5 Financial Questions with Easy Answers

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At some point, I know you've heard a teacher, instructor, boss or someone leading a discussion or meeting say, "There's no such thing as a dumb question."

Part of my routine here at USAA is to answer financial questions and, over the years, I've gotten some great ones. They had me scouring IRS publications, creating Excel spreadsheets and tapping into a wide range of USAA resources to come up with answers.

On the other hand, I've also received a few that had me, well, scratching my head. So while I still firmly believe the worst question is the one you don't ask, let me share a few of the head-scratchers.

1. Should I co-sign a loan for my girlfriend/boyfriend?

No. I've taken a bit of editorial license with this one because usually it comes in as a comment after the relationship is over. Whoever did the loaning frequently has a tale of horror. For example:

  • "My boyfriend stopped making payments."
  • "My credit score has been hammered because of my girlfriend's spending," etc.

So, here's a not-so-subtle warning: Just say no.

2. Should I participate in my employer's retirement plan?

Yes. When I meet someone who complains about being ove prepared for retirement, I'll change my tune. Just check out the latest Retirement Confidence Survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute: Following the pandemic, 34% of U.S. workers feel less confident about retirement. Combat that gloom and doom by contributing to your plan(s) at work. And guess what? There's a pretty good chance that, if you participate, you'll be rewarded with some sort of company match. Sign up today.

3. My brother-in-law recommended (insert investment name). What should I do?

Run for cover -- quickly. The first stock I ever bought was based on a hot tip like this. Despite an initial positive move, the company was soon bankrupt, and my money was gone within a year. Did that cause me to steer totally clear of these "opportunities?" Well, no, but now I limit investments like these to a tiny part of my portfolio -- a portion I can (and probably will) lose without jeopardizing my future.

4. Should I lend money to friends and family?

Not if you have an expectation of payback. Despite having answered this type of question, this is something my wife and I have done. Do it with a gifting heart and, if you get repaid, consider it a bonus.

5. What is going to happen with the market?

Who knows? If I had an accurate crystal ball, I'd spend more time traveling and on the golf course and less time punching away at this keyboard.

If I'm honest, questions provide a path to enlightenment, so keep them coming. But consider these five answered.

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