Personal Finance Q & A

Worthless stock may hold antique value

Q. My late father-in-law worked for W.T. Grant Co. When the company folded in 1974 he was left with much worthless stock. Do the stock certificates have any value? I also recently read about a W.T. Grant Fund. Where would the money for this fund have come from since the company went bankrupt? M.F., Kennebunk, Maine

A. Since the former retail chain has no current administrative structure, your shares only have value as collectors' items.

Each certificate "may possibly be worth $5 to $10 depending on their dates and condition," says Bob Kerstein of Scripophily.net, a Web site that deals with old stock certificates.

Some antique shops will sell old stock certificates on a consignment basis, giving you a cut of the final sale.

As for the W.T. Grant Fund, it was set up in 1936 by the founder of the Grant company, W.T. Grant. The fund undertakes research projects relating to adolescent children and has assets of around $245 million, says fund official Ron VanCleef.

He adds that the W.T. Grant Fund has no linkage with the W.T. Grant Company.

Q. I work for a company with fewer than 200 employees. We have no 401(k) contributory retirement plan. Are small firms exempt from offering such plans? J.C., Morristown, N.J.

A. "It's a purely voluntary system whether an employer offers such plans or not," says Gloria Della, a spokeswoman for the Pension & Welfare Benefits Administration of the US Department of Labor.

Ask your employer to consider setting up some type of contributory benefits program, she says.

Small employers usually refrain from doing so because they believe such plans are costly. But, says Ms. Della, many plans have low, or negligible, costs.

Q. Most index funds are geared to the Standard & Poor's 500 Index, or the Wilshire 5000 Index. But are there any related to the Dow Jones industrial average? D.P., New York

A. Try the Strong Dow 30 fund (800-368-3945), or the ASM Index 30 fund (800-333-4276. The ASM fund, however, is under a legal and financial cloud, and may be merged with a new nonindex fund.

You can also buy a security - symbol DJX - that is essentially a share in the Dow. It's price is always 1/10th of the Dow.

Questions about finances? Write: Guy Halverson The Christian Science Monitor 500 Fifth Ave., Suite 1845 New York, NY 10110 E-mail: halversong@csps.com

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