Financial Beat

April 12, 2002

Investing, Cell Phones, Cars, Photos, Taxes, Privacy, Costs of Living

 

Financial Beat

Jump to:Choose article section...Investing: Have you done your financial homework? Cell Phones: Top grumbles: unexpected charges, false claims, and spotty coverage Cars: How green is your vehicle? Photos: Snapshots of the kids are going high tech Taxes: What if you don't agree with the IRS? Privacy: Had enough of junk e-mail? Costs of Living:Could you afford to live in these cities?*

By Yvonne Chilik Wollenberg

Investing: Have you done your financial homework?

Most investors say they have little appetite for risk, but few have done anything to rearrange their portfolios in the wake of the current market. Only one in four has ever redeemed or sold a mutual fund because of poor performance, and even fewer have changed the amount they normally invest in mutual funds or individual stocks, according to a survey conducted for Eaton Vance Corp.

A majority agree that taxes have a big impact on their investments in equity mutual funds, but only 30 percent are aware that these funds are required to disclose after-tax performance. About two-fifths of those who use a broker or other financial adviser say he rarely or never discusses the tax implications of their investments.

Cell Phones: Top grumbles: unexpected charges, false claims, and spotty coverage

The biggest complaint cell phone users have is with the bill, says the Federal Communications Commission. More than half of those who filed a beef with the FCC were upset over charges for air time use, roaming fees, and other costs. The second most frequent complaint concerned marketing and advertising practices, including accusations that wireless phone companies misrepresented facts in their ads. A close third category was gripes about service quality, including complaints about dead spots where phones won't work, dropped calls, and poor overall service. The complaints were registered with the FCC last October, November, and December.

Cars: How green is your vehicle?

The 2002 Honda Insight, which is powered by both gasoline and electricity, is the "greenest" passenger vehicle on the market, says the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. The environmentally "meanest" 2002 vehicle is the Dodge Ram Pickup 2500. To find the greenest model in each vehicle class, visit the council's Green Book Web site, www.greenercars.com.

2002 vehicles with the highest environmental scores:

1. Honda Insight
2. Honda Civic GX
3. Toyota RAV4 EV
4. Toyota Prius
5. Honda Civic HX
6. Toyota Echo
7. Nissan Sentra CA
8. Honda Civic
9. Mitsubishi Mirage, manual transmission
10. Toyota Corolla, manual transmission
11. Chevrolet Prizm
12. Saturn SL, manual transmission

2002 vehicles with the worst environmental scores:

1. Dodge Ram Pickup 2500
2. Chevrolet Suburban
3. GMC Yukon XL
4. Cadillac Escalade/GMC Yukon Denali
5. Ford Excursion
6. Lamborghini L-147 Murciélago
7. GMC Sierra 2500/Chevrolet Silverado 2500
8. Mercedes Benz G500
9. Dodge Ram Wagon
10. Lexus LX 470/Toyota Land Cruiser
11. Chevrolet Avalanche
12. Lincoln Navigator

Photos: Snapshots of the kids are going high tech

Shutterbugs are increasingly looking to photo-editing software to help them develop the perfect shot. Consumers who used software at home to help them edit and process photos from digital cameras and scanners went up 27 percent, from 17 million to 22 million, in the first 10 months of 2001, says Jupiter Media Metrix, an Internet research company. The most popular applications among at-home users were Image View, Photo Editor, and MGI PhotoSuite.

Visits to online photo service sites, which develop, print, and store pictures, also increased by 22 percent, from 3.5 million in January 2001 to 4.2 million by last October. The three most popular sites were Snapfish.com, Ofoto.com, and Photopoint.com. (At press time, the latter had gone offline.)

Taxes: What if you don't agree with the IRS?

Getting your taxes done on time can be only part of the battle. What do you do if the Internal Revenue Service disagrees with your math and sends you a bill? You have the right to appeal the agency's decisions on tax-return examinations, penalties, adjustments, liens, and other claims.

The appeals are handled by a separate division of the IRS. An appeals officer can conduct an informal review in person, on the phone, or by letter, at your request. You may handle the appeal yourself or be represented by an attorney or certified public accountant. For more information, refer to Publication 5, Your Appeal Rights and How to Prepare a Protest if You Don't Agree; Publication 556, Examination of Returns, Appeal Rights and Claims for Refund; and Publication 1660, Collection Appeal Rights. You can find the publications at www.irs.gov.

Privacy: Had enough of junk e-mail?

Federal regulators say they want to get deceptive e-mail off the Internet. The Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on junk messages that try to dupe recipients, such as illegal chain letters that ask you to send money to people whose names are listed. Many online computer users also get unsolicited offers for pornography, fake diplomas, and get-rich-quick schemes.

To complain about unwanted junk e-mail, forward the message to the FTC at uce@ftc.gov. The agency receives about 15,000 junk e-mail messages sent on from irate consumers every day.

Costs of Living:

Could you afford to live in these cities?*

CityTwo-bedroom apartment (per month)Cup of coffee, with tipTwo movie ticketsFast food hamburger mealDaily newspaperHourly rate for babysitter
Tokyo$5,697$4.27$31.74$5.38$1.06$15.67
Hong Kong5,1285.3814.102.470.777.69
New York4,2753.3518.005.620.757.50
London3,7172.4322.884.700.645.98
Moscow3,5505.2321.363.263.03N.A.
Paris1,9961.6414.224.850.966.49
Toronto1,6581.8515.304.360.354.46
Sydney1,3331.8312.342.690.543.21
Mexico City1,2652.51N.A.4.980.91N.A.
Johannesburg6931.016.552.240.32N.A.

 



Yvonne Wollenberg. Financial Beat.

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