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Seek annuity assurances, or sock cash into stocks (access required)

I'm a 74-year-old widow with an $87,000 certificate of deposit coming due next week. I visited two brokers. Each wants me to buy a variable annuity, and both sounded very good. I've enclosed my notes and the pamphlets and prospectuses in this envelope. What do you think? If you don't care for them, please recommend five or six stocks paying at least 5 percent that a gal like me could comfortably live with. I can afford moderate risks.

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Say “Hello” to HELOC (access required)

I have about $40,000 left on my 15-year fixed mortgage at 4 percent interest. I owe about $13,000 on a home equity line that is 2.99 percent variable rate. I have a $100,000 equity line open. I have no other debt. I am considering paying off my remaining mortgage with the lower-interest home equity line. Do you think that is a good idea since I am giving up a fixed rate for a variable rate?

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PMI-cancellation tips (access required)

We purchased our home a year ago for $153,000 and put $16,000 cash down. PMI was required. I want to end the PMI as soon as possible and understand that the home equity must reach a certain point (the agent said after two years we could try to get it canceled).

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Mortgage relief extended (access required)

On Jan. 2, President Obama signed into law the legislation designed to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff." Included in the law was an extension of the law that helps homeowners whose property has been foreclosed from having to pay income tax on the debt that they no longer have to pay.

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