UPDATE

June 16, 2006

On finance and practice

It's getting out that's costly

Most investors are way too trusting

Only 36 percent say they've ever checked the disciplinary backgrounds of their broker or financial planner, and 70 percent of those who didn't either trusted their brokers or advisers or had been reassured by them that there was nothing to worry about.

How not to go broke on long-term care

The infirm or their family members pay for 84 percent of long-term-care services, says the National Care Planning Council, an alliance of elder care advisers and providers. To help you learn how to care for Mom-or yourself-without draining assets, check out a new planning guide at the group's website at http://www.longtermcarelink.net/guide. The 670-page tome explains different options in long-term care, and how to cover their expense.

We're hanging on to our cars longer

The typical car is 9 years old thanks to improved technology and durability that helps cars stay on the road longer, says R.L. Polk, an automotive information company. In 1996, the median vehicle age was 7.9 years. In 2005, 4.3 percent of all passenger cars and trucks were scrapped, the lowest level since 1949.

Paying taxes becomes more taxing

Hot funds really do run out of steam

Only 16 percent of large-cap funds remained among the top 25 percent of their peers after three consecutive years, says Standard & Poor's. Only 10 percent of mid-cap and small-cap funds lasted as top performers over the same time period. Even fewer funds lasted as pack leaders over a five-year stretch: Only 2 percent of large-cap funds, 3 percent of small-cap funds, and no mid-cap funds held on to top-quartile rankings.

Bottom rankings, however, appear to be better predictors of future performance. More than 26 percent of large-cap and mid-cap funds in the lowest 25 percent of their peer groups, and 30 percent of bottom-ranked small-caps, disappear within three years due to mergers or liquidations. Of those that survive, many stay in the bottom half (39 percent of large-caps, 30 percent of mid-caps, and 38 percent of small-caps).