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Be careful not to overinvest in your employer's stock

Personal Finance editor
huntley

HELEN
HUNTLEY

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By HELEN HUNTLEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 29, 2000


Q. I work for Target and invest regularly in Target stock and an aggressive growth fund through payroll deductions. I also have $18,000 invested in seven other funds. Retail stocks are down. Would it be a good idea to put all my 401(k) contributions into company stock while the price is low to gain more stock for the future? I like the overall climate of Target's business.

A. Because you believe in your company's future, it is a good idea to buy more shares when prices are low, as long as you keep your overall portfolio in balance. Having too much of your wealth tied up in a single stock is risky. That's especially true when buying an employer's stock since your job and your retirement account end up being dependent on one company's financial health.

Take a look at your total investment portfolio, inside and outside the 401(k), before making your decision. If Target stock now accounts for just a small portion, redirecting your 401(k) contributions is fine. But don't let your Target position become more than 20 percent to 25 percent of your total investments.

You didn't ask this question, but it appears to me that you own too many funds. Set a goal of building each position in your portfolio to at least $10,000 before adding a new investment. If you start with a total stock market index fund, you will be diversified from the very beginning.

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Q. I have had a lot of trouble since the bank where I have my CDs was taken over by another bank. In 1997, several of my CDs were not included for tax purposes. I have called the bank repeatedly with no response. I made a copy of my CDs and brought it to the bank. I called the 800 number and mailed copies of the CDs as requested. Still no response. When I call to speak to the bank manager, I am told she is busy and my calls are not returned. What should I do?

A. Find out the name and address of the president of the bank and write that person a letter outlining your complaint. Offer complete details, including account numbers, your name, address and telephone number and copies of relevant documents. Tell the president that you plan to file a complaint with the appropriate banking regulator if you do not receive a response within 30 days.

If you do not get a satisfactory response, follow up on your threat. Unfortunately, bank regulation is a confusing mishmash, but you can find out which regulator to contact by checking the FDIC Web site (http://www.fdic.gov) or calling (800) 934-3342.

For national banks, the place to complain is the Comptroller of the Currency, Customer Assistance Group, 1301 McKinney St., Suite 3710, Houston, TX 77010. Phone (800) 613-6743.

Three regulators handle state-chartered banks:

Federal Reserve System Division of Consumer and Community Affairs, 20th and C Streets NW, Stop 801, Washington, D.C. 20551. Phone: (800) 337-0429.

FDIC, 1201 W Peachtree St. NE, Suite 1800, Atlanta, GA 30309-3415. Phone (404) 817-1300.

Florida Comptroller, Attn: Financial Investigations, 101 E Gaines St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-0350. Phone (800) 848-3792.

Complaints about savings associations go to Office of Thrift Supervision, Consumer Program Division, 1700 G St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20552. Phone (800) 842-6929.

Online money map

Are you a coupon clipper? If so, you might enjoy checking out the coupon savings on sites such as these: http://www.coolsavings.com, http://valupage.com, http://www.save.com and http://eversave.com. For more possibilities, enter "grocery coupons" in your favorite search engine.

Note to readers

Want help planning your financial future? We're looking for a family that would like to receive free, in-depth, personalized, professional advice on saving for college and retirement and managing finances. We will share the information with Times readers. To be considered, a family must have at least one child living at home and be willing to be photographed. If you are interested, please contact me at the address below.

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- Helen Huntley writes about investing and markets for the Times. If you have a question about investments or personal finance, send it to On Money. We'll try to answer those we think are of greatest reader interest. All questions must be submitted in writing, but readers' names will not be published. Send questions to Helen Huntley, Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or to huntley@sptimes.com by e-mail.

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