What the experts say

Virtual retirement; ARMs revival; Kidney for college

Virtual retirement

Researchers may have finally found a cure for Americans’ tendency to save too little for retirement, said Jason Zweig in The Wall Street Journal. By showing young subjects a computer-​generated image of what they might look like in retirement, research teams at Stanford and other universities are succeeding in “turning impulsive spenders into patient savers.” In one study, young people who met their “elderly avatars” planned to save twice as much as their peers. This high-tech approach could one day be widely available through employer 401(k) plans or investment firms. Until then, there are other tricks you might use to make retirement more tangible—such as putting exact dates on your savings goals, using photos to create a “vivid” picture of retirement, and signing up for “auto-escalation” plans that each year increase the paycheck contributions that you make to your retirement savings.

ARMs revival

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Borrowers seem to have gotten over their fear of adjustable-rate mortgages, said Lynnley Browning in The New York Times. Three years after ARMs took some of the blame for the financial crisis, “more people are being persuaded to give the loans a try,” especially when the size of the sum borrowed makes the potential savings significant. Mind you, today’s ARMs are very different from the “gimmicky” loans that caused so much pain when their “teaser” rates expired. The most popular adjustable loans now carry fixed rates for five or seven years, during which time borrowers often refinance or move on. And only the credit-worthy need apply. Fannie Mae, for example, requires that borrowers qualify based not on the interest rate they’ll pay initially, but on what they’re likely to pay down the line.

Kidney for college

The “double whammy” of rising tuition costs and dwindling financial aid has forced college kids to get creative, said Jilian Mincer in SmartMoney. More than 70 percent of college-bound high school students surveyed by the College Savings Foundation plan to help pay for college. But “forget toiling for minimum wage.” To make a real dent in five-figure annual college costs, some students are starting businesses, soliciting online donations, or selling their sperm or eggs—the latter for up to $10,000 a pop. One desperate parent recently posted an ad on Craigslist offering to sell his body for research or “anything legal” in exchange for having his kids’ $200,000 in student loans paid off.

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