Feature

What the experts say

How to save on gas; Options for long-term care; Options for long-term care

How to save on gasIs it more efficient to drive with your windows up or down? asked Farnoosh Torabi in Yahoo.com. “It’s a hot debate,” and the answer can make a big difference to your gas bills. At high speeds, open windows can reduce fuel efficiency by at least 20 percent, while using air-conditioning drops it by just 10 percent. But “in stop-and-go traffic, windows down is the most fuel-efficient.” To further boost your mileage, make sure your tires are inflated to the recommended level. And when you’re filling up at the pump, consider using a rewards program. Some give you points and cash to spend in affiliated stores and supermarkets. Maybe those savings will let you drive more calmly and smoothly—which can further reduce fuel consumption by up to 35 percent.

Options for long-term careDon’t put off planning for long-term health care, said Christine Dugas in USA Today. Two-thirds of Americans over 65 will need it, and many are underprepared. Long-term care insurance is one option, but premiums can cost more than $2,000 a year, and they increase with age. If a parent or older relative needs permanent care, you can avoid the high cost of a nursing home—currently averaging $83,950 a year—by hiring a home caregiver. Agencies that connect families with qualified caregivers can be “particularly helpful to family members who live far away from their parents.” Websites like CareFamily.com make finding a suitable caregiver more affordable: It charges $14 an hour for a qualified aide, compared with the agency average of $21.

Getting kicked out of a 401(k)Companies are getting serious about “booting former employees from 401(k) plans,” said Ian Salisbury in The Wall Street Journal. Almost half of companies that sponsor 401(k) plans automatically roll former employees into individual retirement accounts when their 401(k) balance is less than $5,000. While this helps bosses cut down on administrative costs, it “works against the savers who get kicked out,” especially younger workers “who have been switching jobs frequently in an unstable economy.” If you’re one of these workers, “avoid seeing your account balances as found money” and cashing out. Instead, think of the IRA as a “way station”—and talk to your next employer about rolling the funds into its 401(k) plan as soon as possible.

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