Homes, Mutual Funds, Vehicles
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The number of consumers angry about bad experiences with a moving company has risen dramatically over the past few years. Complaints about damaged goods, inflated bills, and missing property jumped between 1996 and 1999, from 3,000 to 5,100 nationwide, says the US General Accounting Office. Some consumers claim their mover held their belongings hostage until they paid a higher bill than estimated. The worst horror stories involved small, independent movers, and moves along the West Coast or between Florida and the New York-New Jersey area, according to a GAO report.
Protect yourself by checking out moving companies' references. Don't rely on an over-the-phone estimate, and be aware that you're required to pay no more than 110 percent of an estimate to retrieve your belongings. If you have a complaint, contact the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (under the Department of Transportation) or the Better Business Bureau. For tips on moving, contact the American Moving and Storage Association at www.moving.org.
Investors are turning from growth to value funds in a dramatic change in attitude, according to Strategic Insight, a firm that tracks the mutual fund industry. Investors put a paltry $1 billion of new money into growth funds in the first half of 2001, compared with $167 billion in the same period a year earlier. On the other hand, buyers shunned value funds the first six months of last year, pulling out $46 billion, but in the first half of this year, they invested $36 billion in them.
Value funds, which buy stocks with prices that are low relative to their earnings, gained on average 2.9 percent in the first half of the year, while all growth funds lost on average 12.1 percent, according to Morningstar, the fund-tracking service. The average stock fund declined an average 7.3 percent for the same time period.
When it comes to vehicle safety, government tests may not tell the whole story. The Ford F-150 pickup earned five stars, the top rating, in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's head-on collision test, but the same truck flunked a "frontal offset" test performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In fact, at least 12 cars, vans, and trucks that earned high ratings on the government tests were rated "poor" by the IIHS, which is supported by auto insurance companies.
The NHTSA crashes vehicles into a fixed barrier at 35 miles an hour to simulate a head-on collision between two identical vehicles. The test determines how well the vehicle and its restraint system protect both driver and passenger. The IIHS crashes a part of the front end into flexible barriers at 40 mph to mimic typical accidents and evaluate the strength of the vehicle's structure and safety cage.
|NHTSA for driver/passenger*||IIHS|
|Pontiac Grand Am||****/*****||Poor|
|Dodge Grand Caravan||****/****||Poor|
*A five-star rating means a 10 percent or less chance of serious injury to the driver/passenger; four stars represent an 11 to 20 percent chance.
One star would mean a 46 percent or greater chance.
Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Yvonne Wollenberg. Financial Beat. Medical Economics 2001;17:17.