UPDATE

December 2, 2005

On finance and practice

Should you "refinance" your life insurance?

Are you happy with your ISP?

Growth or value stock? The answer will get clearer

On Dec. 16, Standard & Poor's will update its benchmarks designed to make it easier for investors to track value and growth stocks. The S&P/Citigroup Growth and Value style indices will give each company in the index a style score based on seven factors, including five-year earnings-per-share growth rate and price-to-book values. Many stocks have characteristics of both styles, which the new methodology will reflect. In contrast, the soon-to-be-replaced Barra benchmarks classified stocks as either value or growth, based solely on price-to-book values.

An additional series of indices-Pure Growth and Value-will track only those companies that fall completely within one category or the other. Both the exhaustive growth/value indices and the narrow pure benchmarks will cover the S&P 500; MidCap 400; SmallCap 600; S&P 900 and 1000; and the Composite 1500 indices.

Watch out for water-damaged cars

Thousands of cars were submerged by floodwaters during the Gulf Coast hurricanes this year, and many could end up in used-car lots throughout the country, warns the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The nonprofit organization has a registry of flood-damaged cars to make it tougher for unscrupulous dealers to sell them. You can get a free report on whether a used car has been damaged by flood waters, or was last registered in a federally declared disaster area, from Carfax ( http://www.carfax.com/flood), an online auto research firm. The websites of the National Automobile Dealers Association ( http://www.nada.org) and the Better Business Bureau ( http://www.bbb.org) both have tips on how to detect water damage.

These clean your wallet better than your air

It's bad enough that many pricey air cleaners on the market don't really clean the air, but some might actually hurt you, says Consumer Reports. The Ionic Pro CL-369 and the Surround Air XJ-2000 emitted more ozone during testing than allowed by Underwriters Laboratories, another product-safety testing organization. Ozone can worsen asthma and decrease lung function. Two other models-Sharper Image's Professional Services Ionic Breeze Quadra and the Oreck XL Professional Air Purifier, Signature Series-did a poor job of cleaning dust and smoke from the air.