Q My paycheck bounced. Not only did I not get paid, but my bank charged me $15 for returning the check. What's the best way to handle this situation?

Abby (22)


It is a misdemeanor if an employer does not have enough money in the bank to cover your paycheck for 30 days after it is issued. The employer is subject to paying a penalty to the state, and possibly to you. According to the Legal Aid Society, you have one of three ways to collect damages.

• Not only does your employer owe you the amount of the paycheck, you also are owed an extra day of wages for each day you remain unpaid after the check bounces.

• You might recover up to three times the amount ($500 maximum). You must write a letter to your employer and send it by certified mail. If the employer does not pay up within 30 days, plus a $25 service charge and the cost of mailing the letter, the employer is subject to this penalty.

• If you can show you had fees and expenses such as the bank charges described above, or late fees resulting from not having the money, you might be able to collect these penalties from your employer.

Joe Pitzl (23)

Q I've been hearing a lot about exchange-traded funds lately. How are they different from mutual funds? Should I consider them as a long-term investment vehicle?

Tim Armato


An exchange-traded fund (ETF) is an open-end mutual fund that tracks an underlying index such as the Standard & Poor's 500. But they are traded like a common stock on an exchange.

ETFs are definitely an option for long-term investments. One thing to be aware of is that because they are traded like stocks there are transaction costs associated with each purchase or sale; it might not be feasible to buy small amounts on a monthly basis.

Brad O'Keefe (27)