Jane Bryant

Stories by Jane Bryant Quinn

  • When Bankruptcy Makes Sense

    Normally I'd say suck it up, cut spending and repay your debt. But not if you're going broke.
  • Don't Retire Without Health Coverage to Age 65

    Retirement planning usually focuses on "the number"—how much money you'll need to support the kind of life you want. For early retirees, there's a second question, potentially even more important: will you have health insurance to carry you to 65 when you finally come under the protection of Medicare? Without it, your health, savings and standard of living are at serious risk.It's dangerous to go uninsured, as all too many Americans know. A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine evaluated adults who were 51 to 61 in 1992. Those without policies were almost three times as likely to suffer a decline in health in the following five years as those who were lucky enough to have continuous coverage.Going without insurance is also dangerous to your financial health. Bankruptcies are soaring among older people. "It's often a one-two punch—high medical bills and job loss," says Elizabeth Warren, a professor at Harvard Law School and a bankruptcy expert.If you have a choice,...
  • Vetting McCain’s Health Plan

    Tax credits would move people out of group plans and into individual policies where the benefits aren't as good.
  • Quinn: Subprime-Loan Katrinas

    The government had plenty of power to prevent the mortgage crisis. But regulators didn't do their jobs—and still don't get it.
  • Quinn: Your New Rebalancing Act

    When all the world's markets drop together, commentators like to claim that diversification doesn't work. They're wrong.
  • A Solution to Mortgage Crisis

    If banks would modify the loan terms, the majority of at-risk borrowers could pay their mortgages and stay in their homes.
  • Quinn: The Kids Aren’t All Right

    Bush favors his own program—tax deductions for people at all income levels who buy their own health insurance.
  • Financial Planning: Wills And Other Ways

    When you think about leaving money to heirs, the process seems simple. You put your decisions in your will (you have one, right?). When the will is read, your family and friends bless your sainted memory. If you yourself are an heir, you expect to collect your promised share.Think again. That picture is from the movies (old movies). Nowadays your will may affect only a fraction of what you own. Most of your serious property will probably pass outside your will, through joint ownership, living trusts or the beneficiary forms attached to life insurance and retirement accounts. If the forms aren't in sync (and they're often not), the wrong person might inherit or an adult child (maybe you) might get less than the parents intended. Risks multiply with divorce and remarriage. An ex-wife might still be named on an old insurance policy. A new husband might inherit and cut his stepchildren out.Errors, omissions and greed can rend family relationships for generations. Forget polite...
  • Payday Loans Can Be A Trap

    One employee got disgusted when he saw a customer had paid $8,000 in fees on a $375 loan. 'That made the picture clear.'
  • Start Planning Now

    When you turn 50, it's more than an embarrassing birthday. It's the outer door to retirement, whether you know it or not. Some people save for years so they can retire early (55 is a favorite age). Others have retirement thrust upon them: they're fired, their health breaks down or they have to take care of an ailing spouse. Of those 60 to 65, a mere 33 percent still work at their primary jobs full time, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Joanna Rotenberg of the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. says that 40 percent of retirees are forced to leave work earlier than they'd planned—ready or not. The average retirement age is currently 57.That's what makes your 50th birthday so important. From then on, your employment options narrow. "If you're 20 years older than your boss, you can assume that your days are numbered," says Bedda D'Angelo of Fiduciary Solutions in Durham, N.C. You have to be ready if your boss, your knees or your spirit cries "halt."To retire early...
  • Capital Ideas

    You've probably read that investors usually don't do as well as the mutual funds they buy. The reason is simple. You buy, or add to, successful funds after they've started zooming in value, not before. You sell during mediocre years, before the fund picks up again. On a buy-and-hold basis, the fund's past performance could be fine. But because of the way you timed your investments, you might show a loss.—How badly do investors fall behind? You can find out at Morningstar.com, which recently started keeping track of average investor returns. Go to Morningstar's home page and enter the name of a fund in the "Quotes" box. When the fund page comes up, click on "Total Returns" to get its performance record. You'll then see a tab for "Investor Returns." Click there to find out how well (or poorly) typical investors did. They're more successful in some funds than others.—Where do investors fare the worst? In volatile funds where prices zoom and dip. One example would be the technology...
  • Tips for Managing Money on Your Own

    Every May, the voice of the commencement speaker rings in the land. Go forth! Play to win! But while graduates may be prepared to take up jobs and careers, they're often not ready to handle money. With the right start, however, you can make money management easy-in your 20s and for years to come. So here's my own "commencement" speech, about the meaning of financial life.Respect cash. It takes real live dollars to set up on your own. Open a savings account and keep at least two months' rent on hand.Manage your spending. Independent life is far more expensive than you think. Add up the bills and compare them to your take-home pay. If there's more outgo than income, well… you know what to do.Get rid of credit-card debt. Many consumers think of credit-card debt as "normal"-just like having a mortgage or auto loan. In fact, it's a total waste of money that you could be using for savings or having fun. If you're carrying debt, add up the amount (most people underestimate), check the...
  • Quinn: We Can Afford Universal Health Care

    Prepare to be terrorized, shocked, scared out of your wits. No, not by jihadists or dementors (you do read "Harry Potter," right?), but by the evil threat of ... universal health insurance! The more the presidential candidates talk it up, the wilder the warnings against it. Cover everyone? Wreck America? Do you know what care would cost?But the public knows the American health-care system is breaking up, no matter how much its backers cheer. For starters, there's the 46 million uninsured (projected to rise to 56 million in five years). There's the shock of the underinsured when they learn that their policies exclude a costly procedure they need—forcing them to run up an unpayable bill, beg for charity care or go without. And think of the millions who plan their lives around health insurance—where to work, whether to start a business, when to retire, even whom to marry (there are "benefits" marriages, just as there are "green card" marriages). It shocks the conscience that those who...
  • Quinn: Washington Rolls Back Investor Protections

    Remember the "ownership society" that the administration swore to promote and protect? Remember the admiration lavished on the so-called shareholding class? You probably thought that meant you, because you invest in the stock market and own mutual funds. You would be wrong.Even with the corporate frauds of the '90s barely out of the headlines and 21st-century frauds taking over (rampant insider trading; backdated stock options for executives), your government is rolling back some investor-protection rules. It's also urging the courts to side with corporate captains against their trusting shareholders. Key people in Congress, mindful of campaign contributions, stand on the captains' side.I have three cases in point. ...
  • Quinn: Death and Medical Choices

    There's more reason than ever to leave written instructions about the medical care you want if you're unable to speak for yourself. In the wake of the Terri Schiavo case, in which her husband and parents fought over whether to remove her feeding tubes, right-to-life activists have been working on state legislatures. Their objective: requiring doctors and families to keep life support going for patients in a permanently comatose state. If that's not what you want, you need to make it clear. ...
  • Quinn: Insuring Your Future Care

    Insurers are offering new forms of long-term-care insurance for boomers who might be willing to buy at a younger age.
  • Quinn: Are You Retirement-Ready?

    Ready to retire? Looking for income, safety and growth? You're a sitting duck for a broker selling a fancy new investment product—a variable annuity with "guaranteed minimum withdrawal benefits for life." You put up some money; it's invested in stocks and bonds; you're guaranteed an annual payment of 5 or 6 percent of your initial investment for life (that's $5,000 or $6,000 on a $100,000 investment); if stocks keep rising, your future payments can (supposedly) rise, too, but they'll never fall.What's not to like? Plenty, as I've said before. Recently, I even got a call from an industry insider who knows these products well. He wanted to talk, on background, about how bad they are.
  • Quinn: Easy Money, a Click Away

    If you're still picking your bank by whether there's a handy branch nearby, you haven't joined the 21st century. Branches are nice, especially when you've got a good book to read while you're waiting in line. But for real convenience, speed and a simple financial life, the very best bank accounts await online. Even better, they're paying far higher interest rates on savings accounts than you'll find at traditional banks. New online checking accounts are also springing up, with interest rates and terms you can't get anywhere else. To me, that's free money. What are you waiting for?Internet banking first appeared in the 1990s—regular, full-service banks transplanted onto the Web. Back then, however, communications weren't speedy enough, or the advantage clear enough, to collect a crowd. Some banks failed. Others settled for small niche businesses.All that changed in 2000, with the launch of what's known today as "direct" banking. You're offered a limited range of low-cost, do-it...
  • Quinn: Dragged Down by Debt

    Claudie Harris, 54, of Kansas City, Mo., knows about living on the edge. She owes about$5,000 toward her late husband's medical bills. She's paying it, slowly, from the salary she earns as a housekeeper at a facility for the mentally ill. But that leaves her a little short. So, to get by, she's been taking payday loans, which are loans against her future earnings. "It's easy money," Harris says.People with shaky credit can borrow more easily than ever before—against houses, of course, but also against their paychecks and even their cars—whether or not they're in a position to repay. There are now some 24,200 payday-loan storefronts, up from 18,000 three years ago, according to Stephens Inc., a Little Rock investment bank—and more than 300 new payday outlets on the Internet. First American Loan Performance reports that subprime mortgages accounted for 16 percent of the market last year, up from 9 percent in 2000. Leverage like this puts consumers at much greater risk of delinquency...
  • Quinn: How to Make Money on Climate Change

    So where's the money in climate change? Investors sense a tumultuous market in the making, if they can only hit it right. "Sometimes I feel like a fly on the wall, watching a new era unfold," says Rona Fried, editor and publisher of Progressive Investor, a six-year-old newsletter that follows the field. "We're almost past the final hurdle of 'Do we really have to change?' Yes, we do, and we're going to get there."Wall Street's own change in climate is nothing less than astonishing. Save-the-planet investing has suddenly, well, heated up. Four major investment banks—Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers and UBS—have recently issued fat global-warming reports looking at stocks and industries likely to gain or lose. Investments in clean energy have more than doubled, to $70.9 billion worldwide, in just three years. In just six years, assets in U.S. "green" mutual funds have soared by 695 percent.Corporations can't afford to lag. Caps on greenhouses gases will almost certainly...
  • Quinn: Appointing Kids as Beneficiaries

    Do you carry a life-insurance policy that protects your young children if you die? Most parents do—but there's a legal angle you need to think about. Minor children can't receive money directly or open a bank or investment account to handle the policy's proceeds. Even though they're named as beneficiaries, the insurer, by law, isn't allowed to write them a check. This leads to complications and could upset your estate plan. Here's what happens if you name minor children as direct beneficiaries: ...
  • Quinn: The Nasty World of Subprime Credit Cards

    In recent weeks, you've heard plenty about the sleazy side of the subprime mortgage business. Rising numbers of borrowers are losing their homes after being lured into high-cost mortgages they couldn't afford. But there's another piece of the painful subprime story that hasn't hit the headlines yet: costly—sometimes abusive—subprime credit cards. They're bleeding millions of borrowers who didn't know what they were getting into.Subprime borrowers tend to have credit scores under 660. They've missed or defaulted on payments in the past and already carry a lot of debt. But even prime borrowers, with credit scores solidly in the 700s, can slide into subprime status if they're late on a couple of payments.Subprimes come in two types: Cards that are crazily costly to begin with and cards that look good but hide big traps. You know about traps if you've paid some bills late and are now being charged with interest at 30 percent. In general, here's how the business works:The bottom-feeding...

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