The Help Desk

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  • How can my teenager build her credit history?

    Will making my 16-year-old daughter an authorized user on my credit card build her credit history? – V. Parikh

    Yes. Using such a "credit card with training wheels," says credit expert John Ulzheimer, is the best and most common way for a young person to build credit. The big three reporting agencies will start a file on her — either right away or when she turns 17 (policies vary). FICO, the leading MORE

    Jan 26, 2013 6:30 AM ET
    Posted in: Credit, Family Money
  • How does divorce affect Social Security benefits?

    My husband and I are getting divorced after 24 years. I'm 59 and on disability; he's 65 and not yet retired. He says that after the divorce I can collect on his Social Security, which will be higher than my disability benefits. Is that correct? Also, would I be able to collect on his Social Security after his death? — Name withheld

    Based on your information you may be eligible for MORE

    Dec 31, 2012 6:30 AM ET
    Posted in: Family Money, Retirement
  • Can I cut property taxes by reducing my home's usable space?

    I own a home in Connecticut. I'm currently paying taxes on rooms that I don't use or need. For instance, I finished a bonus room over my garage and fifth bedroom in my attic with heat and sheetrock. Can I "unconvert" these unnecessary rooms to lower my property taxes? – Debra L.

    Yes, you can — but it may not make sense to do so. As Newton Buckner, partner at Hartford, MORE

    Dec 28, 2012 6:30 AM ET
    Posted in: Real Estate, Taxes
  • Will I owe tax if I buy my sister a house?

    I want to pay cash to buy my sister a $110,000 house where she can live in retirement. Should I title it in her name, my name, or both her name and mine? What are gift tax or other tax consequences? We are both in Ohio. — Frank M.

    Ultimately the decision of whether or not you give a house to your sister is a personal one. But Gerald Townsend, a MORE

    Dec 27, 2012 6:30 AM ET
    Posted in: Real Estate, Taxes
  • How do you get pension payout estimates?

    My husband was downsized a year ago. He is eligible to start taking a pension from his former company, but they refuse to give him any information with regard to projections. How do we decide when to start his pension if they won't tell him the difference in payout for year 62, 65, etc.? — M. Anderson

    If you haven't done so already, refer to the section in your husband's summary MORE

    Dec 26, 2012 6:30 AM ET
    Posted in: Retirement
  • What taxes do you owe on a $13,000 gift?

    If I give someone a gift over $13,000, what taxes will each of us owe? — Margaret G., Raleigh, N.C.

    Good news about the oft-puzzling gift tax: Whatever the size of your gift, the recipient neither owes tax nor needs to report it. You, the giver, have to file Form 709 for a gift over the IRS' annual per-recipient limit ($13,000 in 2012 and rising to $14,000 next year). But you won't MORE

    Dec 25, 2012 6:30 AM ET
    Posted in: Family Money, Taxes
  • Will I owe taxes on gold and silver coins?

    Do you pay a tax on silver or gold coins when purchased or sold? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of gold and silver coins as an investment? —Vernon

    When you buy coins, you may owe sales tax, depending on which state you buy in. But selling triggers a very different tax, says Rob Chapman, founder of Rochester, N.Y.-based advisory firm Compass Wealth. Because the IRS considers precious metals MORE

    Dec 24, 2012 6:30 AM ET
    Posted in: Investing, Taxes
  • Is collision insurance worth keeping on my car?

    I have a 2008 Honda Accord with about 24,000 miles that was purchased in 2007. The last payment has been made. Should I drop the collision insurance on the car? I have read that if a vehicle is five years old that coverage is not needed. — Welton S.

    A good rule of thumb is to keep collision coverage until its annual cost exceeds 10% percent of the value of your MORE

    Dec 21, 2012 6:30 AM ET
    Posted in: Family Money
  • Are heirs responsible for credit card debts?

    My elderly mother-in-law has several credit cards, two of which are being used by her granddaughters. The minimum is paid each month, but never the full balance. Will my wife, who will be the sole survivor of my mother-in-law's very small estate, be responsible for the credit card balances? — Craig P.

    As an heir, your wife will not be liable for any outstanding credit card debt in the estate. But MORE

    Dec 20, 2012 6:30 AM ET
    Posted in: Credit, Family Money
  • Which are the best states for retirees?

    Which states are most tax-friendly for retirees? — Larry O.

    There are a lot of things to think about when choosing a place to retire, and state taxes are definitely worth considering. It's particularly useful to look at how states tax Social Security, pensions and IRA distributions, says Liane Warcup of Geneva, Ill.-based Clarus Financial Planning.

    For instance, Social Security benefits are federally taxed, but they are excluded at the state level in MORE

    Dec 19, 2012 6:30 AM ET
    Posted in: Retirement, Taxes
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