Jane Bryant Quinn

Praising The Granny Banks

Your mother isn't alone. Plenty of people have heard about the FHA's refunds and wonder if they qualify.Mortgage insurance guarantees that the lender will get all (or most) of its money back if the borrower quits paying and the house is foreclosed.

Scam Busters On The Web

Talk about fattening profits and making your business more efficient. For swindlers and hustlers, there's nothing like the Web. Lies can be spread to millions of trusting people at warp speed, and the arm of the law isn't long enough to halt more than a few.But the Web is also a potent force for exposing scams.

The Annual 1040 Paranoia

I don't need the robins or tulips to tell me it's spring--not with April 15 just around the corner. April is Tax Propaganda Month. My in box, as usual, blooms with spiky press releases, charging that the average American groans under the heaviest burden of taxes ever.Happily, that's simply false for most people's personal returns.

Taxes, Savings, Old Stocks

QUESTION: I START MEDICAL SCHOOL IN SEPTEMBER. WHEN I GRADUATE, I'LL HAVE CONSIDERABLE DEBT FROM GOVERNMENT LOANS. I UNDERSTAND THAT PRESIDENT CLINTON PROPOSED, AND CONGRESS PASSED, A BILL THAT PROVIDES FINANCIAL RELIEF ON LOANS.

The Dow Generation

It doesn't pay to have memories in stock markets like this. They only upset you. You're apt to be thrown off your stride by the words of an older world--dusty stuff like "earnings" and "dividends" (ask your grandfather what they mean).

The Lottery On Lives

In America's fin de siecle casino culture, no wager seems outre. So how about betting on how long a stranger is likely to live? You can buy part or all of his or her insurance policy, becoming the beneficiary.

The Invisible Uninsured

IN 1993, PRESIDENT CLINTON PROPOSED A PLAN FOR universal health insurance. In beating it back, opponents smoothly assured the public that they supported the idea, in principle--they just wanted to package it in a better way.

The Virtues Of Simplicity

TO GET THROUGH CONGRESS, ANY PLAN FOR SOCIAL Security reform will apparently have to be tied to a tax-favored retirement account. In the words of my favorite 2-year-old, why, why, why? ""To encourage personal savings,'' is the stock reply.

Help! Y2k Is On The Way.

THINK OF Y2K AS A HURRICANE BEING TRACKED offshore. It might strike the coast with gale force, or it might gradually blow itself out. Both possibilities are supported by plausible stories.

Investors In Bondage

I'M PLAYING "WHAT IF," BUT BEAR WITH ME A MOMENT. What if Southeast Asia's implosion takes more than a modest nip out of U.S. growth? What if business profits fall because of worldwide excess production capacity in everything from computers to cars?

Weird Rules, Weird Laws

QUESTION: Providian Financial offered me a preapproved credit card at no interest for three months. I accepted, borrowed $5,000 and repaid three months later.

What Should You Do?

STOCK PRICES AREN'T REAL THINGS. THEY'RE JUST froth on a wave. The wave is the only real thing, which investors forget when they're watching the ticker slither by.

Insert Card, Lose Shirt

QUESTION: I have a brokerage account at Citicorp Investment Services and check stock prices through a Citibank ATM. Based on what it showed, I put in a sell order for a stock at a particular price.

Small Stocks, Big Frauds

Hi! Remember I called you last year to tell you about BioBoom at $2? You may not have been watching, but it just reached $34! Now we've found a situation we like even more.

Medicare For Boomers

MEMO TO BOOMERS: I KNOW YOU'LL NEVER GROW old enough to need Medicare--but just in case, take a look at the radical change in the program that Congress authorized this summer.

Of Scholars And Dollars

QUESTION: When my daughter graduated from high school, she was named a National Science Scholar. This honor conferred the promise of an annual federal financial award during four years of college (she went to Harvard), provided that she chose to be a math or science major.

Sure Profits, No Tears?

PRESIDENT CLINTON NEEDN'T BOTHER TESTING schoolchildren for achievement. I can tell him right now that the country's collective IQ has never been so high.

The Buck Stops Here

QUESTION: I'm a 31-year-old freelance writer, willing to invest the maximum for my eventual retirement. What's the best plan of action for someone who is self-employed?

Pride Before The Fall?

YOU KNOW THERE'S POTENTIAL FOR TROUBLE WHEN the No. 4 best-selling business book tells you how to get rich quick playing stock-market options. Wade B. Cook, author of ""Wall Street Money Machine,'' says he learned investment wisdom back in the days when he drove a cab.

Dollars In, Dollars Out

ELECTIONS AREN'T ABOUT ECONOMICS, IT ONLY SEEMS that way. All they're about is dividing the pie. Who gets the tax cuts? Who gets the subsidies? Who gets to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom?

The Price Is Wrong

QUESTION: My 19-year-old daughter won $38,000 in prizes on a TV game show, ""The Price Is Right.'' This ""income'' pushed her into a higher tax bracket. We've been trying to sell some of her prizes but can't get anything close to what they're supposedly worth.

O.J.: Follow The Money?

O.J. SIMPSON IS STARTING TO LOOK LIKE THE GUY who bought a new boomerang and spent the rest of his life trying to throw his old one away. Even if the judge reduces the size of the damage award, it will pursue him everywhere.

A Cheap Way To Buy Stocks

QUESTION: I understand there are many companies that sell their stock to you directly, bypassing the stockbroker and his fees. That sounds right for me, especially because I'll buy fewer than 100 shares at a time.

A Shock For Utility Stocks

WHAT ARE THE NATION'S FAVORITE ""SAFE'' stocks? Electric utilities, by a mile. They're held by older people for dividend income and steady if unspectacular growth.

Is Your Hmo Ok--Or Not?

UNLESS YOU TAKE UP THE FIGHT FOR QUALITY HEALTH care, you'll risk losing it. That's because quality isn't examined very closely when most employers choose group health-insurance plans.

The Safest Bonds Ever

WHENEVER SOMETHING SOUNDS PERFECT, there's usually one thing that you didn't hear. Take the new inflation-protection Treasury bonds, due to be auctioned on Jan. 29.

Why You Can Relax About Retirement

FIVE-OH (WHISPER: 50)--AN AGE that gets one's full attention. Middle-aged boomers are suddenly starting to hear the shuffling footsteps of time. Back in their innocent, three-oh days, they thought they'd be retired by now.

Playing The Odds

AS A SERIOUS INVESTMENT GUIDE, THE TABLE BELOW IS about as good as astrology or throwing darts. Maybe stocks will rise next year. Maybe they won't. But the data should remind you that stocks occasionally fall--most often in the couple of years after a presidential election.

A Cure For Fund Envy

WITH THE DOW LIFTING OVER 6,000 and growth mutual funds jumping off the charts, you may have contracted a burning case of performance envy. Your own funds (you think) are sticks-in-the-mud.

Decisions, Decisions

QUESTION: I'm 24 and a graduate student. When I finish school next year, I will have approximately $30,000 in student loans at a maximum interest rate of 8.25 percent.

Pages