How do I check the value of a stock certificate that was issued in 1926?
(MONEY Magazine) – Q. I have an original stock certificate that was issued to my great-grandfather in 1922. How can I find out if the stock has any value? SCOTT MOORHOUSE SALEM, OHIO
A. In order to check on the current status of the company, you should call the office of the Secretary of State in the state where the certificate was issued. Scripophily.com, an antique stock and bond website, provides contact information for each state. There are also companies that conduct stock searches for a fee (usually $75 to $85 a company). You can access two of these companies via the Web (or by phone) at www.stocksearchintl.com (800-537-4523) and www.rm-smythe.com (800-622-1880).
Even if you cannot redeem your certificate for cash, the document may have value as a collectible. "But whenever a certificate is inscribed with a family name," says Bob Kerstein, ceo of Scripophily.com, "hang on to it. It makes a great family heirloom."
Q. I've read that in Pennsylvania, married couples are not forced to "spend down" their assets before an ill spouse can receive Medicaid assistance to pay for nursing-home costs. Is this true for any other states? JOEL GROW RIVERDALE, N.Y.
A. Federal and state laws govern the maximum amount of money that a married couple or individual can have to qualify for Medicaid's long-term-care coverage. The states' eligibility limits range from about $16,824 to as high as $84,120, which is Pennsylvania's cap. These limits do not include the home you live in, your car or personal effects. Think twice before you start transferring assets into someone else's name to qualify. Medicaid will question transfers made as many as five years prior to your request for long-term coverage.
Q. The new owners of the hospital where I work plan to eliminate the 10-week vacation that is owed to me. Can I deduct the amount of salary that this would equal as a loss on my income tax, or as a donation to the church that owns the hospital? NANCY ENTERLIN COMMACK, N.Y.
A. You can neither deduct a loss of income that you never received nor donate unrealized vacation pay.
Q. At what salary level does Social Security cease to be deducted from your paycheck? RANDY RASBERRY PLANO, TEXAS
A. The salary cap for Social Security deductions changes from year to year, based on a formula tied to the average U.S. wage. This year, Uncle Sam will deduct 6.2% of salaries up to $76,200 to pay for Social Security.
Q. I'm taking a home-equity loan to renovate my kitchen, but my financial institution provides loans in increments far above the amount that I need. Should I send the excess money right back to the institution or use it to invest? The loan is at 9%, and there is no penalty for prepayment. MICHAEL MORDECAI WASHINGTON, D.C.
A. Instead of a loan, you may want to consider a home-equity line of credit. That way, you can borrow only what you need to pay for the renovation.
The answer to your specific question, though, really boils down to whether it makes good sense to borrow on your home to invest in the market. Given the moneymaking potential of this option, some might say, "Go for it." But in our opinion, it's not wise to risk your home or your peace of mind.
Reporter Associate: Judy Feldman