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UPDATE: Focus on finance

Article

Mutual funds; colleges; taxes; debt

 

UPDATE

Focus on Finance

By Yvonne Chilik Wollenburg

Jump to:
Choose article section...These funds might give you a clipping Online guidance in hunting down colleges How come I have to pay taxes, Mom? Check out the top-rated funds You may regret investing in these "safe" funds

These funds might give you a clipping

As hedge funds become more available, some investors are likely to get bilked, says the federal government. To show how risky these funds can be, the SEC has set up a fictitious Web site that appears to entice investors into putting their money in a "Guaranteed Returns Diversified" hedge fund, "the world's leading operator of hedge funds, based in the Wylshock Islands in the Indian Ocean, with 68 offices worldwide." Clicking through the site at www.growthventure.com/grdi brings readers to a warning that investors should always check out the people behind financial offers, be wary of offshore investments, and ignore claims that sound too good to be true.

Before investing in any kind of hedge fund, read the prospectus to make sure the level of risk involved in the fund's investment strategies meets your financial goals and needs, says the SEC. Ask about fees, which are typically high, and understand that your right to redeem your shares may be limited. If you believe you have been a victim of hedge fund fraud, contact the SEC online at www.sec.gov/complaint.shtml .

Online guidance in hunting down colleges

To help find the right college to suit your high schooler and your wallet, go to College Opportunities On-Line at www.nces.ed.gov/ipeds/cool . This online directory of nearly 7,000 colleges and universities is put together by the National Center for Education Statistics in the US Department of Education. You can search for colleges by location, degree offerings, or programs.

How come I have to pay taxes, Mom?

The federal government is offering to give your kids a financial education. The IRS has a new tutorial on the basics of tax preparation, the history of taxation, and how taxes affect our daily lives. The program is designed for high school students, and includes lessons, word puzzles, and tax trivia questions. Go to www.irs.gov, click on "Individuals," then "Students," and then "Understanding Taxes."

Check out the top-rated funds

Lipper, the financial research company, handed out awards to four fund companies and 22 individual funds for top performance during the three years that ended Dec. 31, 2002. The bond funds that won awards: American Century Target Maturities Trust 2020, Fidelity Real Estate High Income Fund, Comstock Strategy Fund, PIMCO Emerging Markets Bond Fund, SAFECO California Tax-Free Income Fund, and TCW Galileo Total Return Bond Fund. The table shows the winners among different classes of equity funds.

Category
Winning fund
3-year
Large-cap value funds
American Century Large Company Value Fund
0.66%
Large-cap core funds
Legg Mason Focus Trust
–13.02
Large-cap growth funds
Sequoia Fund
8.91
Multicap value funds
PBHG Clipper Focus Portfolio
13.08
Multicap core funds
AmSouth Select Equity Fund
3.42
Multicap growth funds
Bear Stearns Alpha Growth Portfolio
–7.31
Mid-cap value funds
JPMorgan MidCap Value Fund
15.35
Mid-cap core funds
FAM Value Fund
9.22
Mid-Cap growth funds
Liberty Acorn Twenty Fund
3.60
Small-cap value funds
Franklin MicroCap Value Fund
18.09
Small-cap core funds
Schroder Ultra Fund
68.62
Small-cap growth funds
Century Small Cap Select Fund
18.21
Mixed equity funds
FPA Crescent Portfolio
13.51
Misc. US diversified equity funds
Comstock Capital Value Fund
21.64
Sector funds
Burnham Financial Services Fund
32.42
World equity funds
Monterey OCM Gold Fund
25.95

 

You may regret investing in these "safe" funds

A new breed of funds can keep you from losing your shirt, but you'll pay a lot for the protection, says Morningstar, an investment research firm. Principal protection funds are wrapped in insurance to give you a guaranteed rate of return—if you follow the rules. You have to leave your money in the fund up to seven years and reinvest all the money earned to get full protection. In addition, offering periods generally run only three months.

Don't let a forgiven debt come back to haunt you

Settling a debt for less than you owed sounds like a great financial move. Just make sure you report the amount that was forgiven to the IRS as income, says Myvesta, a nonprofit financial management organization. After settling a debt, the creditor should send you a Form 1099-C or 1099-A for reporting miscellaneous income. If the lender doesn't send you the form, get one from the IRS and file it yourself. If you don't report the forgiven amount and the IRS finds out, you could face a late penalty, or even an audit notice.

 

Yvonne Wollenberg. UPDATE: Focus on finance. Medical Economics May 9, 2003;80:18.

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