PORTFOLIO. Tips and trends that affect your money
If your mailbox isn't full enough Whether it's investing, or finding out about mortgages or buying a home, there's always more to learn.
One way to learn is to find up-to-date reading material. Some of it can be found in the public libraries. And there are always many new ``how to'' books.
But more complete and detailed information is often available from authoritative organizations. Here are some of their useful booklets:
Investor's Bill of Rights: National Futures Association, 200 W. Madison Ave., Chicago, IL 60606.
Consumer Handbook on Adjustable Rate Mortgages: Federal Trade Commission, Office of Consumer/Business Education, Sixth St. and Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Room B-3, Washington, DC 20580.
Buying or Selling Your Home: American Bar Association, Information Services, 750 N. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago, IL 60611.
The Mortgage Money Guide: Federal Trade Commission, Division of Credit Practices, Sixth St. and Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20580.
How to Proceed with the Arbitration of a Small Claim: Securities and Exchange Commission, Public Reference Branch, 450 Fifth St., NW, Mail Stop 1-2, Washington, DC 20549.
Consumer's Financial Guide, and What Every Investor Should Know: both from the Securities and Exchange Commission, same address.
What Else Financial Statements Can Tell Me: American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, 1211 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036.
AAII Journal: Investing information available to members of American Association of Individual Investors, 625 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1900, Chicago, IL 60611.
Take Charge of Your Money: American Association of Retired Persons, 1909 K St., NW, Washington, DC 20049.
Foreign Exchange Markets in the US: Federal Reserve System, Division of Consumer and Community Affairs, Washington, DC 20551.
How the Bond Market Works: Standard & Poor's Corporation, 25 Broadway, New York, NY 10004.
Buyer's Guide to Insurance: National Insurance Consumer Organization, 121 N. Payne St., Alexandria, VA 22314. Some `bonuses' aren't worthy of the name
When is a bonus not realy a bonus?
When it's a ``bonus rate'' from a bank or savings-and-loan. While not all banks are doing this, some are offering so-called bonus rates on money market accounts to savers looking to take advantage of the current interest-rate environment where rates are higher and climbing.
The bank might advertise a special money market account with a bonus rate of 8.2 percent. But to get the full rate, you can't touch the money for a full year, which effectively gives you a one-year certificate of deposit with a lower rate. You might as well go out and buy a real CD and pick up the extra interest. The day-care paradox
Employers seem to understand the value of day care, even if they don't provide it. In a recent survey reported by Runzheimer International, more than 300 companies were asked about the value of on-site day care. Four-fifths said they believe such care will reduce the number of employee absences and will help keep important workers.
But only about 1 out of 10 of the companies actually provide on-site day care, the survey found.
Single-premium life survives ... mostly
The reports of the death of single-premium life insurance are, as Mark Twain said, greatly exaggerated.
Congress has been taking a hard look at these products for a couple of years now, and there was a lot of talk that it would eliminate so many of their tax-saving benefits that the tax-saving features policies would become useless.
Well, it didn't quite happen that way.
After the 1986 Tax Reform law was passed, single-premium life became a hot seller for insurance agents and brokers who touted the fact that you could withdraw earnings tax-free. Congress thought that loophole was just too big and sewed it up a bit. Now, single-premium policies purchased after June 20, 1988, face the same restrictions on withdrawals as single-premium annuities and individual retirement accounts (IRAs). That is, earnings withdrawn before age 59 will be subject to income tax and a 10 percent penalty.
But for most people, nothing has been lost. Since only about 10 percent of single-premium policyholders took out earnings under the old rules, the rest will still find the policies a good place to put a big chunk of cash which will eventually add to their estate and give them some insurance protection in the meantime. Just put the house on my credit card
Are you ready to charge a house?
You can do something like that with the HomeBuyer Express Card from CompuFund Mortgage of California. Before house hunting, customers get an overall mortgage approval, a process the company says can take as little as 24 hours.
Then, when you find the house of your dreams, you simply flash the card to show the buyer you're already approved. Since home sellers are sometimes willing to accept a slightly lower offer from a ``sure'' buyer than from a ``shaky'' one who may or may not be able to get a loan, the card could save buyers some money. Two baths an `extra' - only if you live alone
Home remodeling is getting to be really big business. In each of the past five years, the total United States expenditures for this activity have increased over the year before; last year they hit a phenomenal $94 billion, according to the Commerce Department.
Ten years ago remodeling wasn't so big - only $31 billion. And the 20 percent annual increases that began in 1978 are continuing to push this once-a-sideline industry to new revenues for 1988.
Homes across the county are getting bigger. Seven years ago, the US average single-family residence had an overall total of 1,700 square feet, the American Appraisal Association reports. Five years later, the average size had increased to 1,900 square feet. Much of the added space, according to experts, has been tacked on to the family room and to increasing the size of the bathroom.
Household amenities (once desired, but not often found) are rapidly becoming standard in many US homes today. Here is the percentage of homes that now have these ``extras'':
Central air 75% Two bathrooms 85% Three bathrooms 80% Fireplace 70% Garage 75% One story 50% Dishwasher 90% Garbage disposal 80%