DEAR BRUCE >> I am a 72-year-old widow with a fixed income that meets my monthly needs. I have a small amount in an IRA and even smaller amount in mutual funds. I also have long-term care insurance, and my insurance company is talking to me about an indexed annuity.

I know you have said in the past that you are not a fan of annuities. My IRA is in mutual funds, and so far, it has remained fairly stable. Is there any advantage for me to go to an indexed annuity?

— B.M.

DEAR B.M. >> It sounds to me like you have a good handle on your investments. I am not necessarily surprised that the broker is talking about getting an annuity, given the fact that the commission is likely to be substantially higher than some other investments he might recommend. The problem with most annuities is that your money is tied up for a good number of years. At 72, you're not old, but you're not a spring chicken, either.

Given that, you surprised me when you said your mutual funds are fairly stable. Mutual funds have dropped for good reasons. They're paying very little in returns.

By all means, investigate these annuities before you commit. Be certain to find out the particulars of what kind of penalty would be fixed to any early withdrawals. This is the one thing that sincerely made me think there might be better places to go than the annuity.

DEAR BRUCE >> I received a medical bill in the mail that I consider suspicious. What actions would you suggest I take?

— R.D.

DEAR R.D. >> No big deal! If I received a bill I was suspicious of, I would call the company the bill was from and have them explain the charges. I am sure they will take it seriously.


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