Q: My wife and I are in the process of refinancing a first and second mortgage. We have found a mortgage broker that seems to be searching hard for the best rates and terms for us. Though we are just in the appraisal process, the lender is requesting much information, such as, copies of our 2001 and 2002 tax returns, at least 3 months checking and savings account statements, and even a copy of our 401k quarterly statement.

What information are we legally obligated to furnish? We feel some of these documents should be our private information.

A: I agree. Some of what the lender is asking for seems intrusive.

I can see sending the tax information (to prove what you’ve earned), a current pay stub, and your checking and saving account information. Lenders need to see that you have “reserves,” that is, enough cash in your account to cover one extra mortgage payment.

However, I’ve never heard of a lender asking for retirement account information. I’d go back to the lender and ask why they need that information. Tell the lender you’re hesitant to release this information as you cannot imagine why it would be of interest, since you have the income necessary to pay for the mortgage.

If the lender insists, call your state’s office that regulates the banking industry and ask them if it sounds like a problem.