THE $64,000 QUESTION

“Regarding your recent column, the expression, in a less munificent version — ‘that’s the $64 question’ — predates the television quiz show. In the 1940s a radio quiz show ‘Take It or Leave It’ had a $64 question that worked its way into the language and meant that later the title of the TV quiz show would have some resonance. I remember watching the television show the night it premiered. When I told my parents about it, they were quite certain I was confused — NO ONE could possibly give away the almost unimaginable sum $64,000.” — Tom Williams

A precursor to “Take It or Leave It to Beaver,” no doubt.

EXPENSIVE WATCHES

“I would not buy an expensive one for myself, but my wife purchased a stainless and gold Rolex Submariner for me about 10 years ago for about $2,300. (I’m not so fussy about my principles that I returned it.)Today, despite gold’s fall, the same watch retails for $6,000 and mine would probably bring $4,000 if I were to sell it. I realize that’s only 5.6% or so annualized, but it’s tax free so far and some of my shallower friends are impressed.” — Bill D.

SPDR EXPIRATIONS

“Which is better, a Standard & Poor’s 500 index fund or ‘spiders’ — SPDRs — and how come my brokerage statement shows an expiration date for my SPDRs?” — John Ebert

As between the two, it’s basically six of one, half a dozen of the other — go with whichever is more convenient if you’ve decided to go for an S&P 500 surrogate.

But an expiration date on SPDRs? This was a new one to me, so I steered John to the toll-free phone line for the American Stock Exchange, where they are traded — 1-800-THE-AMEX — and asked him to find out the answer himself and let me know. A little Q-and-A judo, as it were. John dutifully reported back that, according to THE-AMEX, state laws, except for Alaska, do not allow perpetual trusts. So the SPDR trust is set up for the maximum time allowed, which translates to an expiration date of 2118.

That will be a very long-term gain indeed.

 

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