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Q: We have a $40,000 balance on our HELOC with an introductory rate of 0.99%. The rate will soon rise to 5%. My husband's company stock can cover the balance, but I hate to give up the potential gains. What do you recommend? — Name withheld
A: Don’t pay off the home equity line of credit, but do think about lightening up on the company stock, says Paul Jacobs, a certified financial planner and chief investment officer in the Atlanta office of Palisades Hudson Financial Group.
While it’s unfortunate that the low introductory rate on your HELOC will soon expire, a 5% rate is still fairly low in the grand scheme of things — especially since the interest is likely tax deductible.
“If your goal is to live debt free it might make sense to pay it off,” says Jacobs. “But considering that your after-tax interest is 3% or 4%, you’re probably better off keeping that money invested.”
However, think twice about keeping that money invested in your husband’s company stock. “We don’t recommend keeping more than 5% of your portfolio in any one stock,” says Jacobs. In the case of employer stock, he says, that percentage should be even lower, and ideally very little.
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Why? “Your financial well-being is already tied to that employer,” Jacobs points out.
In fact, if the stock has been doing well, it’s all the more reason to consider selling and allocating the proceeds across your broader portfolio. (Be sure to chat with your tax advisor if you have any questions about the tax implications of selling sooner rather than later.)
Going forward, it’s also a good idea to have a strategy for managing this employer stock. For some people, the best approach is to set price targets, while others incorporate this into periodic rebalancing.
Whatever your approach “it’s important to be disciplined,” says Jacobs, and avoid hitching too much of your financial fate to one company.