It's o.k. to lock your luggage again. Federal baggage screeners at airports routinely cut off the lock if they need to search a bag. But if the lock is one of the new combination or key models with a red and white diamond-shaped Travel Sentry logo (travelsentry.org), screeners can open it without destroying it. Lockmakers pay a fee, and Travel Sentry supplies the screeners with the necessary tools and codes. The locks are $4 to $10 each from such brands as Brookstone and Prestolock. With the Independent 529 Plan, you can lock in a discount on today's tuition costs for a child still in diapers at some 231 private colleges, including Princeton, Notre Dame, and Rice. The average discount is 1%. But some schools have gotten downright aggressive in their pricing.
Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Ill., is taking 4% off this year's tuition and fees of $24,506. That 4% compounds annually. So if your infant winds up at Lake Forest in 2023, you can lock in $1 of tuition for 45 cents today. Another way to put it: If you want to buy a full year's tuition at Lake Forest in 2023, you need put down only $11,085 now. That's 55% off today's tuition and fees, but the savings are far greater on the projected 2023 cost. If your child doesn't go to a school in the plan, you'll receive the principal plus or minus two percentage points a year, depending on how the plan's investments fare. Others offering attractive discounts are Thiel College (4.5%) in Greenville, Pa., and Niagara University (3%) in Lewiston, N.Y. Still, over 19 years, even 1% off at Emory will trim 17.7% from today's $27,776 in costs. Forget about high teas and tuxedoed piano players in the lobby. The new Ritz Carlton hotel in Miami's South Beach features DJs at the beach, an Esther Williams-inspired water ballet on weekend nights, and poolside "tanning butlers" -- bathing-suit-clad men and women ready to slather sunscreen on hard-to-reach backs. Since opening Dec. 31, the 375 rooms have been booked steadily at an average of $450 a night. A rising stock market and an improving economy mean investors are pouring money into mutual funds. They also mean funds' phones are ringing off the hook, resulting in much longer wait times for service reps than existed just a few months ago, says Dalbar Inc., which tracks customer service. Fund companies, such as T. Rowe Price and Vanguard, quibble with Dalbar's numbers but admit call volumes and wait times are high, and they're trying to fix the problem.