Not talent, not even education

 Calvin CoolidgeNothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not. Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not. The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence, determination and hard work make the difference. Calvin Coolidge

Roth 401(k) has important tax benefits

Roth 401One of the new Roth’s significant benefits: When you withdraw money at age 59 1/2 or later, its earnings in interest will be tax free. With a regular 401(k) the interest is taxed.
Other features:
* Investments are made with after-tax dollars.
* Anyone at any income level can invest in the new Roth.
* People who are age 50 or older by the end of 2006 can take advantage of the catch-up provision and contribute up to $20,000.
* Employer matches will still be made with pretax money. But the match money will accumulate in a separate account and be taxed as ordinary income at the time of withdrawal.
* Tax-free withdrawals can’t be made until the account is held for five years. All withdrawals are tax free after the holder stops working or is 59 1/2.
* Money can be left in the new Roth until the investor’s death, when it can be withdrawn tax free by heirs.
A survey by Hewitt Associates shows that 35 percent of companies responding say they are likely to add a Roth 401(k) to their benefits plan. Others say they can’t offer it immediately because it requires a separate accounting system to track the new Roth.
Economists writing in Business Week recommend that younger workers in low tax brackets should consider the new Roth. Their incomes will increase later on, putting them in a higher tax bracket.

Get financial savvy through free educational sites

financial savvyMost of us are not wise about financial matters. We don’t know how to judge which stocks will be profitable, whether we should invest in bonds, or what the financial interests are of those who say they will give us the answers.
Knowledge is our best defense against bad advice, according to the Consumer Federation of America.
Investing
Your government has free help available. At sec.gov, look for the “Your Money” button to download lessons about how to evaluate stock tips and read disclosures.
At mymoney.gov, you will find postings about how to save for retirement and avoid scams. It also links to local authorities at the North American Securities Administrators Association site, nasaa.org.
Independent and free information may be even better. Morningstar.com,  started as a mutual fund research company, but now has an entire curriculum on stocks, bonds, funds, and more. The course starts with simple stuff and moves up to more-complex levels. It tells you how to evaluate whether a stock is well priced or not.
Borrowing
Bankrate.com offers interest rate quotes and advice on borrowing and saving. For more technical information, visit the American Association of Individual Investors at aaii.org.
Interest rates on home equity lines of credit are now at 8 percent or more. Many credit card companies, however, are still offering 0 percent interest for one year.
One problem is that you don’t know how much credit each card will offer you. Financial experts recommend that you return several no-interest credit card applications. Then you can cancel those that don’t give a high enough credit limit without doing serious damage to your credit rating.

How to get your rebate: Do it right, do it now

RebateIf you bought your lawn mower, paint, or computer but never got the promised rebate, you are one of many. The Federal Trade Commission reports that “the problem is huge.”
It may appear that the main function of rebate processors is to find a reason to deny the money-back offer. Rules are often so complicated and vague that most customers don’t even bother. Rebate complaints have risen 400 percent since 2002 according to the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
To get the rebate you expect:

  • Know the terms on the rebate form or store receipt. Ask the retailer to explain the terms.
  • Make copies of everything including store receipts, bar codes, forms, product containers, and serial numbers, recommends Sid Kirchheimer, author of Scam-Proof Your Life (AARP/Sterling).
  • Fill in every blank on the form. If it asks for your email address, for example, say you don’t have one rather than leaving the space blank.
  • Act fast. The average time to submit a claim is now 15 to 30 days.
  • Use certified mail and ask for a receipt. Fill out all forms in writing to avoid suspicions of mass-mailing fraud.
  • Shop where rebates are easy to apply for. Stores like Staples, Cingular, and Costco let customers fill out rebate forms at the checkout or online. Some stores have the rebate form printed out at the end of the sales receipt.

The best idea: Fill out forms carefully immediately after the purchase. Send them along with required proofs that day or the next day.

Stamps Increasing by One Cent to 42¢ on May 12

The price for a one-ounce First-Class stamp will increase from 41 to 42 cents on May 12.Prices for other mailing services, such as Standard Mail, Periodicals, Package Services (including single-piece Parcel Post), and Special Services will also change (see chart below). The average increase by class of mail is at or below the rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index.

“The Postal Service developed the Forever Stamp for consumers to ease the transition during price changes,” said Postmaster General John Potter. “We encourage Americans to buy Forever Stamps now for 41 cents, because like the name suggests, they are good forever.” The price goes up to 42 cents on May 12.

The Postal Service has sold 5 billion Forever Stamps since the launch last April and plans to have an additional 5 billion in stock to meet the expected demand before the May price change.

Selected Prices & Services Current New
(Effective May 12)
First-Class Mail Letter (1 oz.)

41¢

42¢

First-Class Mail Letter (2 oz.)

58¢

59¢

Postcard

26¢

27¢

Large Envelope (2 oz.)

97¢

$1.00

Money Orders (up to $500)

$1.05

$1.05

Certified Mail

$2.65

$2.70

First-Class Mail International Letter
(1 oz. to Canada and Mexico)

69¢

72¢

First-Class Mail International Letter
(1 oz. to other countries)

90¢

94¢

Consistent with a new law*, prices for mailing services will be adjusted annually each May. The Postal Service plans to provide 90 days’ notice before the price changes each year.

New prices for shipping services, including Express Mail and Priority Mail, will be announced in March. Prices for all postal products and services are available at usps.com/prices.

Credit cards that offer rewards have an upside, downside

Credit cards    Credit-card companies are offering rewards for your loyalty. You can get 1 percent, 3 percent, and in some cases  a 5 percent reward for certain kinds of purchases.
Cards that offer more rewards points have higher interest rates and may have annual fees. But using them means you can get closer to earning your airplane ticket or TV. That’s the upside. If you don’t pay the entire bill each month, however, you’ll be charged interest at 15 percent or more. If you pay late, you will be charged a $35 late fee, and your interest rate could skyrocket. That’s the downside.
Those who are sure they can pay in full each month and who are willing to study various card offers can still do very well. By knowing which types of retail outlets are partnered with a certain credit card, they can buy for less or get maximum points.
One card user has notes on each of four cards which say things like gas, groceries, and home improvement.
Some cards have limits. The Discover Gas Card pays 5 percent cash back on gas and car maintenance, but only on purchases worth $1,200 a year.  If you buy something else with the card, they pay 1 percent but the purchase still counts against the $1,200 limit.
The Citi Driver’s Edge card rebates 6 percent of any purchases you make. The rebate is good toward a new car, but only on purchases made within the last 12 months.
Many kinds of cards are available, but customers need to read and understand the terms of card agreements.
0208-052.txt   0208-051.tif/eps