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Finding value of savings bonds and $2 bills

Q: I recently opened a safe-deposit box containing eight series EE bonds. Each has a $50 face value. They are dated from 1982 through 1986. Should I cash them in? The box also held several $2 bills. Are they worth anything more than $2 apiece?
R.W., Boston

A: Pete Hollenbach, a spokesman for the US Bureau of Public Debt, says all those bonds are earning a guaranteed minimum rate of 4 percent or 85 percent of the average rates on five-year Treasury notes. Given the current interest-rate environment, that's not bad. Savings bonds pay interest for 30 years from their issue date. While you ponder when to sell those bonds, log onto the bureau's website, www.publicdebt.treas.gov, to find the calculator that will determine the current value of those bonds.

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As for the $2 bills, any printed from 1976 onward are common and worth only face value, according to Brent Fogelberg, a collectibles specialist at American Bullion and Coin Co., in Flagstaff, Ariz. A 1963 series bill won't fetch much more, while a 1953 series bill that is crisp and uncirculated might bring in up to $30.

But Mr. Fogelberg adds that in the 1928 series, $2 bill values can range from $30 to $4,000, depending on their condition and rarity. With older bills, then, it's important to have a professional assess their value.

Q: We have an opportunity to buy a printing company that would provide enough income to get us out of poverty. But we have no resources for the down payment on the business. Can you give us any advice in this matter?
B.B., via e-mail

A: The Small Business Administration helps people start businesses. But if you're in truly sorry financial shape, it may not be able to help. It could give you ideas, however, on whom to approach for guidance on sorting out your money troubles to the point where you'll qualify for assistance.

Dennis Filangeri, a certified planner in San Diego, suggests that you first assess your financial problems. Draw up a statement of your net worth, which is all of your assets minus your liabilities. Then draft a statement of cash flows showing monthly income and expenses. Use these statements to develop some short-, intermediate-, and long-term goals to get out of poverty.

If you have realistic quantifiable goals, often the solution becomes self-evident, says Mr. Filangeri. He adds that any lender will want to see these statements, anyway.