August 30, 2013

SMART MONEY: Sitting on cash a mistake for young investor

by Bruce Williams
Syndicated Columnist

---- — DEAR BRUCE: I was a heavy investor in the stock market. I was doing very well until the last crash. I have since sold nearly all of my holdings and am now sitting on cash reserves of around $95,000.

I am not making much in interest in my money market account and would like to make better use of my money. Can you advise me as to how I should invest it? I am in my early 30s with no children, and I'm debt-free with the exception of a mortgage of around $100,000. — Reader, via email

DEAR READER: Your letter was very predictable until you got to the point where you said you were in your early 30s and debt-free with the exception of a mortgage. Why in the world would you keep your money in money market account? You are receiving almost nothing on the funds. Had you not pulled your monies out of the market, you would have recovered all and probably made a profit.

At your age, it's time to get back into the market with relatively prudent investments. Prudent means stocks paying dividends of 2 percent to 4 percent in companies that are constantly growing. When I say constantly, understand that nothing is going to go in only one direction. There will be times when the market goes up, and there will be times when it goes down. Sitting on cash, though, is a major mistake for someone in your circumstances.

DEAR BRUCE: My husband passed away about two years ago. He had a will, which left everything to me. Our wills contained a clause stating that the will could not be changed, and it also stated that if anyone contested the will, they would receive only $5. When I die, the assets that are left will be divided between his kids and mine.

His kids are contesting his will because they are afraid they won't get anything. So far, I have spent close to $14,000 for legal fees. Is there any point in having a will? — H.R., via email

DEAR H.R.: I don't understand why it cost so much for them to contest the will. If the will was properly drawn and witnessed, they are out! You are the surviving spouse, and it is not at all unusual to leave everything to you.

On the other side of that, you have spent close to $14,000, and you ask if there is any point of having a will. Absolutely, positively! Had there been no will, they would likely have received two-thirds of what your husband left behind.

I would go to your stepchildren and tell them you know their father wanted you to share what he left with them, but you will deduct the $14,000 from their legacy. It seems to me that this could have been negotiated. If they continue to contest the will, I don't think that they will be successful unless there is something you haven't told me. He had every right to leave his assets to you.