Joining a military credit union is distinct from military investing

Q: If I join the credit union that was formed for military personnel, I can buy certificates of deposit that are a very good deal. My problem is that I object to most of the things the military does. What would be the ethical approach to this? Is investing in this CD any more unethical than investing in US Treasury money-market funds, or a stock market index that includes companies doing things I would object to?
B., via e-mail

A: Certified financial planner Tracey A. Baker, in Fairfax, Va., says one cannot help but wonder where one can invest while maintaining some adherence to an ethical standard.

However, your specific question was in regard to a potential purchase of a certificate of deposit through a credit union created as a benefit for military families. These CDs aren't investments in support of military spending but rather are an option available to those serving in the armed forces. Buying one is not casting a vote of confidence.

"Only you can look into your heart to know where you are comfortable in terms of investing," says Ms. Baker. However, if you look closely at almost any investment you'll see that there is little that does not leave the potential for policies outside your personal views. All that remains is the old "stuffing money in your mattress" approach.

Ms. Baker recommends you return to those investing basics - weigh the risk of an investment, the potential return, and your investment objectives - to come up with the best fit.

Q: I am in the process of donating to a historical society a wood-framed house built in the 1890s. I would appreciate your help with any sources to help me determine the value so I can deduct it as a contribution.
C.B.G., via e-mail

A: The recommended way in this case would be for you to obtain a written appraisal from a qualified appraiser. You should check with the historical society receiving this gift, or with your local real estate firms, for a referral for an appraiser, says Sparta, N.J., certified financial planner Nicholas Nicolette. There are certain requirements for an appraisal to qualify for IRS purposes, such as being obtained within 60 days prior to the date it is donated, etc.

"Make sure they're experienced in this type of property to maximize the valuation within reason," says Mr. Nicolette. This will substantiate the valuation when you fill out IRS Form 8283 for Noncash Charitable Contributions when you file your tax return.

Q: Where do you find the latest price per ounce for gold and silver?
S.B., via e-mail.

A: Here are two websites to check for pricing on gold: and

You can also look in the Yellow Pages for coin dealers. Most of them buy and sell gold coins, so they'll be up to speed on current prices.

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