BYE-BYE, RAT RACE? The beefy returns of the past three years have bulked up many 401(k) accounts. But if you're thinking early retirement, first check the fine print. To withdraw money without a 10% penalty, you must work until you're at least 55 (although hanging on till age 59 1/2 gives you a better deal). In either case, you can defer a sharp tax bite by rolling the funds into an IRA.
CPI INSURANCE With the sizzling U.S. economy sparking fears of inflation, and the stock market now wobbling, investors are increasingly turning to Series I savings bonds for a measure of protection from rising prices. The interest paid on bonds issued from May 1 through October 2000 is a hefty 7.49%, at an annual rate. That includes a 3.6% fixed rate plus a 3.82% inflation adjustment based on the recent consumer price index (cpi). Small savers can't beat that attractive payout, and some large investors have been jumping in too.
Passbook savings 1.7% Money market 3.8% 6-month CD 5.9% Series I bond 7.5%
WHO YA GONNA CALL? As long-distance phone choices proliferate, websites are springing up to help sort out the confusion. At abelltolls.com sponsors offer an "impartial long-distance rate comparison page" that lists what more than 100 plans charge for U.S. and worldwide calls. For consumers who'd rather let a search engine do the shopping, webpagers.net displays the best rates--but don't be surprised if many come from companies with ads or links on the page.
--By John Greenwald