DEAR BRUCE: I have read your column for years. I have some old stocks from the 1930s and would like to know if they have any value. I have tried to look up the companies online, and they are out of business. -- W.S., Lexington, Ky.
DEAR W.S.: Since you have access to a computer, you can search out companies that will research old stocks for you. A good place to start is the Securities and Exchange Commission's website (sec.gov). It offers suggestions for how to go about tracking down additional information.
Also, the Internet has all kinds of websites where you can go for help, sometimes for a fee. By doing some homework, you should be able to find out if the stocks have any value.
DEAR BRUCE: My husband and I decided that we were going to build the home of our dreams for our retirement. We hired a builder.
During the building process, we noticed several things that we didn't like. We talked to the builder about them, and he assured us that everything would be all right. Well, everything isn't all right, and now problems have arisen as a result.
We spent a lot of money on this house, and we want it to be right. Can we take the builder to court and force him to make these changes? -- Sam and Elaine, via email
DEAR SAM AND ELAINE: You can take someone to court for almost any reason. Whether you prevail is another question.
The first thing you should do is get a second opinion from someone who is qualified, such as a private home inspector, to see if your complaints are legitimate. You also should determine how much it would cost to have these problems fixed.
In a lawsuit of this type, the plaintiff asks for a dollar amount as a remedy, rather than requiring that the builder do specific work.
If the costs involved in fixing the problems are modest, it might be to your advantage to pay to have the work done and put the matter behind you. If it's a significant amount of money, a small-claim action certainly is warranted.
You should know, however, that even if you receive a judgment, collecting it may prove difficult.
Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Smart Money, P.O. Box 7150, Hudson, FL 34674. Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns, but personal replies cannot be provided.