Berko: Investing a divorce settlement
Friday, October 18, 2013 7:00 AM
Dear Mr. Berko:
I am 55 and have a $256,000 settlement from my divorce. This represents 18 percent of our assets (I would have settled for less just to get out) after three children and 33 years of my marriage to a woman who never smiled, never said a kind word, never laughed, never gave me a compliment, never said thank you and never gave me a birthday card. But she is wonderful to her many friends and is very well-liked. I will be moving to North Carolina to be near one of my sons and will begin looking for a job teaching at one of the small colleges there. I know the salary will be low, so I will need to get some decent income from this $256,000. How should I invest this money to maximize my return without taking too much risk?
J.S., Troy, Mich.
Ouch. I think it was Groucho Marx who said, “Marriage is a three-ring circus: the engagement ring, the wedding ring and the suffering.” So it seems your ex got most of the bounty from the mutiny. If you had sent a letter to Ann Landers 20 years ago, perhaps this letter to me might not have been necessary. Meanwhile, I doubt you’ll have difficulty finding a good teaching position in North Carolina. Every year or so, I get a phone feeler from someone I know at one of the neat smaller colleges there, and the pay is livable.
Now, the first thing to do is put $156,000 in a liquid money market account with Duke Energy Corp. – located in Charlotte, N.C. – which will pay a dandy 1.41 percent. Keep it there, because you may need ready cash from time to time. When you need a few thousand, just write a check. Then open an account with Schwab, Fidelity or Vanguard with the remaining $100,000 and invest $16,000 in six of the recommended issues below. One of those brokerages will save you more than $900 in commission costs compared with Merrill Lynch, UBS or Morgan Stanley.
Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP (KMP-$79.61) is a $13 billion-revenue pipeline transportation and energy storage company. Its pipeline segment delivers gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel and natural gas liquids to various markets via 8,600 miles of pipe. The 33,000 miles’ worth of natural gas transmission pipelines gathers, treats, processes, stores, transports and sells product. KMP yields 6.6 percent and has 15 years of consecutive distribution increases, and 99 percent of its distribution is not taxable.
AT&T Inc. (T-$33.75) is just a big, profitable landline and cellular phone company with 243,000 employees. It produces $126 million in revenues and a 5.3 percent dividend that has increased in 13 of the past 15 years. T should provide you with dependable revenue, earnings and dividend growth.
W.P. Carey Inc. (WPC-$63.82) was founded in 1973 and converted to a real estate investment trust last year. The 5.4 percent dividend, which has enjoyed good annual increases, is mostly nontaxable. This real estate company invests primarily in commercial properties that are triple-net leased to single corporate tenants. The Street expects continued revenue and dividend growth.
Banc of California Inc. (BANCP-$25.37), founded in 1941, yields 3.6 percent and is backed by a nicely profitable $130 million of revenue. There are 19 branches in Southern California.
Old Republic International Corp. (ORI-$14.55) is a $4.3 billion-revenue multiple-line insurance holding company with a 5 percent dividend that has increased every year since 1996. ORI trades about a buck below its book value, and revenues, earnings and dividends are expected to increase modestly in future years.
El Paso Pipeline Partners LP (EPB-$41.68) owns Southern Natural Gas, Southern LNG and 86 percent of Colorado Interstate Gas. The 6 percent distribution, which has enjoyed excellent growth, is not taxable.
Those six will provide $5,800 in income, some $2,800 of which is not taxable, and the money market fund will earn $2,199. In six months, let’s see where interest rates are headed.
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