$48.3 billion. This is the gross domestic product of Guatemala in 2001--just slightly more than the $45.5 billion fourth-quarter charge that AOL Time Warner (AOL) took to write down the value of the America Online unit.
Data: World Fact Book, Bloomberg Financial Markets Insurance that pays for nursing-home stays and health aides is expensive. But if you buy a long-term-care policy with joint coverage, you can save money. To do so, choose a policy that:
-- permits both spouses to draw on the total benefit
-- sets a dollar limit for each individual, and offers a ``pot'' of benefits either can use or
-- has a rider allowing the spouse or partner to tap unused benefits
This is not exactly a propitious time to launch a mutual fund, but that's not stopping the Sierra Club. The group is the first national environmental body to put its name on funds: the Sierra Club Stock Fund and Sierra Club Balanced Fund (sierraclubfunds.com). Carl Pope, the San Francisco group's executive director, figures the investment guidelines are so strict that only a third of the companies in the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index will pass muster. Oil and lumber companies that could harm, among other things, endangered species, are taboo. The Sierra Club must approve all investments.
Forward Management, which oversees the no-load funds, also runs two top-rated real estate and small-cap funds. The 1.84% expense ratio for the Sierra funds is a bit more than the 1.74% average for social-investing funds. Does tree-hugging make for smart investing? Not necessarily. Socially conscious stock funds lost an average 1.73% annually over the past five years, according to Morningstar, vs. a 1.35% average annualized loss for companies in the S&P 500. Mothers have always known that a little humidity in the room can go a long way toward easing the sore throats and stuffiness that colds bring. But humidifiers are breeding grounds for bacteria. What sets TrueAir's cool mist humidifiers ($30 to $60) apart from the crowd is that they're easy to clean and their water tanks are dishwasher-safe. Tie on those skates. If you're in Chicago this winter, visit the just-opened McCormick-Tribune Ice Rink. At 200 ft. by 80 ft., it's twice the size of New York's Rockefeller Center rink. Better yet, admission is free, and skate rentals are only $3. The outdoor rink is in the heart of 25-acre Millennium Park, a fast-developing recreation spot on fashionable Michigan Avenue. Log on to www.pbcchicago.com for more information.