Jane Bryant Quinn

Money Guide: Getting Into the Game

Every May, the voice of the commencement speaker rings in the land. What's the meaning of life? Go forth! Play to win! But even though graduates may be prepared to take up jobs and careers, they're often not ready to handle money.

The Price of Our Addiction

The U.S. lives in an energy trap. We fell into it gladly, dug it deeper and sit fat and happy, with blinders on. We're fed daily meals of imported oil, from countries we pay in IOUs and think we can push around.

When Your Paycheck Stops

Ready to retire? Better make sure you can afford it. Here's how to make the most of what you've stashed in your piggy bank.

Autopilot for Retirement

For making money easy to manage, nothing beats "lifecycle" or "target retirement" mutual funds. They're simple, well diversified and will almost certainly deliver better results than the scramble of funds that you own now.

Capital Ideas

When you sign your joint tax return this year, cast an eye over the various schedules attached. If you ever divorce and think that your spouse may be hiding some assets, clues should pop up here.

New Math for College Costs

Higher education just got more expensive. Under the new federal budget, interest rates will rise on student loans. Many lenders will start charging students higher fees, as well.

Health Care's New Lottery

America's health-care "system" looks more like a lottery every year. The winners: the healthy and well insured, with good corporate coverage or Medicare. When they're ill, they get--as the cliche goes--"the best health care in the world." The losers: those who rely on shrinking public insurance, such as Medicaid (nearly 45 million of us),or go uninsured (46 million and rising).To slip from the winners' circle into the losers' ranks is a cultural, emotional and financial shock.

Capital Ideas

Looking for better information on investment costs and strategies? Check the calculators and databases developed by the National Association of Securities Dealers.

Money Guide: How to Pick a Planner

Financial planning is hot. The more people worry about their money, the more they look for experts to help them straighten things out. Supply is rising to meet demand.

Batten Down The Insurance

How "sure," exactly, is your homeowner's insurance? You buy policies that you believe will pay if you're burned out, or flooded out as Katrina's victims were.

Book Excerpt: Planning For Trouble

For all of us there's the life we're living and a potential, different life. Our normal days--filled with work, family, friends, shopping, movies, sports, books--are the ordinary way of the world.

Investing Goes Back to Basics

Call it the year of living cautiously. Investors, burned for too long, decided that picking stocks wasn't their cup of tea. They're not so sure about high-priced mutual-fund managers, either.

Money: Give Me A (Tax) Break!

Funny how congress keeps ranting about the need to streamline the income-tax code. Yet whenever legislators hunker down in the back rooms with lobbyists, they make things worse.

Capital Ideas

Many homeowners, who make (or expect) big profits when they sell, are just now catching on to the rules for reporting taxable gains. Some are amazed to learn that their gains come tax-free.

Grading 529s: Not All Get A's

Parents and grandparents are pouring money into the college-savings plans known as 529s--more than $55 billion to date. What drives them is the tax advantage.

Time to Cram For Medicare

It's the largest expansion in Medicare ever, and a huge experiment in choice. The new Part D--prescription drug insurance--opens for business this week. The coverage is being offered through private insurance companies rather than by the government directly.

Capital Ideas

When you're hunting for a mortgage, your first stop is often a mortgage broker. It's his or her business to know where the best deals lie. The trouble is, brokers may not play fair.

REALITY CHECK ON THE BUBBLE

It ain't over 'til it's over. Home buyers keep hitting real estate out of the park. The prices of existing homes rose in August at the fastest pace in a quarter century.

Capital Ideas

A new tax-free savings game lies just around the corner, if your company decides to play. Starting Jan. 1, employers can expand their 401(k) plans to include something called a Roth 401(k).

Money Guide: A Cash Course For Kids

How to teach kids about money... hmm, that ought to be easy. In just a week, I piled up a stack of tools: cute piggy banks, kiddie debit cards, advice books, money DVDs and interactive Web sites.

Down With Mutual Funds?

David Swensen is mad at mutual funds, and I don't mean just a little sore. They're greedy, he says. They abuse investors. They milk you for fees. Their ads manipulate past performance to get you to buy.

MISEDUCATING INVESTORS

After the first of the wall street scandals, 10 bad-guy investment firms paid $1.4 billion in fines. They floated slow apologies. They were kinda sorry their lying analysts had hyped the prices of Internet, high-tech and telecommunications stocks.

CUTTING THE COMMISSIONS

Will the Internet finally smash the real-estate cartel? Home prices have risen 40 percent in the past five years, yet most real-estate brokers still quote sales commissions at about 6 percent (some negotiate, if asked).

CAPITAL IDEAS

What happens when your term life-insurance policy expires? For more than a decade, so-called level-term insurance has been the industry's most popular product.

MAKING THE MOST OF CASH

The interest rates paid on cash savings fell to such a pittance in 2003 that comparison shopping hardly seemed worth anybody's time. But life is stirring once again.

MONEY GUIDE: MAKING NEST EGGS LAST

Investors still dream of striking it rich in risky stocks, but in practice they're on the cusp of turning conservative. Financial reality is slowly sinking in.

BEWARE THESE HOME LOANS

Trying to buy the house you love best? A new breed of mortgages offers the lowest monthly payments ever. There's a catch, of course. Cheap loans are putting a world of money into buyers' hands, who are using it to bid prices up.

FRESH WORRIES ON PENSIONS

How safe is your pension? after United Airlines dumped its plan last week--underfunded by $9.8 billion, the largest default ever--a collective shiver went down the backs of 36 million working stiffs.

NEW ANGLES FOR STOCKS

There's no free lunch. You pay for a few glory years in the stock market with a string of misery years. In the 1980s and 1990s, stock prices rose by an annual average of 14 percent.

CAPITAL IDEAS

Looking for a big, fat income stock? Brokers are touting closed-end mutual funds at yields of 8 percent or more. "I'm a skeptic," says Tom Herzfeld, whose eponymous Miami investment firm manages $100 million invested in closed-ends.

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