UPDATE

September 15, 2006

On finance and practice

How to keep down settlement costs

What empty nest?

Reliability at a reasonable price

Experience at the top pays off for investors

Mutual funds that are consistent top performers tend to have more-experienced managers at the helm, says a Standard & Poor's study. Managers of funds that retain a spot among the top half of their peers have an average tenure of 9.1 years, compared to an average of 5.8 years for all domestic funds. Only 11 percent of large-cap funds and 8 percent each of mid-cap and small-cap funds were consistent top-half performers for five straight years ending June 30.

We're charging more. . .

Credit card debt rose by nearly 10 percent in June, following an 11 percent rise in May, according to Federal Reserve data. That represents a record of nearly $821 billion in revolving consumer credit, which consists mostly of credit card debt. Roughly 88 percent of that bill is owed on bank cards, rather than on store or gas cards, says CardData, a credit card tracking firm.

. . . and tapping into more home equity

Cash-out mortgages in the second quarter soared to the highest level in 16 years, compared to the same quarter in 1990, says Freddie Mac. Nearly 90 percent of Freddie Mac loans that were refinanced closed with loan amounts that were at least 5 percent higher than the original mortgage. Homeowners who refinanced during that quarter earned a whopping median house-price appreciation of 33 percent.