Overseas investments stir concern over Y2K
Q. My husband and I have a large part of our investments in the Templeton World Fund. With the Y2K problem, should we be more concerned about such overseas investments than domestic investments? C.B., Richmond, Va.
A. Overseas investments are probably no more risky than US investments, says Russ Kinnel, who heads up the equity desk at Morningstar Inc., Chicago.
Firms in Europe and Asia are well aware of the need to protect against Y2K problems. Emerging-market funds could pose some added risk, he says, yet most third-world nations tend to be less dependent on computers than industrial nations.
Franklin Templeton says that it takes into account Y2K compliance issues when buying overseas securities.
Outside experts, meanwhile, say individual investors should keep all financial records up to date through the latter part of 1999 and into 2000.
Q. When is the best time to exercise a stock option, assuming they have matured? We were advised to "hold" options on Boeing. But the value has plummeted. T.N., Enumclaw, Wash.
A. Dealing with stock options is "not a science," says Peggy Farley, who heads up Ascent Asset Management, in New York.
If a stock is "red hot," then exercise the option and sell at its peak, while maybe holding on to a few shares. If the company is well-known and reasonably "predictable," such as Boeing, then there is usually no harm in holding the option, she says.
Q. I have a fair amount of money for a middle-aged woman who got started investing about 10 years ago. What is the best way to handle this money so that I can minimize the taxes that will be owed when I start withdrawing earnings? Name withheld, via e-mail.
A. "Kick as much earned income as you can into tax-deferred retirement accounts," says Pat Schipper, a consultant with Prism Financial Group, Overland Park, Kan. Your tax rate will possibly be lower when you retire.
Fund a Roth IRA, Ms. Schipper says, since you need not pay taxes on earned income when withdrawn and you don't have to start withdrawing by age 70-1/2, as you do with a regular IRA.
Schipper suggests you consult a CPA and financial planner to make certain your tax and savings programs are integrated.
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