Do you have a golden nest egg or a merely copper one? BusinessWeek got a sneak peek at a new online calculator from A.G. Edwards (AGE) that lets you figure out how well you are building wealth vs. the rest of the U.S. public (nesteggscore.com). Americans have an average score of 631, a strong "fair" rating based on a system that's similar to scores used by the nation's major credit bureaus. (A 549 or lower is poor, while a 750 and up is considered excellent.) "A fair score is a little bit better than you might expect, considering the negative savings rate," says Sophie Beckmann, an A.G. Edwards financial planning specialist.
That's because the scoring system goes beyond the personal savings rate, which measures what Americans make and spend, and factors in housing and investment values, participation in retirement plans, and cost-of-living data. Thanks to rising home values, low interest rates, and a resilient stock market, nest eggs are in decent shape, Beckmann says.
The national Nest Egg Score is compiled from a recent Harris Interactive (HPOL) survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults. Figuring out your own score takes just a few minutes. You'll need to answer 14 questions, including your household net worth, years to retirement, and whether you plan to save or invest this year.
Day camp isn't just about saving your kids from summer boredom: It can also save you in taxes. New IRS regulations expand the scope of summertime dependent-care credits for children under 13. Part-time employees can claim credit for tuition on their off days, as long as the camp charges by the week or longer. In the past, part-timers were eligible for the credit only on work days. Also, although school expenses usually don't qualify, you can claim the cost of an educational camp, such as one that specializes in computers. Yearly caps are $3,000 per child, up to $6,000 per family, and the credit ranges from 20% to 35% of expenses, depending on income. The new rules also apply if you pay for a camp in pretax dollars through a flexible spending account.
With a rate hike of almost 2% for federal college loans looming on July 1, borrowers trying to refinance have gotten some last-minute flexibility. On June 15, President Bush signed a measure allowing students and parents to consolidate their loans with any lender to lock in one fixed rate. No longer are they required to use the lender that already holds their loans. Before higher rates kick in, shop around for the best deal by checking sites such as consolidationcomparison.com.