MONEY: TRADING UP ONLINE

It's been five long years since that NASDAQ bubble burst. Back then you could buy any stock and just sit back and watch it go up. Those were the days. Now you have to do your homework if you want to make money in this meandering market.

MONEY MOVES FOR A DOWN DOLLAR

Want to protect your portfolio from the anemic dollar, or even cash in on it? First, don't do anything rash, because currency swings are tough to predict (story by Allan Sloan).But here are some money moves worth considering:Buy big: American companies like GE and Pepsi that export to countries with strong currencies do well when the dollar doesn't.

TAKE MY BAGS, PLEASE

The luggage-shipping business seems to be growing right along with those airport security lines. Luggage Express (866shipbags.com) shipped 3 million suitcases in 2004--about six times the volume it had the prior year.

GOODBYE, YELLOW-CAB ROADS

In the time it takes to stuff your pocket with small bills, flag down a cab and teach the driver how to actually reach your destination without absurd detours, you could take another meeting.Growing numbers of business travelers are calculating that it's worth the extra expense of hiring a private car service, especially when they head to congested cities.

CALL THEM ONLINE TRAVEL BUTLERS

Internet-based travel companies are ratcheting up the competition by offering new services. "Everybody's nailed the air-car-hotel piece," says Dean Sivley, chief product and marketing officer at Cendant Corporate Travel Solutions. "Now you need to do more to get people to the online booking." When booking through a Cendant subsidiary, corporate travel managers can now order travel medical insurance, private security services and overnight delivery of cell phones.

Technology: Punching The Clock

Looking for a summer job or a weekend gig to help pay the bills? There are 50,000 openings at snagajob.com, an employment Web site specializing in hourly work.

Money: Running Away To Retire

After a lifetime in Minnesota, Randy and Rhonda Berg turned their backs on frigid winters, work and the high cost of living in the United States. They sold everything and retired to Costa Rica in 2002, enticed by reports of cheap real estate and a laid-back lifestyle. "The first week was an eye-opener," says Randy, 58, describing balky real-estate agents, an Internet-touted house that was "an absolute disaster" and the urge to head back home.

MONEY: TAXING DECISIONS

Tax season is bad enough without falling into the traps that really cost you money. Here's what not to do:^ Don't pay your tax bill with a credit card. Sure, it's easy, but you'll pay an extra 2.49 percent transaction fee.

MONEY: TAKING TIME OUT

Here's a sad statistic: last year workers forfeited 415 million vacation days they couldn't find the time to use. That's three days for every worker, reports Expedia.

MOZART NEVER HAD ONE

Sometimes, the mother of invention isn't necessity--it's waste. Craig Ramsell was just taking out the trash one day when he hit upon his million-dollar idea.

JUST DON'T ASK IF THEY'RE IN PJS

That operator taking your next order may not be in Mumbai; she might be sitting in her bedroom. A growing number of companies are hiring U.S. home-based call agents as an alternative to more expensive in-house operators or less-qualified offshore call centers.Office Depot saves 30 or 40 percent on the cost of each call because it's not providing work space or benefits for its home-based call-center workers, says Julian Carter, the company's director of operations.

RINGTONE INCLUDED?

Not that any high-schooler would believe it, but those old cell phones are worth something. Companies are selling reconditioned models in Latin America and the Caribbean, where wireless networks are flourishing and customers aren't as cutting-edge crazy as Americans.

HOPE THERE'S NO CALL QUEUE

French workers are starting to take the talking cure. A major managers union, the CFE-CGC, has just instituted a 24-hour telephone help line staffed by psychologists who can counsel members stressed out by the low pay, layoffs, pushy customers, demanding bosses and defiant underlings that sometimes come with those middle-management jobs.The help line was originally set up simply to serve stressed-out bankers, who responded with enough fervor that the program was expanded to all 35,000 union...

MONEY: SAVE PAPER ON YOUR PLASTIC

Americans blew more than $24 billion on credit-card fees last year, an 18 percent jump from 2003, says CardTrak.com. It's more than we spent on milk and eggs.

$16.3 BILLION OF STRATEGIC SWAG

Businesses spend $16.3 billion a year on trade-show trinkets like those personalized pens, key chains and letter openers that are probably sitting in your desk drawer right now.

CAPITAL IDEAS

Let President Bush, congress and the AARP wrangle about Social Security--you take care of yourself. For anyone who is self-employed, even if it's just a little side business, that can mean setting up a one-person 401(k) account.

MONEY: DIAL A PLANNER

Touchy-feely is not always the best, or cheapest, way to get financial advice. Some money pros are now offering quick counseling by phone or e-mail for questions like "Which mortgage is better?" or "Should I dump this fund?" Here's where to find them:Myfinancialadvice.com.

INVESTING: RETIRING WITH EASE

No money? No investment savvy? There's still an Individual Retirement Account for you. Investment companies are rolling out easy IRAs to snag new investors.

IN THE NEWS: FORKING IT OVER?

Note to battered WorldCom and Enron investors: don't spend any settlements until you see them. Last week former directors of both firms said they'd reach into their own pockets to settle fraud claims.

MONEY: THE TOUGH NEW JOB HUNT

Robert Reid is looking forward to spending his upcoming 50th birthday at work. After 19 months of unemployment and more than 1,000 applications, he landed the job he wanted, as a technician for a Silicon Valley firm. "My biggest birthday present is going to be sitting at my desk," he says.

SPENDING: RITE OF RETURN

Your family's gone back home, but you're still trying to figure out what to do with their gifts--like that boxed set of "The Golden Girls" you know you'll never watch.

MONEY: AS GOOD AS GOLD

When inflation threatens and the dollar drops, investors think gold. But who's got room for all that bullion in the basement? There's a new fund on the street promising to deliver the same shine.

AWAITING THE CASH OF ANGELS

There's money out there, but it's hiding. Roughly 60 percent of the individuals participating in small-business investment clubs are actually "latent angels." That's a term coined by Jeffrey Sohl, director of the Center for Venture Research at the University of New Hampshire.

NO IN-FLIGHT PEANUTS!

Peter Diamandis is flying high. The space-travel entrepreneur recently launched commercial zero-gravity flights, as well as awarding a $10 million prize for the first privately financed manned trip into space.

GETTING BIGGER

It's time for black entrepreneurs to get really serious about growing big companies, according to the National Urban League. So the organization is setting up inner-city minority business centers designed to share the wealth, connections and expertise that can get companies growing fast.

CAPITAL IDEAS: REWARDING INVESTMENTS FOR A WEAK D

If you're dreaming of a lavish European vacation, the weak dollar's not likely to stop you. But when you're thinking about your portfolio, the fact that the dollar is in the dungeon, bumping along at record lows against the euro, might give you pause.

IT'S FREE LEGAL ADVICE. SORT OF.

There's more than one way to get in on a good deal. The old-line Boston law firm of Nutter McClennen & Fish has established an aid program for budding tech entrepreneurs.

MONEY: MICROSOFT'S BIG PAYDAY

Microsoft shareholders are about to get a bonus. On Dec. 2, the company will pay out a $3-a-share dividend to those who buy the stock before Nov. 15 and own it on Nov. 17.

IS THE CALL IN AN EXPENSE?

It's not the long airport lines or even those lonely hotel rooms that defeat frequent business travelers. It's filling out those dreaded expense reports when they get back to the office.

COMING TOGETHER

For a while, mobile social software (MoSoSo) has automated the idea of affinity groups. But now businesses are noticing. Embraced early by Dodgeball.com as a way for cell-phone-toting singles to find each other, MoSoSo marries mobile-communications technology with a giant database.

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