UPDATE

October 21, 2005

On finance and practice

Don't let your home equity get washed away

There's a catch, though: Excess flood insurance is available only to homeowners who have purchased basic flood insurance from a company or agent participating in the national program run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which caps benefits at $250,000 per house and $100,000 for personal property. Moreover, national flood insurance is only available to homeowners in communities that participate in the federal program; standard homeowner policies don't cover flood damage. To find out whether your town participates, go to http://www.fema.gov/fema/csb.shtm.

You can look up enforcement actions against brokers and investment advisers charged with defrauding investors by visiting a new online enforcement directory launched by the North American Securities Administrators Association. The directory, available at http://www.nasaa.org, provides links to cease-and-desist orders and other enforcement actions taken by state securities regulators. At press time, information from 33 states plus Washington, DC, is listed in the directory.

Cut down on annoying credit card offers

You can opt out of getting preapproved insurance or credit card offers by calling a toll-free number or visiting a Web site set up by the major consumer credit reporting companies. To block companies from using information from your credit report to make prescreened solicitations, call 888-5-OPTOUT (888-567-8688) or go to http://www.optoutprescreen.com. You'll have to provide some personal information such as your Social Security number.

Babies can still fly free

Travelers won't have to buy a separate ticket for children under age 2 after all, says the Federal Aviation Administration. The agency dropped a proposal to make child safety seats mandatory because many families would choose to drive if they were forced to buy extra plane tickets for infants and toddlers. The safety rule would inadvertently make some families less safe because driving is more dangerous than flying. Airlines will let you hold an infant on your lap during flights, and many offer half-price tickets for infants to encourage the use of child safety seats.

Disposable camcorders: the next big thing?

Swing into your local CVS the next time you want to record some special moments. The pharmacy chain now sells a one-time-use video camera, made exclusively for it by Pure Digital Technologies, that costs $29.99 for a 20-minute video. Processing to a DVD costs another $12.99.

Home offices are hot

Demand for a home office is growing among homeowners, thanks to the rise in telecommuting and gas prices. Formal entryways, exercise rooms, and multicar garages are so last year, says the American Institute of Architects. Home offices are the most common special-function room that architects are being asked to design, followed by game rooms, mud rooms, and home theaters.