TAKING STOCK: Don't pester your way out of the will

Dear Mr. Berko:

I need your opinion on my dad's investments. He uses well-known brokerage firm Merrill Lynch and has around $1.3 million invested. The bulk of his money is in municipal bonds of all kinds.

He is 88 years old and has blind faith in his broker. Dad's very tight with his money in every other part of his life, but when his broker calls with a "good idea," my father writes a check immediately. He keeps telling me that the brokerage does not charge him for its services, which I find very hard to believe. He gets monthly income checks from the brokerage firm, but I've noticed lately that the amount is declining.

I do know that he has invested more than $70,000 this year. But with anything else he buys, he goes out of his way to find the absolute cheapest option--from toilet paper to groceries. He and my mom, who is 98, have a very comfortable monthly income and owe nothing. My dad maintains a balance of $200,000 in his checking account, which pays him about $50 a month in interest.

I'm his only child, but I have two older stepsiblings from my mother's previous marriage. I am executor of my father's estate, and my husband is co-executor. But my father doesn't communicate with me, even though I'm his only child. I have to pull every word out of him. I've asked him what he's saving his money for, and he always says he's saving it for me.

My concern is whether or not this is the right way he should be investing, given his age. We have a sound family trust. I'll eventually receive two-thirds of the entire estate. I'm worried that by the time fees and taxes are taken from the investments, there won't be much left.

Also, my husband and I are struggling financially as a result of mounting medical bills. I have hinted to my father that we need help, but to no avail. Please give me your thoughts; many other baby boomers might be in a similar situation.

Worried in Illinois.

Dear W.I.N.:

You guys take the cupcake.

Now listen, Moonbeam, and listen good. If your dad is sane--and I suspect he is--then he's entitled to do anything he wants with that money, including smoking a few joints every week. Your dad doesn't owe you a thing. He earned that money, paid taxes on that money and saved that money--not you. And he's entitled to the happiness that money brings him--not you! I'm sorry that you're having financial problems, but you two boomers apparently didn't learn a bleeding thing from your dad. How sad!

If you need some financial help, don't dance around the mulberry bush. Speak up and ask your dad for help. At age 88, he isn't as telepathically capable as he used to be. And for crying out loud, stop pestering him, or he may pester you out of his will. Life is tough, and it seems that you don't want to pass one of life's important courses: Personal Responsibility 101. Your dad, however, passed with flying flags. Stop waiting for him to die. It's time to begin to celebrate his living.

Meanwhile, if you think there's some hanky-panky going on in this account (which I doubt because he's with a reputable brokerage), then I recommend that you send a letter to the CEO and kindly express your concerns. I'm as certain as stone that a higher-up will glimpse your dad's account. And if he thinks your dad owns unsuitable investments, that higher-up will, on the jump, do what must be done.

Certainly that brokerage will be sensitive to any improper activities that might occur in the account of an 88-year-old investor with a 98-year-old wife. And if nothing is amiss, he won't tell your dad of your inquiry.


Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775 or e-mail him at mjberko@yahoo.com. Visit Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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Published: Mon, Oct 24, 2011