The week’s top Personal Finance stories
Last Update: 8:02 AM ET Dec 23, 2006
In case you missed them, here are the top 10 Personal Finance stories from MarketWatch for the week of Dec. 11-15….
The top 10 stories of 2006 that will hit your wallet in 2007
The housing market was topmost on Americans’ minds in 2006, as a
four-year boom came to an end, home prices recorded their first
declines in more than a decade and a glut of homes for sale rapidly
turned a seller’s market into one in which buyers had the upper hand.
But there were plenty of other personal finance stories of historic
importance this year, and like the real estate story, they will all
have an impact on pocketbooks in 2007. Here’s a look at 10 issues that
popped up this year that will make you want to clamp a hand over your
wallet next year. See Year-End Review & Outlook.
Changes could make health-care paperwork easier to decode
Explanation of benefits, those complex billing statements from private health insurers, have been frustrating consumers for years. Known as EOBs, the paperwork is meant to describe what happens with a claim behind the scenes after a patient receives care. But the fact is even health-care professionals find deciphering them an exercise in futility. See Vital Signs.
As new rules come into play, here’s how to get a passport in a hurry
If you’re planning to fly across our nation’s borders any time soon, your preflight itinerary better include a passport office. On Jan. 23, U.S. travelers will need a passport to fly back into this country from any destination outside the U.S., including Mexico, the Caribbean and Canada. Until the new rules, travelers could often complete such a trip with the proper photo identification and birth certificate alone. Thanks to the new rules, the number of people applying for passports is ramping up, and that means anyone hoping to fly soon may need to expedite their passport application. See Travel.
No need to be rich to get into hedge funds: Just fake it
Labeling yourself an accredited investor to qualify for products such as hedge funds that are only available to millionaires is easy: just check a box. Rarely does the Securities and Exchange Commission verify the income or net-worth status of investors in private securities offerings, according to attorneys and investment professionals. See Sophisticated Investor.
These are the Social Security, Medicare calculations that count
Work, retire, collect Social Security. Ah, were it only that easy. Unfortunately, the rules regarding Social Security and Medicare are extremely complex. Yes, the world of Social Security and Medicare is fraught with traps and tunnels. Thankfully, however, there are plenty of experts who study Social Security and Medicare much as others have studied the sacred texts of the world. Here are their top observations about when and how to take benefits from these programs. See Robert Powell.
Lump of Coal awards, Part 2
I’ve made my list and checked it twice, and because picking on the naughty is always so nice here is the second installment of the 2006 Lump of Coal awards. See Chuck Jaffe.
As Christmas spirit grows darker, what will light our way again?
As commercialism builds to a frenzied peak in this final week of shopping, I’ll bet you’re like me (and millions of other investors) asking whatever happened to that good old American Christmas spirit? Yuck, even this year’s holiday "entertainment" lineup is dark, evil and bearish: "Apocalypto," "Blood Diamonds," "Departed," "Déjà Vu," "Sleeper Cell," plus a new slasher horror movie, "Black Christmas," opening Dec. 25! It’s hard to be jolly in a season filled with violent "entertainment" matching Baghdad’s daily casualty reports. Oh please, give me Clarence, that loveable angel working overtime to get his wings in the Frank Capra classic "It’s a Wonderful Life." Maybe that spirit’s still around, but where? We’re longing for an earlier time, when the Spirit of Christmas was truly alive. See Paul B. Farrell.
Four last-minute gift ideas for the financially motivated
You’re down to crunch time. Christmas is a few days away, and you’re still searching for that special gift but coming up empty. For some folks on your list, a few ideas from the financial world might beat out the proverbial fruitcake. See Jennifer Openshaw.
The fight before Christmas: real trees vs. fakes
For years, consumers tired of schlepping to tree farms and vacuuming up pine needles have turned to artificial Christmas trees. Now, growers and suppliers of real Christmas trees are battling back, and the fight is getting nasty. See story from RealEstateJournal.
Ten stocks that could outperform in 2007
Investors seeking outperforming stocks in 2007 will likely focus on factors such as exposure to the booming China market, unjustifiably low valuations, promising products under development and the most lucrative locations for drilling rigs, according to some noted stock pickers and fund managers. Though forecasting price performance remains a slippery art, the stock pickers at least have come up with plausible theories as to why these stocks could break into higher ranges next year. Here follow their choices in no particular order: See full story.