SMART MONEY: Must you pay for stolen package?


DEAR BRUCE >> A sign posted in the lobby of my apartment building informs package delivery people not to leave packages for building residents due to the high risk of theft. Still, the delivery guys dropped a package for me that I never received.

When I got the credit card bill, I disputed the charge for the package I never received. The shipper told the credit card company the package was delivered, so they want their money. Since I never knew about the delivery and the package was stolen, am I obligated to pay for goods I never received?

— R.C.

DEAR R.C. >> I can sympathize with your circumstance. Whether or not the delivery guys paid attention to the posted sign is another matter. The fact is, I think you should be allowed to dispute the charge since they didn't get a signature. That's their problem! Because you never knew about the delivery and the package was stolen, there is no obligation, as I understand it, to pay for goods you never received.

DEAR BRUCE >> My husband is 61 and I am 67. We are self-employed and earn about $60,000 a year jointly. We have a home worth about $200,000. Our main income is a charter boat business that is worth about $150,000. Our line of credit balance is $50,000, and we have seven years left on the $80,000 available to us. The interest rate is currently 3.5 percent, pegged to 3.25 percent over prime.

My husband is drawing $1,600 per month Social Security and we have $40,000 in cash in a money market. Our business is idle three months a year and we use approximately $7,500 to live and pay our recurring expenses during this time off. We also each have variable annuity life insurance with $100,000 death benefits. My cash value is about $50,000.

We are very risk averse, so don't know if our quality of life (constant worry of another crash) would deteriorate markedly if we invested in the stock market. I am ready to start shifting hunks of the money to a CD earning 2 percent. Do you think we should pay down the line of credit or invest in the stock market?

— B.E.

DEAR B.E. >> We had to edit your lengthy letter, but brought down to its essence, I do believe, as you've speculated, that you should be involved in the stock market. First, you two are young and can handle the ups and downs. A 2 percent CD, in my opinion, is insulting, but those are the numbers that are being offered.

Given that, you should take your money and put it into a conservative portfolio. Conservative doesn't mean stocks that are paying no dividends. I am talking about stocks with major American companies. There are many of them that consistently (over a period of time) earn up to 3 percent to 4 percent a year. A CD paying 2 percent is basically a waste of time.

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