MUNI DIRECT

Tom Wilder: ‘I noticed your comment Monday on MuniDirect.com. I’ve had an account for almost a year and have to say it’s great. Good luck with your account.’

Stephen Gilbert: ‘MuniDirect looks interesting: a Pomona, California 5% 2024 bond is listed there at 99.968. At Schwab, it’s 100.625. Buying at MuniDirect saves you over $650 on 100 bonds. But wait – it appears that Vanguard’s prices are actually a bit lower.’

William F. McKenzie: ‘I just opened an account with MuniDirect.’

William F. McKenzie a few minutes later: ‘So much for MuniDirect (at least for now).’

MuniDirect: ‘Due to financial difficulties at Municipal Trade, the company which recently acquired MuniDirect, the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) has directed Municipal Trade and its subsidiaries to cease all trading until the situation has been remedied. We are working diligently to have this service restored, and we will notify you via email as soon as that happens. At such time, we will process your new account application.’

☞ Oh, no! It’s working fine for a year and then I write about it and hours later it breaks?

CAR LOANS

Ken Nemerovski: ‘I had to laugh at your example of the transmission falling out of the car. That really did happen to me three weeks ago. So, as I was making my year-end charitable contributions … right after the holiday gift expenses … I had to come up with $2,400. When the rainy day money is gone, the best solution and softest blow for those of us who hate debt is the home equity line. It gives me control over debt amount and repayment, a low interest rate, and a tax deduction. In my current situation, it’s a life saver!’

Karen Tiede: ‘It’s not that hard to come up with cash for a car if you just don’t stop making car payments when the loan’s paid off. Of course, this assumes you have a loan that could get paid off before the car dies. I drive trucks and have not been in a position to pay cash. Last time I priced them out, I spent $900 more, over the life of the loan, to get brand-spanking new, vs. a truck that already had 50,000 miles. Seemed worth it to me. But once that loan was paid off, I kept the automatic transfer going into my credit union. WAY bigger down payment the next time, meant a shorter term on the next loan. If I’m lucky about this truck holding up, I might even have enough cash on hand to skip the loan the next time.’

INDEXING

Eduardo Gonzalez: ‘Does it make sense to put 401K funds in index funds if the plan offers them, or should you stick with the actively managed funds since it’s a tax deferred account?’

☞ Index! The fees are a lot lower, which means that over the long run, you will almost always beat the actively managed funds.

Mike Albersheim: ‘In today’s column you mention to invest in index funds as you have in previous columns. Can you suggest which index(s) to invest in? Does the answer depend on the amount of money to be invested?

☞ No, it depends on which index you think may represent the best value. Which is all but impossible to guess, so I’d normally go with the broadest index you can buy without incurring much more than the two-tenths-of-one-percent annual fee that’s available on many of these.

FAMILIES

Joel Williams: ‘The ‘pro-family’ people who say that gay relationships undermine the traditional family just do not make sense. Gay relationships can in no way undermine straight relationships, unless you believe that straight men would really, in their heart of hearts, rather be having sex with other men. I think, in fact, that is a hidden assumption among many of the ‘pro family’ types.’

Cyrus Ginwala: ‘Phil Brink misses the obvious cause-effect here. If, in fact, he’s correct that the longevity of your and Charles’ relationship is the exception rather than the rule, this could be BECAUSE society and its laws are so unsupportive of same-sex relationships. Perhaps what we need is GREATER (read ‘equal’) rights for same-sex couples, before trying to measure the relative stability of their relationships.’

David: ‘I would like to pass on some anecdotal information to Phil Brink in response to his comments from today’s column. My brother is gay and has been involved in a monogamous, committed, loving gay relationship for approximately 18 years. I am straight and during that same period, I have been married twice (divorced once) and have had several girlfriends. In my limited experience, at least, gay relationships last longer and are entered into by more committed people than are straight relationships. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is wrong and diminishes our society.’

Muriel Horacek: ‘Long-term same-sex partners, like some of my dear friends, should receive the same benefits as marriage partners, but some companies feel that they then have to grant benefits to heterosexual partners even if they don’t get married. I feel that is wrong. Heterosexual partners can legally marry, so that should be a requirement for them to receive benefits. When (and I don’t concede there’s an “if”) same sex partners are allowed to have a legal union of some kind, then they should also be required to pursue that legal commitment in order to receive benefits.’

THE BOYCOTT BEGINS

Bob Fyfe: ‘I drove past my usual Mobil station last night in favor of a Sunoco. But only after checking Sunoco’s website to ensure that I wasn’t jumping out of the pan and into the fire. I wasn’t; they explicitly call out sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policy. That’s $13.75 for fairness, $0.00 for Exxon/Mobil. Now, how about an e-mail address for Exxon/Mobil?’

David Posner: ‘To send e-mail to ExxonMobil, try this link.

 

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