Big Banks and Good Pizza Dear Mr. Berko: What are your thoughts on buying stock in some of the big "money center banks"? I wanted to buy 1,000 shares of Bank of America when it was selling for $5 a share back in 2011. Unfortunately, I got scared and didn't have enough …Read more. Cars and Loans Dear Mr. Berko: I bought 300 shares of General Motors at $26 over two years ago, even though you said it was a dumb investment. Auto sales have been taking off, and now I'm asking whether you think it would be a good investment to buy 600 shares of …Read more. Keynesian Economics Today Dear Mr. Berko: Could you explain the economics of John Maynard Keynes in simple English and how the Federal Reserve is using his ideas to strengthen the economy? I can't determine whether his policies work or whether his policies are inflationary …Read more. Foreign ETFs Dear Mr. Berko: I am 69 and expect to retire this summer with a good pension and a sizable rollover from my company 401(k) to an individual retirement account. My IRA is invested in a combination of blue chip stocks and "pale blues," as you call …Read more.more articles
Dear Mr. Berko: I am 78, my wife is 81, and like many investors today, we want income. So what do you think of investing in Alerian MLP, which is an Exchange Trading Fund paying 6%? I'm angry, disgusted and disappointed that the government keeps interest rates so low. I've worked all my life and so has my wife. We raised 4 children, paid for their education and managed to keep a little over $500,000 in our 45 years of working. We got hurt twice by brokers in 1987 and 1998 and are afraid of being taken advantage of once again. So we planned a worry free, non-stock market retirement, certain we could always get a minimum of 4 percent or $20,000 from this money in CDs. Now it looks like we have to go back into the market because we are coming up short every quarter and we do not want to reduce our standard of living. Each of us have good pensions and good social security checks, and we have a part-time business from home that earns us between $10,000 and $14,000 annually. So we're not hurting, but we miss that extra $15,000 to $20,000 we thought we could depend on from our CDs and the many little things it afforded us. I didn't write to complain but to tell you our circumstances and ask for your advice on Alerian. It's recommended by a broker who is a customer of our home business, and he said not to buy it from him (his firm charges too much) but to buy it from a discount broker. At least he is honest about this. Please tell us if it is OK to buy? Is it safe? Can we invest $100,000 in it? — WS in Vancouver, Wash.
Dear WS: Low interest rates are strangling the resources of most retired folks, frightening them into desperate decisions. And in the process, colonies of snake oil salesmen ooze from the woodwork like Formosan termites sucking the marrow from their tired bones. It's a war zone out there, and many trusting retirees have been savaged by hucksters, banksters and brokesters. However, Alerian MLP (AMLP-$16.30), an Exchange Traded Fund (ETF), while not the safest stock on the planet, is certainly a lot less volatile than many, and the 6 percent dividend appears dependable. And yes, you can purchase $100,000, but I think that's overload and overboard.
However, I'm not an AMLP aficionado. It does provide lower risk via diversification, but an informed investor could do significantly better owning some of the issues in the AMLP portfolio, earning much higher yields and excellent tax benefits. Exterran Partners (EXLP-$21) at 9 percent, Boardwalk (BWP-$26) at 8 percent, Energy Transfer (ETP-$45) at 8 percent and Regency Partners (RGP-$24) at 8 percent may be some good choices, all of which have grown their dividends frequently since inception. These companies and other MLPs I've recommended in the past own enormous assets that are subject to huge depreciation charges. This depreciation reduces the MLP's earnings but have zero effect on the MLP's cash flow. This depreciation is also passed on the shareholder, creating a significant tax advantage and in most instances, 80 percent to 90 percent of an MLP's dividends are not taxable. It does, though, reduce your cost basis on the stock. However, AMLP shareholders are unable to benefit from this advantage. So you may also consider owning a few individual MLP equities for their tax advantage as well as the higher yield and growing income.
Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775, or email him at email@example.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.
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