UPDATE

August 5, 2005

On finance and practice

Gifts for the hard-to-shop-for

Jazzed-up ETFs

The funds, however, charge a little more in management fees than the typical ETF: on average, 0.6 percent of assets vs 0.4 percent, according to data from Morningstar. Investors could also get hit with high brokerage costs and increased taxes due to active stock trading, although PowerShares says it works "to substantially mitigate and possibly avoid capital gains distributions."

PowerShares Capital Management, which runs a family of exchange-traded funds, opened eight new ETFs in June that specialize in various indexes, including pharmaceutical and technology stocks.

How to find a good contractor

Asking friends, relatives, and neighbors is a common way of finding someone to do a home remodeling job, but you should also check up on the builder's credentials, says the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. The organization has an online database of remodelers who have passed its certification process at http://www.nari.org (click on Find a Professional Remodeler). Other sites that may be helpful in finding a qualified contractor:
• The National Association of Home Builders ( http://www.nahb.org) also has an online directory listing certified builders and remodelers.
• Contractor's License Reference Site ( http://www.contractors-license.org) lists phone numbers and Web sites for state agencies that license contractors and builders.
• ServiceMagic ( http://www.servicemagic.com), a free online referral service, says it screens contractors to check up on insurance, licensing, and litigation histories before listing them. It also provides customer ratings and reviews.
• ImproveNet ( http://www.improvenet.com), another free online referral service, says it lists architects, designers, contractors, and builders who have valid professional licenses (where required), proof of insurance, and good customer references.