On finance and practice

The study examined the financial benefits for policyholders who have health problems of selling the policy and collecting the cash surrender value, or maintaining the policy.

Even your tires get tired Tires deteriorate as they age and shouldn't be driven on if they're more than six years old-even if they've never been used, says Safety Research & Strategies, an auto safety research firm. It adds that aging tires have caused accidents involving 52 deaths and 49 serious injuries since 1996. In some cases, drivers unwittingly purchased old tires.

Investor benefits aren't well-understood Only 40 percent of investors are aware that they can get independent research from 12 brokerage firms as a result of a court settlement with the federal government, says a survey by Standard & Poor's. The firms have to contract with at least three independent research firms and notify customers about the availability of this research on account statements and their Web sites. The brokerage firms are: Bear, Stearns & Co.; Credit Suisse First Boston; Deutsche Bank Securities; Goldman Sachs; JPMorgan Chase; Lehman Brothers; Merrill Lynch; Morgan Stanley; Piper Jaffray; Smith Barney; Thomas Weisel Partners; and UBS.

Fewer college students shout "Charge!" The number of undergraduates with a credit card dropped to 76 percent in 2004, down 8 percent from three years earlier, says Nellie Mae, an education financing company. Moreover, the average outstanding balance dipped 7 percent to $2,169, from $2,327 in 2001.

What do students typically use their cards for? Nearly three-quarters charge school supplies, while 71 percent use credit for textbooks and food. Slightly less than 24 percent say they use plastic to pay their tuition.