Despite a few high-profile companies such as IBM (IBM) and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) freezing some of their defined-benefit pension plans in recent months, this big chill may not turn into an ice age. Stewart Lawrence, senior vice-president at benefits consulting firm Segal, says some employers may need to thaw out those programs in which existing employees no longer accrue benefits or new workers are totally shut out.
Pointing the way are defense nonprofit Aerospace and SBC Communications (now AT&T (T)), which have spiffed up their pension plans, in part to help retain experienced workers. In October, Aerospace rolled out a hybrid plan that lets workers get half their benefits from the traditional plan, which had been frozen. In January, 2005, SBC beefed up its managers' defined-benefit plan to reward long-term employees. It was the second pension sweetener for the telecom, which froze the plan in 1997. As boomers retire and competition for workers heats up, Lawrence says companies will be compelled to offer defined-benefit plans again. "Employers," he predicts, "will view them as part of their talent-recruitment arsenal."
The time has finally come for southpaws: Cartier recently began offering some of its most popular watches in leftie styles. On the new models the piece you use to set the watch -- known as the crown -- is on the left-hand side. While some smaller watchmakers such as Panerai, Breitling, and Chronoswiss offer left-handed models, jewelers say this is a first for a big luxury company. Cartier's models include the $4,900 Santos 100 in stainless steel as well as the Cartier Pasha 42 in 18-karat yellow gold ($15,300). The limited-edition timepieces are available at Cartier stores in Beverly Hills and New York.
Ever been burned by a service contractor? Subscribers to angieslist.com can avoid that problem. The site rates roofers, home improvement people, mechanics, wedding planners, and even pet sitters in more than 30 cities from A to F on price, quality, responsiveness, punctuality, and professionalism.
Angie's List has been around in some areas for more than a decade, but it's rolling out to New York in March, followed by Detroit, Las Vegas, Orlando, Sacramento, and San Antonio later this spring. Subscriptions range from $4.95 to $5.95 a month, depending on your city, after a one-time sign-up fee of $10. And, yes, there really is an Angie: Angie Hicks helped found the site in 1995 by going door to door in Columbus, Ohio, to recruit members and collect reviews.
With boxing lacking star power these days, another contender has stepped into the ring. The Ultimate Fighting Championship, a mix of boxing, wrestling, and martial arts, has become a hot ticket in Las Vegas. League stars Tito Ortiz and Forrest Griffin will go glove-to-glove in a rare out-of-Vegas slugfest on Apr. 15 in Anaheim, Calif. But fans will have to get their kicks on pay per view since the event is sold out. Tickets for Vegas matches, which run throughout the year, can be purchased at ufc.com.