Solid advice


Thanks to the exciting new relationship between The American Legion and USAA, June and I now have the opportunity to answer your personal finance questions on a daily basis at and each month in The American Legion Magazine.

Before we get to that, we thought we'd use this opportunity to briefly introduce ourselves. Ladies usually go first, but I'll take my shot and then turn it over to June. I'm Joseph Montanaro Jr. - thus J.J. - and have been a Certified Financial Planner at USAA for the last eight years. The son of a Navy Pilot, I graduated from the U.S. Military Academy and spent five years on active duty before entering the financial services industry in 1993. I continued to serve in the Army Reserve, spent a year in Afghanistan, and in 2009, I retired as a lieutenant colonel from the Army Reserve. Through the years, I've helped hundreds of individuals and families get a handle on their finances. I continue to work with USAA members on a daily basis and am always encouraging folks to make sound financial decisions.


And I'm June Walbert. I'm not your average financial planner - not to say that J.J. is, but I've done everything from training folks as a firearms instructor to teaching clients about options strategies as a stock broker before taking my spot as a financial planner at USAA. As a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, I've served in a variety of roles, from Oklahoma City to Kuwait and currently in Japan. I'm really excited about being here at the Legion, because while I continue to work with USAA members, I get the biggest kick out of trumpeting smart finances to large audiences ... whether it's CNN, Fox News, The Wall Street Journal or in the Legion's own "Magazine for a Strong America." You should know I have a special place in my heart for dogs and spend a lot of time volunteering at the Animal Defense League. So, mention your furry friend, and you'll get extra special care from me.

Whether it's how to tackle your debt dilemma or ramping up for retirement, we look forward to hearing from and helping you answer any of those nagging questions regarding your finances. We'll be here on the Legion website, under the title "Financial Footlocker," putting our combined 31 years of financial experience to work for you who have served our great nation so proudly. We'd love to hear from you, so submit your question online at here.


  1. In 2007 our financial planner put $45,000 of our money in Freddie and Fannie(preferred stock). Within a few days it was worth $1000. It was due to be called 12/31/10 but was not called. Before we gave her any money we stressed to her that it must be put in a very safe place(we just wanted to earn more interest then keeping it in our 401(k) plan)because the money was to be used to eventually pay off our new home. We had just moved into our house then I lost my job. So she put us in Freddie and Fannie. We are still getting 8.25% interest on our money, but my questions are: how do we get our money back, do we have to wait until it's called or what. Can we sue the advisor, since she didn't do what we wanted her to do? What happens if the government dissolves Freddie and Fannie?
  2. Is there a "rule of thumb" to calculate an estimated amount of taxes to convert a Rollover IRA to a Roth rollover IRA. I realize all conditions are different, but if I can make a good guesstimate to determine if I should make the move. Thank you.
  3. Dear JJ and June, In your March, 2011, American Legion article you say that there are no tax deductions for Roth IRA contributions. I thought so too until I saw the Form 8880. Unless I'm mistaken, you can take a deduction for a Roth IRA contrubution under certain circumstances. Did I misread it? Thank you.
  4. Roth IRA contributions are made "after-tax"--there is never a tax deduction for making a contribution to a Roth. However, there is currently a program called The Retirement Savings Contribution Credit or “Saver's Credit" that provides a tax credit for qualified retirement savings (Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, 401(k), 403(b), etc.). For 2010, if your income is less than $55,500 (married filing jointly) or $27,750 (single) you could receive a credit of up to $2,000 (married filing jointly) or $1,000 (single). The IRS Form 8880 that you were looking at allows you to calculate the applicable credit. Remember a credit provides a dollar for dollar reduction of your taxes (not a reduction of your income). This particular credit is not refundable. Therefore, if your tax liability is zero you will not be entitled to it. If you qualify it could be a nice incentive to make your 2010 IRA or Roth IRA contribution before the April 18th deadline. Check out IRS Publication 590 for all the details.
  5. J.J. already answered your question – and yes, you have misread IRS Form 8880. The form says that you can claim a tax credit for a Roth IRA contribution (if you qualify). It does not say that you can take a tax deduction. In fact, the form says that you can claim the Roth IRA tax credit in addition to any Traditional IRA tax deduction you may be claiming on your taxes. Thanks for asking your original question. You and J.J. have alerted me to a new tactic I hope to employ next tax season.
  6. I wonder how they try to help families of the vets with what is rt for them, I know of a company that save so much for all families that they love what we do for them by saving them on ave.$200-$2000/month. What they do is come to your home and they don't make you feel like a fish in a fish bowl, they get them properly protected, debt free and financially independent and they do it for free.
  7. Well with the cd's your are already at a loss for you have to pay the taxes on the interest and with the inflation that we have you just may have what your cd was paid for. now with yourIRA you just have to pay taxes on your interest accruidat a much lower rate then when you were younger as long as you only take out 5% a yr. your money in there should last you a very long time.
  8. To all of the memebers, I would like to tell you that you might not be getting the right information about your retirements, if you get a dividen check every yr why not just reinvest it into your portfolio. Either way you still have to pay the taxes on it at the end of the yr but all the while your are increasing your portfolio for the better. and when you see that the market is turning to the negative keep purchasing the same stock or mutual funds for they are called sale days. If you only purchase on the way up you will get less amount of product. Now if you purchase with same amount of money on the down turn and when it goes back up you will have more in there and you will be very happy that you did.
  9. Hello, I am a veteran and am almost 88 yrs old. Our grandaughter had a co-sign for some private school loans. The payment is going to double soon and she is having difficulties paying the loan now. I don't want my wife to get stuck with this & was wondering what we could do. I don't think a bank would give me a loan at my age & a lawyer suggested we file Chapter 13. Please give us some advice on what to do. Thank you, cam3811
  10. I am a member of my local legion and VFW.I am 78 and live on a small pension and SS.3 yrs ago my son enrolled in ITT TECH. INST. I had to cosign for his loan with Sallie Mae.ITT financial mgr.said my son would be responsible to pay loan and I signed because he had no credit.Due to illness, my son did not finish the training and will not ever be able to pay the loan.Sallie Mae tells me to pay the loan.If I pay on the time period they gave me, I will be paying 4000.00 more than the loan and may be dead before it,s paid and dont want to leave the debt to my wife. Is there any legal and ethical way any of the loan could be reduced or partially forgiven? Thank you so much for any advice you could give me.
  11. Got my February 2011 issue of the American Legion magazine,and on page 55 seen your personal finance that said"send us your question".I live in Columbus,Ga.But I'm a member in my home town of Linton,In.Post 22.Don't know if you both can help me,and my wife out.18 months ago,or longer I e-mailed my senator for my district looking for help to repair our home(a grant,non profit,etc.roof leaks,plumbing leaks,floors buckled up in kitchen,dining room,living room.Just really need alot of help,and money,I've tried HUD,VA,Federal,State,Local,Mayor,etc,even e-mailed the President,and tried to get on the T.V. show Extreme home makeover.I make $399.per month,and I'm disabled as is my wife,served in the Army 1975/1978,so I don't have the money to get help,or to pay for a grant kit,is there any organizations that help people like us?I've pretty much have run out of places to look,and then I seen your ad,I hope,and pray that you can help us find the help we need,I KNOW THERE IS HELP OUT THERE.ROBERT
  12. I too have a mortgage through Chase bank, And no luck getting any help with reducing payments, or them trying to work with me at all, I am 3 payments behind. Is there anything else I can do. My wife is still employed and I am current unemployed and have been for almost a year.
  13. write or call your bank to do a loan modification, the first time they will deny you but do it again and tell them you are trying to work with them so why not work with you.
  14. I need help. I am in the process of selling my home in Jacksonville, FL. I owe $106,000 on my home and I am selling it for $85,000 due to the prices/value of homes dropping. I will be closing on the sale of my home hopefully by the end of this month. I am having to come out of my pocket with $26,000 (that I don't have) at the closing due to the $21,000 remaining balance of my mortgage and the $5,000 I'm having to pay the real estate company who is selling my home. I have did a lot of research trying to find a plan or program that will pick up or allow me to drop the $21,000 that I will owe on the mortgage at the closing. I even contacted my mortgage company and the only thing they suggested would be a short sale which will take up to 45 business days and I don't have enough time for that. Can someone please help me with this matter? Thanks in advance.
  15. Married, 68 years old and have 55K income a year with a large IRA CD's. How can I withdraw IRA $ and minimize the taxes starting now?
  16. First I would like to welcome you all to the new year.I currently have two mortgages through Chase bank. I am writing to you to let you know my current situation. #1 (1843445200) 160 INDEPENDENCE DR, RAEFORD NC 28376. I started falling behind on this one in OCT I believe. I adjusted my Finance, so I would be able to catch up with #2. Due to being behind on #1 they have offered to work out a repayment plan. The only thig is they are requesting $2000 by this Fri and $3000 by the end of the month. I am not sure what their plan is for my monthly payments. I am able to do the $2000, but anything after "not possible". I mean I can make the original payments $918, but after I pay $2000 ther is no way I can pay $3000 with another increased morgage. #2 (1866552366) 82 HESTER PL, CAMERON NC 28326. I started to fall behind with this loan after my father passed away and could never catch up.They assisted me with a repayment plan $4000 first, then $2,722.79 monthly thru MAY 11 #910-583-2270
  17. My company recently had a Rep. come out and tell us all the great things that 401's can do for us. I checked it out on line and our company's 401 is ranked 53rd. The only reason company's push 401 plan is so they can write off what they pay in,Not that they're so concerned about my retirement.I think 401 is another name for FICA....! Wall Street is all about insider trading and shady deals it's in the news every day!
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