Stock Relationship A One-Sided 'Love' Affair

Ric Edelman
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Posted: Mar 04, 2009 12:01 AM
Stock Relationship A One-Sided 'Love' Affair

Q: My husband and I retired from an oil company approximately nine years ago. About half of our portfolio is in that stock, and our financial adviser told us several years ago we should diversify more. Now that Obama has been elected, our adviser told us we should absolutely diversify since the stock will most likely be negatively affected by his election. This is so troubling. We hate to part with a large amount of it since it has been so beneficial. But if we have to, what other investment options would be as viable?

A: Sounds like you've fallen in love with your stock. I doubt it loves you back -- or even knows your name. Reminds me of the co-ed who had a crush on the star quarterback in high school.

It's funny how people "love" stocks that have done well while "hating" stocks that have done poorly. And if a good stock turns bad, they go from love to hate pretty darn quick. How fickle we are!

Don't fall in love with an investment. It's not a child or an heirloom. It's just a tool. You purchased it to perform some task for you. It has done that task well, but that doesn't mean it will continue to do so (remember, past performance is no guarantee of future results) and that doesn't mean it's going to perform in the future as well as other tools might perform.

Sounds like your adviser is giving you good advice. To reject that advice, you need something better than "I love how it's performed in the past."

Q: My 87-year-old mother bought some bonds for income from her financial adviser. She always gets her monthly interest payments, about $170 per month, which she needs. But her statements show the value of the bonds has been reduced by more than half recently, from more than $50,000 to less than $25,000. Of course she is concerned about this, although she doesn't plan to sell them. They say they expire in 2017. Should we do anything about this? A: The bonds have a face value of $50,000 and pay about 4.1 percent per year (equal to $170 per month).

In the open market, other bonds are currently paying about the same rate. Thus, if Mom sells the bonds for their current value of $25,000 and reinvests the proceeds, she'll cut her income in half. Therefore, assuming default risk is not an issue. It seems the best course of action is to continue holding the bonds and wait for them to mature in 2017, at which time she'll get back the full $50,000.

This assumes that the bonds' issuer will be in business in 2017. You need to research that question. If you determine that the issuer may not survive until then, your mom might have no choice but to sell now. After all, losing half your money is better than losing all of it.

The lesson learned? Don't buy individual bonds that place you at risk if the issuer fails. Instead, buy a fund that invests in thousands of bonds. The diversification helps protect against the risk that problems might hurt a particular issuer.

Q: I want to know if I should take the First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit, which gives me a $7,500 loan interest-free from the government for 15 years. I would keep the money safe in a bank CD and pay it back over 15 years. I may be able to earn $1,500 total on the $7,500 over 15 years (at 2.5 percent annual return). But is it unethical to take the government's money if not needed and capitalize on it? I am curious to hear your thoughts on this.

A: If you qualify for a tax break, take it.