Money Management Q&A

October 19, 2007

Digging deeper into a broker's past; how long a bank can sit on a check; 401(k) transfers between employers; when you can dock a security deposit

Digging deeper into a broker's past

A friend's father, who's a financial planner, told me my new broker mishandled another investor's money a few years ago to the tune of $9,000. Supposedly a written complaint was filed, but it's not mentioned in NASD's BrokerCheck database. Why not, and how can I get more information?

NASD's BrokerCheck doesn't include written investor complaints that are more than two years old if they were settled for less than $10,000 or didn't go to arbitration or civil court. But the investor's complaint may still be on file with your state securities regulator. Contact that organization directly for additional information. You'll find phone numbers and links to each state's securities regulator at http://www.nasaa.org. (Under About NASAA, click Contact Information, then "here" under NASAA Member Representative Contact Information.)

When I deposited a $10,000 brokerage check at my local bank, the teller told me a five-day holding period would apply. The next day the bank notified me that the funds wouldn't be available for 10 more days, which seems unfair. How long can banks legally hold funds from deposited checks?

It depends on the amount in question, the issuing institution's location, and other factors. Generally the first $100 must be available the next business day after the deposit was made, the first $5,000 within five business days, and the remainder by the 11th business day. To delay longer, a bank must prove that it has reasonable cause. If you suspect your bank unfairly bends the rules, and discussing the matter with the bank manager doesn't resolve the problem, you may want to file a complaint with federal regulators. Visit http://www.federalreserve.gov/pubs/complaints for instructions and contact information.

401(k) transfers between employers

I'm leaving a corporate group practice to join a nonprofit hospital. Can I roll over the assets in my 401(k) plan, which includes after-tax contributions, directly into the hospital's 403(b) plan?

Yes, but the transfer must be made directly by the trustee of the 401(k) to the trustee of the 403(b). The latter plan must keep a separate accounting of the after-tax contributions and the earnings on them.

When you can dock a security deposit

I plan to rent out a duplex I recently bought and want to avoid hassles with tenants over security deposits. What do I need to know to stay out of trouble?

Security deposits are intended to protect you in case you have to repair damage that exceeds normal wear and tear, routine cleaning, and the like. But many landlords err by docking the deposits inappropriately-for instance, to penalize tenants who break a lease early or upgrade furnishings rather than make repairs. Keeping security deposits for too long after tenants leave is another common mistake. Many states impose a deadline, often 30 days, for returning deposits. To avoid squabbles and potential lawsuits, have a knowledgeable real estate attorney draw up a lease contract or research your state's landlord-tenant statutes yourself. You can find links to them at http://www.nolo.com/statute/state.cfm. Click on Nolo's State Research page.

Send your money management questions to: MMQA Editor, Medical Economics, 123 Tice Blvd., Woodcliff Lake, NJ 07677-7664, or send an e-mail to memoney@advanstar.com (please include your regular postal address).