree to the 15% second mortgage, can we 'forgive' the loan if we decide that we have received what we want out of the house at closing?
Answer:There are several programs available that do not require a down payment and the requirements will vary by lending institution. In almost all cases those programs will require a satisfactory credit history. If you choose to carry a second mortgage you should be aware that you could have problems collecting on the obligation down the road. To secure yourself you should make certain that your mortgage is recorded with the proper authorities. You could forgive the loan at anytime in the future at which time you would release the mortgage that was previously recorded. I might also suggest you talk with a real estate agent regarding your
situation. They may have qualified buyers that may have an interest in your home.

Question: How can wage garnishments affect you in the future?
Answer:With a change to the garnishment law that went into effect this past August, garnishments filed after the amendment date enables the creditor to now garnish 25% out of each paycheck. It use to be they could only garnish 25% on the total earned in a 30 day period. So, if you are paid weekly, they use to garnish 6.25% out of each paycheck for a total of 25% in the 30 day period. Now it is 25% out of each check. Once a wage garnishment is filed, it continues until the time the debt has been paid in full or another creditor files a garnishment. In that case, the first garnishment is in place for 6 months and then the next creditor's garnishment picks up. The first creditor would then have to file again, but they would not get any money until the second creditor's six months is up and so on. The best thing a consumer can do is to not wait until the creditor has take judgment against the consumer in the lawsuit. They are better off to contact the creditor ando/or their attorney and try to set up a payment plan. They agree on a set amount that the consumer will pay per month/week. Usually, that amount is less than what would get taken out of their paycheck through a garnishment. Thus, they have more income available to keep up on their other bills and expenses.

Question: I doubt you can help me with this but... I have cable running to my house. Recently we had the service removed as well. When the cable guys came in all they did was take the box and the line from the TV. We still have a cable line running from the pole to the house though. I am able to hook up cable again, but I was wondering if it is legal. Stealing cable is obviously not legal, yet, the lack of the cable company's removal has opened up this door. Because the line is still attached to my house, is it legal?
Answer: It is my opinion that you would be committing fraud on the cable company, given the facts set out in your e-mail. The presence of a Toledo Edison power line running from a pole to a house does not entitle the
homeowner to free electricity. Likewise, the mere fact that the cable company's wire still runs from the pole to your house does not entitle you to free cable TV service. I would also add that just because the wire is still there
does not mean that it is necessarily hooked up. It is my understanding that the cable company can shut off service at the pole. In short, I do not believe it would be legal for you to tap into the cable line.

Question: I was injured 1-1/2 years ago in a traffic accident ( I was hit from behind) in Michigan. Both myself and the other driver (who was cited) are Ohio drivers. Do I have any avenues for legal action in Ohio to recover damages and pain and suffering?
Answer:The answer to your question likely depends on where in Ohio the person who caused the accident lives. I handled a case earlier this year in which the Ohio Court of Appeals for the Sixth Appellate District, which covers Lucas and surrounding counties, held that Ohio damages law governs an Ohio lawsuit based on a Michigan traffic accident in which all the parties were Ohio residents. Ohio law (unlike Michigan no-fault law) does not place any restrictions on recovering damages for pain and suffering. The case in question is called Callis v. Zilba (2000), 136 Ohio App.3d 696. Generally, a lawsuit must be filed in the county where the defendant lives. If the driver who hit you lives in Lucas, Erie, Fulton, Huron, Ottawa, Sandusky, Williams or Wood County (the Sixth District), there is a good chance that, based on the above-mentioned case, the court in which you file suit will apply Ohio law and let you recover for pain and suffering. If the other driver lives elsewhere, the court might apply Michigan law, under which you must prove "serious impairment of body function" or "permanent serious disfigurement" to recover. You wrote that the accident happened about 1-1/2 years ago. Please be advised that you must either settle your claim with the other driver's insurance company or file suit no later than two years after the accident. If the insurance company insists that Michigan law applies and refuses to pay anything for pain and suffering, you should probably consider hiring an attorney to handle your case.

Question: My father has POA of his mother, who was diagnosed with Alzheimers. She also had a stroke in August, 2000. My question is her daughter, my dad's sister, I believe, is trying to find a way to do something to my dad. She wrote a semi-nasty letter more or less accusing my dad and mom of keeping all this money hid that she thinks her mom has. Her mom has no big bank accounts anywhere. Can she somehow come back on my parents and try to take anything from them? I mean their personal property. My grandma lives with them and I take care of her at night in their home. She was in a Nursing Home for about 1 week. My dad has had
power of attorney for at least a year or so. He got it when she was first diagnosed with Alzheimers, that's when she came up here to live. Her prior residence was Kentucky. I'm afraid for my parents. I hope you can give me some help. Thanks.
Answer: First of all, I limit my practice to personal injury matters and these questions are not within my area of expertise. I'm sorry to hear about the trouble your father is having with your aunt. As I understand the law in this area, the holder of a power of attorney (known the attorney-in-fact) has what's called a fiduciary relationship with the person who granted the power of attorney (known as the principal). Essentially, this means that the attorney-in-fact has a duty to act in the principal's best interests. If the conduct of an attorney-in-fact is ever challenged, the attorney-in-fact has the burden of proving in court that the challenged transaction was fair and reasonable. Moreover, courts tend to view any transfer of property from the principal to the attorney-in-fact with suspicion. As long as your dad is exercising the power of attorney in his mother's best interests, and is not using the power of attorney to transfer his mother's money or property to himself, I believe he has little to fear. If your aunt ever tried to sue, she would have to prove in court that your dad did in fact "hide" your grandmother's assets for some illegitimate purpose, such as depriving your aunt of her inheritance. If that's not actually happening, then your aunt doesn't have a leg to stand on. Of course, the mere fact that your aunt has no valid claim might not prevent her from suing your father anyway. If that happens, your father should hire an attorney right away since defending a lawsuit (even a frivolous one) is a very tricky business. If you would like a more detailed response, I suggest that you contact the Toledo Bar Association's lawyer referral service at 242-2000. They'll be able to hook you up with a lawyer who practices in this area. I wish you and your family the very best.

Question: I own a small business. The building that we are in has come up for sale. We do not have the money for the down payment. Is there anything that we can do?
Answer: Financing 100% of a project is difficult for banks to do. There are programs available such as the SBA 504 loan program that requires a down payment of only 10%. This program has a number of fixed costs and can be very expensive for small requests. You may want to look at borrowing the money for a down payment through a personal home equity loan. This obviously assumes there is equity available. Local communities may also have low interest loan programs available which may be of assistance. To find out more about specific local programs call the local Chamber of Commerce.

Question: I have bad credit. What is the best way to start establishing good credit without it having to be secured? Any tips about establishing credit would help.
Answer: There would be two (2) approaches I would recommend: the first would be to contact your old creditors, and start to correct your credit with them. This will show anyone new looking at your credit that you are making an effort to correct past credit problems. The second approach would be to explain to a new creditor what is different today, than in the past, as far as your ability to make payments. I hope this helps you back on the right track.

Question: I am joining my company 401k. I am 39. I can either choose a mutual fund or a portfolio of funds. I am leaning towards an aggressive growth portfolio. Is this a wise choice?
Answer:At age 39 you most likely have 20 or more years until retirement. Over such extended time periods, stocks historically have offered the best return. However, an aggressive fund alone may not be the best choice because it lacks diversification. Perhaps an aggressive fund complemented by smaller portions invested in
bonds and international stocks may be an attractive alternative for you. The other issue with an aggressive growth fund is that many people "chase performance" - they buy funds that have had a prolonged run-up and then grow disenchanted and sell the fund on declines. This buy high, sell low strategy is not a wise one. While your time horizon is such that you can certainly be aggressive, stick to your plan and don't bail out on
declines.

Question: I am starting a part-time second job and I want to invest the money. What would be the best way to invest the money? What kind of account would give me the highest rate of return in a short time (one year) and also something I can put money into from every pay check?
Answer: If you plan to use this money in one year and you need to preserve the principal value, a money market fund through a local bank or brokerage would be the best choice. Fifth Third's money market currently pays about 6% and automatic investment is available. If you need the money a year from now stocks may not be the best choice. No one can predict with certainty where the market will be in 12 months. Over the last 14 years, the worst 12 month return on the S&P Index, (a proxy for the stock market) was a negative 18%, the highest was 45%. Unless you're comfortable with a 18% loss, stick to money market accounts. On the other hand, if your time horizon is longer (3 - 5 years or longer), the stock market probably will provide you with the best return. Mutual funds are a good choice because you will own shares of 40 or more companies, even with a small investment and receive the benefit of professional money management at a small fee. Good mutual funds are available from many entities, including Fifth Third.

Question: A family member asked me to vouch for his character for a bank loan. I signed some papers, but now the bank says I am liable for the whole loan. Am I responsible if I only meant to vouch for his character?
Answer: If you signed the note, the agreement to pay the bank for the money borrowed, then you are liable. Every consumer note in Ohio, and most other states, contains a warning to co-signers. This is also known as the Federal Reserve Regulation AA warning. It warns any signer that they will be liable for the debt as though they are the only borrowers. Any signer to the note is also liable for costs like the interest on the loan, and collection and attorney fees. Whenever you are asked to sign a document, be sure the read the document completely before signing.

Question: My mother is in a nursing home and has all her checking and savings accounts in her name alone. She wants me be to able to help her with paying her bills. A friend suggested a POA, power of attorney. What is that and how do I get one?
Answer:A Power of Attorney form is the authority from one individual to another to do certain things, like handle bank accounts. Banks in Ohio are not required to accept POA forms, and can set their own rules about which ones they will accept. Usually, banks like one person granting the POA to one person (frequently called the POA), so there are no fights between the persons who have access to the accounts. Banks also like to have the nature of the authority spelled out clearly, such as the right to make deposits and withdrawals and to receive information on accounts held by the bank. If a safe deposit box is involved, there must be separate language that says the POA can enter the box, make deposits and withdrawals from the box, and close the box. POA forms must be signed and dated. Most banks also require the POA form to be witnessed by two witnesses and notarized. This protects the bank and the POA from potential lawsuits. Most nursing homes and hospitals have a notary. Banks also require that the POA form be durable, which means that the POA form will not become invalid if the person granting the authority is incapacitated or incompetent. This allows the bank to accept POA forms that are older, but needed now that someone is in the hospital or nursing home. However, despite the rumors, POA forms lapse at the death of the person granting the power. They do not survive death in any way. Once the person is deceased, the POA can not longer use the POA form or its authority for any transactions with the bank. There are standard POA forms which can be purchased from the Toledo Legal News, most office supply companies, and through the internet. Copies can also be made of forms at the library and many social service agencies. It is not necessary to have the POA form prepared by an attorney, but seeking good legal counsel is always recommended when customers are dealing with issues that affect their accounts.

Question: What type of tax breaks are available?
Answer:There are two. First, as mentioned your money goes into your own 401(k) plan account "before income taxes". That means you get more of your hard-earned money for yourself. The IRS gets less. For example, if you are in a 15% tax bracket, every $100 you put into your 401(k), in effect, costs you only $85. Why? Because you pay $15 less in income taxes. Your tax savings could be greater, it all depends on the tax bracket you are in. Second, the money in your account keeps growing "without" any federal taxes on your investment earnings. That's known as tax-deferral and it can make a huge difference in the amount of money waiting for you at retirement compared to saving through a taxable savings program. You don't pay federal income taxes until you begin withdrawing your money from the plan. By then, you might be in a lower tax bracket. You still come out ahead.

Question: What exactly is a 401(k) salary deferral plan?
Answer: It is a retirement plan offered by your employer. It works like this: you tell your employer the amount of money you want to save. That amount is deducted from your pay every payday and put into your own 401(k) plan account before income taxes. So, if you earn $500 a week and decide to save or "defer" 5% of your pay, $25 is taken out of your pay each week and placed into your plan account. Your money is then invested in the investments you have already picked from a list of choices the plan offers. Any earnings on your investments are credited to your plan account. In order to encourage people to save, the government gives special tax breaks to employees who join these plans.

Question: Where should I invest my money?
Answer: For most people, mutual funds are an excellent choice because they provide "instant diversification" with most mutual funds containing 40 or more securities. Also, most people should have some money in stocks and some in bonds, with those who have a longer time horizon being able to allocate more to stocks. Putting all of your money in one stock, even if it's your employer's stock, is a risky strategy and usually should be avoided.

Question: I have paid my last lease payment on my car and I would like to know what my options are once my lease matures?
Answer:Your options at maturity once you have paid your final lease payment are the following: You can purchase your leased vehicle, trade in your leased vehicle to a dealership, or return your leased vehicle back to the bank. To discuss in detail any of the above options, please contact a bank representative at 1-800-447-7928.

Question: I am looking to sell my home on my own, without a realtor in the spring. Can you help me with pointers on this as far as loans, and the steps involved with selling a house? I also have a perspective home in mind that a good friend of the family is willing to let it go to me for a good price, I just don't want to get burned in this transaction. What are the important steps involved with buying and selling a home? Also, as far as the loan process goes, and as far as your credit report is considered, what is the minimal credit score one could have and still get a really great interest rate? The new home will need some work so we will have to borrow a little more than she is actually selling it for so we can have more cash on hand for repairs. Do you have any advice on this? We have just had a debt consolidation loan on our home done this month. All of our debt was included in with the lower monthly payment. When we go to get a new loan in the spring (6months) will the fact that our debt will show paid in full help our credit score for a new loan? How do I get the most competitive rates at the time I need the loan?
Answer:There are many steps involved in buying and selling a home. A qualified realtor would be able to provide you with the steps that you must take to sell a home. You did however mention that you were going to sell it on your own. With that in mind I would suggest that you contact a real estate attorney who can provide you with the legal requirements of selling a home. As for the financing of your new home, there are many different loan programs now available to fit almost any situation. I would suggest you meet with a loan officer now to discuss your specific situation prior to putting your house up for sale in the spring. They can provide you with your options and the items that will be considered when you go for financing.

Question: How do I make my first/subsequent deposits for on-line banking?
Answer:Your first deposit can be debited from any 5/3 checking or savings account or you can send a check in the mail after you have received the "Account Opening Kit" from us.

Question: Can I look at the checks that have been paid since my last statement?
Answer: Yes, any check that has been paid since your last statement will be on your electronic statement for you to verify the amount paid and the date the check was paid.

Question: Can I transfer from my savings account to my checking account?
Answer:Yes, you can transfer from any 5/3 checking or savings account to any 5/3 checking, savings or loan that has been opened in your name.

Question: I have had credit problems in the past but have come along way in correcting these problems. On average how long should I expect to have to stay on the right track before I can obtain credit from conventional sources?
Answer: The normal time it takes to re-establish your credit is 18 to 24 months of on-time payments. Also, an explanation of the prior delinquency is helpful. A lender wants to know that things have changed, and feel comfortable in extending new credit. In addition, we are looking at your ability to repay the debt and job
stability.

Question: I have several complicated questions. My dad died last year, I have received proceeds from several small life insurance policies and a check for my share of the sale of his house. How will I show these on my 2000 Income tax return? I have also inherited several different mutual funds. How do I show these on my
tax return? I realize that I will have additional income from all these things, is there any way to not have to pay at the end of the year because of the additional interest income? I already claim "married with no dependants" on my W-4. Also my husband and I have for several years filed "married but separately" on our income tax returns because with the savings on the State we save overall by doing it this way. We have been advised that because we now have a son in college in order to claim him as a dependant we must file joint even though he has a full scholarship. Is this true and why? Another son was married this year and we gave him a $5,000 CD as a wedding gift, how do we show this on our income tax return?
Answer:Thank you for asking the expert at Fifth Third Bank. Unfortunately, we do not offer tax advice. There are many organizations in our community that do, including the IRS. You may wish to speak to one of our investment advisors, however, to help you invest with a regard to tax implications. You may call us at 259-7647.

Question: Next summer we will be building a new house. This will be the first house that we have owned. Are there loan programs with special rates for first time owners for building new and not buying an existing home?
Answer: While typically there are not construction loan programs targeted to first time buyers, there are now many options that were not available in the past. Low down payment construction loans are now very popular with individuals building for the first time. Even though you do not plan to build until next summer, I would suggest that you meet with a Fifth Third Mortgage Specialist now to discuss your options. They can help you understand your options and discuss some of the financing costs associated with a construction loan. You may contact us direct at 419-259-7610.

Question: We are building a home in Wood county. We were told we could move in when the house was 80% complete. My question is can we still move in even though we haven't made our construction loan
into a mortgage loan? We have checked with our Insurance company and we can have our homeowners policy without having our mortgage loan. We are not using a builder we have a contractor and are doing the finish work ourselves.
Answer:From the information you provided it is my understanding that you have taken out a loan for the
construction phase of your home and will need to refinance when the home is complete.
With that in mind, I would suggest that you contact the financial institution that has provided the construction financing and discuss your situation with them. In most cases, you can not move in to a new home until you receive an occupancy permit.

Question: I am considering buying Owens Corning stock. Is this a good idea? Will the company fold or will it rebound after Chapter 11?
Answer:I want to preface my opinion by saying that due to the long-running asbestos problems that Owens Corning has faced, our analysts do not follow the stock and therefore my opinion is based more on my knowledge and experience in the markets rather than an in-depth study of OWC. I'm sure you realize that any investment in the stock is truly a gamble at this point in time and it could take 3 to 5 years or longer before you> turn a profit. I have seen companies come out of Chapter 11successfully, (i.e.. Johns Manville) but it's a long, painful battle. At Fifth Third we buy companies that have increasing revenues and earnings which lead to higher stock prices over the long-term. I believe you would be better off investing your money in a high quality growth fund which will provide the potential for out-performance as well as diversification for some protection in this volatile market.

Question: What would the monthly payment be for a mortgage of $160,000? We would have a down payment of approximately $100,000. The home we want is $260,000. I'm curious about the payment
on both a 15 year and a 30 year loan.
Answer:There are many different options to consider when financing a home. The following are estimated principle and interest payments for a $160,000 loan using our current fixed interest rate with zero points:
15 Year = $1,494/Monthly and 30 Year = $1,188/ Monthly. Lower payments may be available through other loan programs.

Question: My husband and I have just bought an old farm house out in the country that we have to totally restore. We own a home and have put it up for sale with a local realtor. We can take possession immediately and want to begin our restoration. We have almost $50,000.00 of equity in our home and were planning on using that to restore our new home. We need money now and don't feel a home equity loan on our present home is the way to go. We need cash for contractors and materials now. We have a buyer for our house and will be able to repay the loan in a few months. What is the best route to go? We need to borrow about $20,000.00 and want to be able to do that with out having to pay a lot of fees and penalties. Is their any short term, low interest loans out there?
Answer:The are several options that you have to obtain the additional funds needed to complete the restoration of your new home. If you have not yet closed on your new home, it may be possible to borrow the additional money as well as the money needed to purchase the home through one single loan. If you have closed on your new home, a home equity line of credit may provide you with the funds to complete the renovation. With a home equity line of credit there would be no closing costs and you could pay down the line of credit upon the sale of your existing home. To confirm which of these options would work best I would need a little more information from you.

Question: Is there any way to do an online Loan application for an installment loan? Thanks!
Answer:Thank you for asking the expert at Fifth Third Bank! Yes, at Fifth Third you can apply on line for a home equity loan, mortgage or credit card. Go to our website at www.53.com. You can also open a checking account including our Totally Free Checking account.

Question: Why do banks charge such a high fee for printing checks for customers? I just ordered 200 from my bank and the total fee came to almost $30.00. This seems exorbitant to me when other places can print the same quantity for under $10.00!
Answer: Thank you for asking the expert at Fifth Third Bank! Costs for checks depends on the style that is chosen. For instance, duplicate checks cost more than regular checks. At Fifth Third, prices range from $16.15 (including shipping) to $31.95. The type of checking account that you select can also make a difference. Some accounts include the cost of checks. Go to our website at www.53.com and click on banking. You will be able to check out our options, including Totally Free checking! (Which does not include free checks, but with no monthly service fee you are still dollars ahead!)