DEAR BRUCE: We have $18,000 left on our house. I have $28,000 in mutual funds. Should I sell some of that to lower the principal and save some interest, or leave it alone and pay off the mortgage on schedule? — John, via email

DEAR BRUCE: We have $18,000 left on our house. I have $28,000 in mutual funds. Should I sell some of that to lower the principal and save some interest, or leave it alone and pay off the mortgage on schedule? — John, via email

DEAR JOHN: If you have a high-interest mortgage and are earning only a small amount on your mutual funds, it might be good to consider lowering the principal, because there is very likely a substantial spread between what you are paying and what you are earning on the $28,000.

If you can recast your mortgage at today's attractive interest rates (as little as 3.5 percent) rather than reduce your modest investment in your mutual funds, it is likely to be in your best interest.

The older you are, the more sense it makes to pay off your mortgage. However, if these mutual funds are your only investment, I would continue on with the mortgage with the lender you have now and then with other lenders to see whether you can reduce the interest. If you can, go for it.

DEAR BRUCE: I just read your column in which you mentioned that it would be a good idea to deal with a coin dealer who has been around for some time and who enjoys a good reputation.

I have a rather large collection that was left to me when my husband died in 2000. I have thought many times about selling some of it but did not know where to go. Can you give me some suggestions on where to find a coin collector in my area that I can trust not to rip me off? — Donna, via email

DEAR DONNA: You ask an easy and yet a difficult question. Is there some way to guarantee you won't be ripped off? I don't know of any such guarantee.

One thing you can do when looking for a merchant or a service provider is to ask for references, both trade and personal. An organization that represents an industry — for example, plumbers, accountants, etc., or in the case of attorneys, the local bar association — can give referrals.

I don't know of anybody specifically in your area. One well-known company that can work with you is Stack's in New York City. Whether you have a collection that interests them is another question.

So many people think they have collections when, in fact, they have accumulations. The difference is that a collection at least connotes numismatic interest. Often, people refer to a collection based on quantity instead of quality. Some people often can't tell the difference.

The first thing to determine is what you have — whether they're just coins that somebody's been pulling out of circulation and throwing in a bag, or coins of high quality or rarity. You may wish to write to the company I mentioned in New York City, which I did use many years ago, much to my satisfaction.

Stack's is interested only in relatively "good" numismatic coins, as opposed to coins with metal value. This, of course, can change to some degree with precious metals such as gold because of its high metal value.

Send your questions to Smart Money, P.O. Box 2095, Elfers, FL 34680. Send email to bruce@brucewilliams.com. Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.)