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  • Review of cash management procedures
  • Review of insurance risks
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Quick Answers to Common Questions
By Elaine Floyd, CFP

  • A relative of mine may have left money in a bank account many years ago. How do I find out if there are any unclaimed assets for me?

    Go to the website of the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators and do a free search. If the funds were in a bank that failed, recover them from the FDIC. If they were in a pension fund of a company that went out of business, try the PBGC.

  • Should I buy or lease my next car?

    The general rule of thumb is: If you want to keep the car more than four years or you drive more than 15,000 miles a year, buy. If you like getting a new car every few years and aren't restricted by the mileage cap, lease. To compare the two financing methods when you know all the terms (purchase price, interest rate, residual value, etc.), use the calculators at Edmunds.com.

  • I received a big tax refund last year. How can I make sure I don't give Uncle Sam another interest-free loan this year?

    See the online version of IRS Publication 919, "How Do I Adjust My Tax Withholding?" Also see the withholding calculator on the IRS website.

  • I'm having a baby. Should I work or stay home?

    The decision to work or stay home is highly personal and goes well beyond finances. But, you can use online calculators to determine whether you or your spouse can afford to quit.

  • Should I refinance my mortgage?

    The real question is this: how long do I have to stay in the house in order to recoup the refinancing fees? A quick payback calculation can be done by dividing the monthly savings into the refinancing fee. Example: If the new loan saves $100 per month and it costs $2,000 to get the loan, the payback period is 20 months. Use Bankrate's refinancing calculator for more comprehensive calculation. 

  • How much life insurance do I need?

    A rule of thumb is six to 10 times annual income. But it's easy enough to do a quick calculation of survivors' income needs to avoid over- or underinsuring. Here's a calculator that makes it easy.

  • How can I get a copy of my credit report?

    Contact one or all three credit reporting agencies and provide the following information: full name (including generations such as Jr., Sr., etc.), birth date, Social Security number, spouse's name if applicable, telephone number, and addresses for the past five years. If you've been denied credit in the past 60 days, the report is free. Otherwise the cost is as follows:

    • Equifax, P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, Ga., 30374, (800) 685-1111, ($15.95 for Equifax credit report and score; $19.95 for Equifax credit report and FICO score; $39.95 for 3-in-1 report plus credit score)
    • Trans Union, P.O. Box 1000, Chester, Pa., 19022, (800) 888-4213 ($9.95/monthly subscription)
    • Experian, P.O. Box 1240, Allen, Tex., 75013 (888) 397-3742 (Free Credit report. Option to add credit score for $1 initiating 7 day trial period. After trial period, you will be billed $19.99 for each month that you continue your membership).
  • When should I apply for Social Security Benefits?

    For a breakeven analysis, go to the Quick Calculator on the Social Security website and enter your age and income. When the benefit estimate comes up, click on "Breakeven" to find out how long you have to live in order for delayed benefits (i.e., applying at age 70 rather than 65 or 62) to result in higher lifetime income.

  • How much will it cost to send a child to Harvard?

    Total cost including room and board for the 2016-2017 school year was $63,025. Plug this number into the calculator at FinAid to find out the total cost of four years of college in the year your kid plans to go. For information on costs at more than 7,000 other colleges, go to the National Center for Education Statistics.

  • How much allowance should I give my kids?

    One rule of thumb is half the child's age per week, but amounts vary depending on what the child is expected to use the money for. The point of an allowance is to teach children financial responsibility, so a budgeting exercise should accompany the setting of the allowance.

  • How much of an emergency fund should I have?

    Standard advice is three to six months' living expenses, more if you're self-employed or at risk for a layoff, less if you have access to a home-equity line of credit.

  • Do I need a prenuptial agreement?

    Yes if you have children from a previous marriage, own a business, have loved ones who need to be taken care of, have lots of assets, may be receiving a big inheritance, or expect a big increase in income. No if you're young and starting out on equal financial footing. Talk to an attorney.

  • I have an old Series E savings bond that my grandmother gave me when I was born. How can I find out if it's still earning interest?

    Go to TreasuryDirect.gov and look up your bond in the table. If it has stopped earning interest, go to your local bank and cash it in.

  • If an earthquake damages my home, will my homeowners insurance cover it?

    No. You need separate earthquake insurance, which can be expensive. If you decide to buy it, be sure to cover the replacement value of your house and any possessions likely to get broken.

  • Do I need a living trust?

    Maybe, maybe not. The main reason for transferring assets to a living trust is to avoid probate. Talk to your estate planning attorney to find out whether a living trust is right for you.

  • I'm thinking about buying rental property for the tax write-offs. Should I?

    Maybe, maybe not. Rental property may provide you with tax deductions, but your whole tax situation needs to be taken into consideration. Talk to your tax advisor.

  • How much can a person earn and still receive Social Security benefits?
  • Federal Student Aid Calculator - US Dept. of Education
  • IRS Small Business & Self-Employed Links
  • Links to State government sites - IRS
  • How Long Must I Keep Tax Documents?