Taking Stock: ING annuity

Dear Mr. Berko: I bought a $100,000 ING Annuity in 2007, and it's way down in value since then. When I talk to my broker about this, he tries to get me to put more money in this ING Annuity and doesn't tell me why it goes down. He said I can't lose money, but I am losing money. He also told me that it's guaranteed to make 6 percent per year, but I can't figure out why my ING is now worth $82,000. When I emailed, you told me to call ING on their customer service number, and I tried and tried, and they keep me waiting forever until I finally lose patience and just hang up. What do you recommend that I do? I can't stand this investment. It bothers me when I think of it. I can't stand this broker and I want to cash it in immediately. How can this stupid thing be down in price when the stock market has done so well? I know I can do better in stocks. Please give me a list of good stocks that will pay me at least 5 percent, increase their dividend and give me some capital growth, too. When I get my ING money this is what I want to do with it: I want out of this thing because I don't understand it and because my broker doesn't explain it to me. Now I don't want to talk to him because I don't want to have to subject myself to another one of his sales talks. How do I cash this out?J.N., Aurora, Ill.

Dear J.N.: First, join the variable annuity owners group counseling association, sponsored by the American Psychiatric Association. Then call your physician and have him prescribe 10 milligrams of Valium and a bottle of Wild Turkey.

I know brokers like that. They're two cents a dozen, which explains why there are so many. I'm not surprised at your experience because other readers have expressed similar problems. Someone told me that ING has caller ID and may know you want to cash out. And because they wish to limit the investors who are canceling their policies, they won't answer your phone call. What other reason could there be?

So you have choices. Call your broker's office manager and tell him what you told me. Tell him that you want out and ask him to help you with the necessary forms.

Or you can write ING and request that the necessary papers be sent to you. But if you write ING, I recommend that you send your letter ''overnight delivery'' and ''return receipt requested.'' If you can't trust ING to answer their customer service phone calls, then you can't trust them to acknowledge that they have received your request.

ING is a fine company with a good balance sheet, but like most fine companies, it has its share of lousy products, one of which was sold to you by a ridiculous stockbroker. And unfortunately, ING compounded this problem when you invested $100,000 with ING in 2007. They took your money quick as a bunny and charged you 6 percent comission and 3 percent per year in fees or about $18,000. So in my opinion, you shouldn't have to wait even 18 seconds to speak to customer service. You will pay a stiff penalty to exit the policy, but you will feel a lot better.

I won't give you the names of many issues I like for growth and income because I don't know your age or have personal information about your risk tolerances, income needs, etc. So I can't suggest a stock portfolio for you. You might need bonds, perhaps more cash; maybe there's room for aggressive growth and income issues, municipal bonds, convertible preferreds or even TIPS.

But first, get your ING problem solved. However, subsequent columns will discuss many growth and income issues that may be suitable for you.

Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775 or e-mail him at mjberko@yahoo.com. To find out more about Malcolm Berko and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 CREATORS.COM

Published: Thu, May 12, 2011