A number that should be held close to the vest

Q: Recently I received a flurry of pre-approved credit-card offers and decided to call a phone number I saw in a newspaper to stop getting such offers. Part of the information requested was my Social Security number. I gave it, but immediately regretted doing it. Should I be concerned?

M.F., St. Louis

A: No. The number you called, the "Opt-Out Request Line" (888-567-8688), is a service provided by three large credit-reporting agencies that lets you remove your name from consumer-marketing lists.

It is widely considered unwise to give your Social Security number to unknown parties. In your case, however, the three credit agencies already had your number before you even passed it along.

Q: I am 23 and currently invest 4 percent of my salary into a 403(b) plan - half into an aggressive-growth mutual fund and the other half into a computer fund. I want to increase my contribution to 12 percent of my salary, but given that both funds are technology based, should I add another type of fund to diversify? Or is it better to keep all my money in these two funds?

S.S., Boston

A: "You are to be congratulated for investing such a solid amount," says Pat Schipper, a financial consultant with Prism Financial Group, Overland Park, Kan. "Divide your 12 percent into four equal parts of 3 percent each; keep your current two funds, and add an international fund and a large-cap fund, assuming that your growth fund and computer funds are geared toward medium and small-cap companies"

Use the Morningstar Web site (www.morningstar.com) to check out the composition of the funds, she says.

Q: I have just left my company to work elsewhere. I have a tax-sheltered retirement account with my former employer, that I now need to move to a rollover IRA. The account consists of company stock which has fallen sharply recently. Should I transfer the stock to the IRA, or have my former employer cash-out the stock and transfer the money to my new IRA?

S.R., Westfield, N.J.

A: "Assuming you have confidence in your former company's prospects, move the stock to the IRA," says Ms. Schipper.

You may want to cash out part of it, and have your former employer shift it over as cash, which you could use for diversification within the IRA, she says.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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