Questions about debt repayment, property taxes and pensions topped concerns discussed in a free financial advice program coordinated by the Beacon Journal.
It was the sixth year for the free program, co-sponsored by Apprisen, formerly the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Northern Ohio, and the Financial Planning Association. Both organizations made counselors and planners available as they answered 44 calls Saturday morning. Experts also answered 32 calls in a call-in on Wednesday.
Greg Radosevic, a counselor with Apprisen, took a call from a senior citizen who was behind on property taxes on his house and he wondered if his Social Security or pension could be taken away to pay the taxes. The man told Radosevic he didn’t want the house anymore.
Radosevic told the man, who is retired, to call Legal Aid for advice and to see if they could help him work out a repayment plan or to talk to a Realtor to look into selling the house.
Radosevic also took a call from a person who was wondering whether it was better to lease or buy a car.
“I usually recommend for most people, you’ll be better off purchasing, either new or used. Focus on the price versus the payment,” Radosevic said.
The dealers often ask what type of payment you can afford, so they’ll give you a low payment, but for a longer length of time, he said. He recommends five years for a car loan, instead of seven.
Radosevic also suggests trying to get preapproved from your bank or credit union before you go looking.
“That doesn’t mean you have to take that loan, but know what you can get,” he said.
Financial planner Molly Balunek with Laurel Tree Advisors of Cleveland took several calls from readers asking whether they could earn higher interest on their savings.
An 88-year-old man had $20,000 in the bank and wanted more interest. Balunek said there is the option of using an online bank with slightly higher interest rates, but recognized that the senior probably wasn’t comfortable going on the Internet.
“There’s not much you can do; just wait it out,” she said. “The Federal Reserve has been saying it will be at least a year until rates will go up.”
Balunek took another call from a 65-year-old woman who had a small pension from a previous employer. She wanted to know about rolling it over to another IRA, taking a lump sum (all taxable) or taking the payments.
Balunek said in her situation, the woman has been receiving Social Security and a pension from her current employer. She told the caller not to take the lump sum because it is taxable.
She also asked whether she would rather have something that will outlive her or have a little nest egg? With two other sources of income, the small pension might be a way to have another source of income, Balunek said. The woman decided to roll it to an IRA and take a little bit as she can.
Apprisen counselor Cheryl Hall took a call from a 60-year-old woman who had “a lot” of medical debt with a lot in collections that stem from 2000. Although she has medical insurance, she is responsible for 20 percent of the costs when she goes to the hospital about four times a year, which adds to her debt.
She has only a pension and no Social Security and was not working. She was worried the collectors will come after her pension. Hall said she wasn’t sure if they could come after her pension, but referred her to Apprisen to rework her budget and to help her work out a payment plan with the medical debt.
Apprisen offers a free counseling session by calling 800-355-2227. Information is available online at www.apprisen.com.
Information on finding a financial planner also can be found at www.fpanet.org.