What the experts say
The best 529 plans
State-sponsored 529 college savings plans have recently become more attractive, said Ann Carrns in The New York Times. According to a new study, many of the plans—which let you invest money tax free for your kids’ education—have cut their fees. Also, while the plans used to cover only college costs, starting this year you can withdraw up to $10,000 to pay for private elementary and high schools. The investment research company Morningstar gave four state plans—those in Illinois, Virginia, Nevada, and Utah—top marks for “low costs, strong stewardship, and exceptional investment options.” Five plans, including New Jersey’s and Florida’s, got negative ratings “because they lack compelling features and have at least one flaw, like high fees.” Investing in your own state’s plan gives you extra state tax breaks, but if you are willing to forgo them, you can set up a 529 account in any state.
You have a secret shopper score
It’s not them, it’s you. Wireless carriers, retailers, airlines—they’ve all given you a score, a secret rating that determines all sorts of customer service perks, said Khadeeja Safdar in The Wall Street Journal. Called the customer lifetime value, or CLV, the rating can affect the upgrades or discounts you’re offered, invitations to VIP events—or even your wait time when you call to complain. The data used to calculate your score can range from how often you browse items online to whether you often return items or wait for sales. “Unlike credit scores, CLVs aren’t available to consumers and aren’t monitored by any government agency.” In some ways, though, the scores are just “high-tech versions of what shopkeepers have done for generations”: They make judgments based on how customers look or behave.
Prenups aren’t just about money
If you think prenups are just for celebrities, you’re wrong, said Jillian Berman in MarketWatch.com. There are some unexpected reasons more couples are considering prenups—an agreement about how you split assets in the event of divorce—such as protecting the right to use frozen embryos for in vitro fertilization. And you’d do well to think early on about what will happen with a business launched during the marriage. “All of my retirement assets went into building this business,” says one entrepreneur, who felt that giving her ex-husband a share, as they would have shared retirement savings, was the fair way to go.