DEAR MR. MYERS: I am single, own a condominium and earn about $40,000 per year. I have been offered a job in a larger city on the other side of the country that would pay about $9,000 more per year, but I have no idea how much property in the area sells for or how much higher (or lower) the cost of living there would be. Can you help?ANSWER: Your best bet is to use the Internet. Several Web sites provide and sales information for virtually every area of the country.
Some Internet sites also offer free online "cost of living" calculators for people who are thinking about moving but wonder how much they would have to earn in their destination city to maintain their current lifestyle. You simply type in how much you earn, where you live now and where you're planning to move. Within seconds, you'll be told how much you'll need to make in the new city in order to keep your accustomed lifestyle.
The calculator is fun to use, even for those who aren't pondering a job relocation or potential retirement spot. For example, if you're earning $40,000 a year in the beautiful Salem/Portland area of Oregon but are thinking of moving to Manhattan, the calculator quickly will tell you that you'll have to find a job that pays about $30,000 more in the Big Apple to simply maintain your current standard of living - an estimate based on differences in local housing costs, utilities, transportation, groceries and health care.
However, if you're earning $40,000 in Chicago and are contemplating a move to the scenic Ogden/Salt Lake area of Utah, the calculator will tell you that you can maintain your living standard even if you take a $5,000 pay cut, because it's much cheaper to live in the Beehive State than it is to live in the Windy City.
DEAR MR. MYERS: We have been shopping for a house. Some of the properties we have visited have a very small wood or metal box attached to the inside of the front door, with strange writing on it that looks like it's Arabic or Hebrew. What are these boxes for?
ANSWER: The little box or case is called a mezuzah, the Hebrew term for "doorpost." It's often shaped like a scroll and is affixed by many faithful Jews to the entryway of their home as a constant reminder to love God and obey the Ten Commandments.
Inside the box is a 713-letter script, painstakingly written in Hebrew, that quotes passages from the Bible in which God commands Jews to always keep His words in their minds and hearts. Many Jewish homeowners kiss their fingers and then touch the mezuzah when they enter or leave their home as a sign of love and respect.
DEAR MR. MYERS: My mother died several years ago, but my dad has only recently begun writing a will. He has shown the draft to me and my brother, and everything seems to be OK, but I'm confused about a term that the document includes. What does per stirpes mean?
ANSWER: It's a Latin term for "per branch." It is often used in wills or living trusts to ensure that each genealogical branch of a deceased person's estate receives an equal share of the proceeds, regardless of how many people make up one particular branch.
Let's say that your dad wants to leave one-half interest in his home to your brother - we'll call him Bob - and the other half-interest to you. Bob has two kids, but you have none.
If Bob unexpectedly dies before your dad does, the per stir-pes clause in your father's will document should ensure that you would get the 50 percent interest in the home that your dad wanted you to get, but that Bob's two children - your brother's "branches" - would share equally in the other 50 percent that was originally meant for Bob.
In short, the clause would result in you inheriting one-half the house when your father eventually passes away and each of Bob's two kids receiving a 25 percent stake.
If your dad's will instead stated that the interest in the home would be distributed per capita - meaning "per person" - the you and Bob's two children would each get a one-third interest in the property after your father dies.
DEAR MR. MYERS: I am getting a divorce from my husband. I am planning to move out and sign a quitclaim deed that gives my half-interest in the home to him, but he wants to stay in the house and begin making the mortgage payments by himself. We both signed the original contract, but will the fact that I'm signing a quitclaim prevent the bank from forcing me to make the future payments if my ex-husband does-n't make them himself? If not, what should I do to protect my credit rating?
ANSWER: The lender can still legally try to force you to make the future payments if your husband later cannot or does not make them himself. The loan contract you signed is a legal obligation that both of you accepted when the home was first purchased. The bank's right to enforce the contract will remain intact even though you're now getting a divorce and signing a quitclaim that relinquishes your personal half ownership interest.
If your husband eventually defaults on the loan, the lender could conceivably sue you in court and garnish your wages if you didn't voluntarily start making the payments yourself. And the bank would almost certainly begin foreclosure proceedings if the debt went unpaid for a few months, which would ruin both your own, and your ex-husbands credit rating and future ability to get another mortgage.
Obviously, the simplest solution here would be to insist that the home be sold. The bank would be paid from the loan proceeds, and the remaining profit could be split any way the two of you wish. Because your husband wants to keep the home, perhaps the best alternative would be to have him refinance the current mortgage in his name only and thus sever your own financial ties to the property and its loan.