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What the experts say

Desperate docs; Better banking in ’11; Open house turned house party

Desperate docsDoctors, dentists, and pharmacists are increasingly “poking and prodding” patients with robocalls, text messages, and other reminders to schedule appointments and refill prescriptions, said Angie Marek in SmartMoney. Helping patients take care of themselves makes good medical sense, of course, but there might be another reason that the caring professions are “suddenly trying so hard.” The recession, along with high-deductible plans that make patients “think twice” before seeking care, has resulted in a drop in office visits. While a little nudge may be necessary to keep patients on top of their health, experts warn that some providers could simply be trying to “gin up extra business, whether patients need the care or not.”

Better banking in ’11Brace yourself for another year of stingy returns on savings accounts, said Ismat Sarah Mangla and Tali Yahalom in Money. Savings rates, remember, track the Federal funds rate, which isn’t expected to budge until the second half of 2011. “Even then, the consensus forecast from the National Association for Business Economics puts the Fed funds rate at just 0.5 percent by year’s end.” To safely eke out more yield, put some of your cash in four- or five-year CDs that pay higher rates than savings accounts. “Just be sure the withdrawal penalties on the longer CDs aren’t too steep,” in case rates suddenly improve. When looking for yield, “don’t settle” for average rates. Banks are starting to compete for customers again, so it pays to shop around.

Open house turned house partyWith a glut of houses still for sale, “people will try almost anything” to differentiate their homes from the next guy’s, said Amy Hoak in The Wall Street Journal. In New York’s Hamptons, real estate broker Priscilla Garston recently used an empty home to stage a photo exhibit, a tactic that drew 150 people and ultimately helped sell the property. “With big empty houses, people walk through them quickly,” she says. Cocktails and other freebies, she reasons, entice buyers to stick around and get a feel for a place. How, though, can you keep “nosy neighbors” from crashing the party? Don’t, says Florida real estate agent Vanessa Sidi Wells. Of all the ways to market a house, “word of mouth is still No. 1.”

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