UPDATE

June 3, 2005

On finance and practice

Homebuyers are also getting soaked by an average of $1,250 in dubious closing costs, such as loan application, "document prep," or "table funding" fees. These charges are supposed to be spelled out in a Good Faith Estimate of closing costs, which lenders should give consumers when they apply for a loan or within three business days of application. But about 70 percent of consumers in the survey say they didn't see this document before the closing.

Bad habits (even financial ones) start early Roughly 10 percent of teenagers carry their own credit cards, and nearly 16 percent pay only the minimum amount due each month. That's according to the results of a nationwide poll of 1,065 students, conducted by JA Worldwide (Junior Achievement) and The Allstate Foundation. Credit card ownership increases with age, with only 6 percent of 13- and 14-year-olds carrying plastic, increasing to 21 percent of those 18 or 19. Card ownership also varied by region. Nearly 18 percent of all teens in New Mexico had cards, compared with just 8 percent in Minnesota. The total number of teens nationwide with credit cards dropped from 13 percent last year, according to the same organizations that conducted this year's poll.

Investing in good corporate citizens Cummins, an Indiana-based engine maker, has been named by Business Ethics ( http://www.business-ethics.com) as the top "corporate citizen" for its track record in total return to shareholders, community service, corporate governance, and social responsibility. The magazine ranks the firms in the Russell 1000 Index, which covers large-cap stocks. The other companies that made the top-10 list, in rank order, are: Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, St. Paul Travelers, Nuveen Investments, Intel, Wells Fargo, Hewlett-Packard, Procter & Gamble, Novell, and Xerox.

Retiree health benefits are drying up Only 13 percent of private employers offered health benefits in 2002 to Medicare-eligible retirees, down from 20 percent in 1997, according to a new study issued by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. The overall percentage of older retirees who had health coverage from private employers dipped from 28 percent in 1997 to 25 percent in 2002, the latest year for which data is available.

Chances are that trend will continue, as many retirees who do have additional health insurance face higher premiums and reduced benefits. Of those employers that offered retiree health benefits, 37 percent with at least 500 employees required retirees to pay 100 percent of the premium for coverage in 2000, up from 27 percent in 1997.