Clearing up the puzzling world of bonds

Confused by the difference between bond yields and bond coupons? Then check out a new Web page launched by NASD . The Smart Bond Investing online learning center explains the basics of bonds and the different types, including junk, corporate, and government issues. You'll also get access to real-time corporate bond prices and an interactive accrued-interest calculator.

Not many are playing catch up

Only 13 percent of 401(k) retirement plan participants who could make catch-up contributions to their nest eggs actually did so, says a study by The Vanguard Group, which looked at approximately 2,000 plans that it administers. High-earners were more likely to fatten their retirement accounts, but even the majority of them didn't make extra contributions. For 401(k) participants earning between $125,000 and $149,999, 22 percent made catch-up contributions, while 32 percent of those earning $150,000 or more did so. On average, participants added an extra $2,207 to their retirement plans in 2004. People who are at least 50 years old were permitted under federal law to contribute an additional $3,000 to their retirement accounts last year, on top of the regular contribution limit of $13,000.

LA is a bargain (globally speaking)

New York City and Los Angeles rank first and second, respectively, as the most expensive North American cities to live in, but 13th and 44th in the world, says a survey by Mercer Human Resource Consulting. San Francisco (50th), Chicago (52nd), and Washington, DC, (78th) also ranked among the 100 most expensive places. Here, in order, are the top 10: