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"You'll see that our checking account pays higher interest than many savings accounts" -- E*Trade, promoting more-conservative investing in opening its "financial-services superstore" in New York on Apr. 5 Manhattan co-op boards have always been suspicious of the nouveau riche. But with the falloff in dot-com shares, the approval process for tech millionaires seeking to buy an apartment is making a Senate confirmation hearing look easy. Co-op boards are casting an even more skeptical eye toward buyers, especially if their employer's name ends in ".com."

A canvassing of two-dozen New York real estate agents found that boards--hearing horror stories of people losing 80% of their net worth--are demanding details and cash on the table. They want names of investment banks and venture-capital firms backing tech enterprises and a cash-options breakdown on salary. "I just delivered an application weighing more than 25 pounds" for a dot-com buyer, says an exasperated Corcoran Group broker. "The board wanted seven copies of the buyer's company's statements--so confidential he needed permission from his partners to release it."

Even when dot-commers can pay cash for a $3 million loft, says Michael Goldenberg of Halstead Property, boards often demand one to two years of maintenance fees in an escrow account--just in case. Others want buyers to have up to three times the value of the apartment in cash and to own low-volatility stocks. Complains Vassily Patrikis, 26, a Nextel Communications programmer who's given up on co-ops: "I shouldn't have to prove that my income sources are legitimate just because I work in tech." For the still intent, Halstead's Dean Feldman has this advice: "Don't label yourself a dot-commer." Uncle Sam wants you--to pay your taxes online, with plastic. After all, it cuts down on the paper at the IRS and quickens the tax man's ability to get your money. Check out "IRS e-file" (that's a lightning bolt between "e" and "file") on the IRS Web site, which directs you to electronic filing and paying. Last year, Americans charged $930 million in taxes to their American Express, Discover, and MasterCards. (Visa doesn't participate.) And the IRS expects that to double this year. "Paying by credit card is a convenient way to manage cash flow," says Bruce Zanca of Official Payments, one of the IRS e-payment handlers.

But charger beware: The 2.5% processing fee to the handling companies can far outweigh any benefits of whipping out the plastic. If you use credit at a store, the merchant pays the fee. But for taxes, you pay. Here's the math: A frequent flier wanting mileage points pays $10,000 in taxes on a credit card. The surcharge runs $250. If the extra miles get him to the level of an expensive airline ticket, it may be worth it. But chances are, he's paying more for the surcharge than what the ticket is worth. Not to mention adding to credit-card debt, which can carry annual finance charges of 20%. Given that, the cash-strapped are better off with the IRS delayed payment plan, with a 9% interest rate.

Bottom line for lessening the tax bite? Pay by check. Most Colorado ski resorts had a good season this year. Not Aspen. A Mar. 30 plane crash killed 18 people. And that bad news came on top of depressed room, restaurant, and bar revenues and lower tourist-related retail sales as skiers headed to cheaper slopes elsewhere. At least half a dozen stores are expected to close, and Aspen Skiing Co. confirms that lift ticket sales will trail the 11% average increase at all Colorado resorts.

Ski industry experts say Aspen--always the highest-priced resort--did not discount lift tickets like Copper Mountain and Vail, which offered season passes as low as $199 this year. Aspen's cheapest was $1,000. Ski consultant Greg Cory notes that moderately priced Aspen hotels have been torn down in favor of high-end condos whose owners don't rent them out. "They have a problem with what the industry calls `cold beds,"' says Cory.

So the resort is trying to lure people in other ways: letting snowboarders on Aspen Mountain for the first time, courting young people with a music festival, and planning to build more rentable condos. "We're reinvigorating Aspen," says an Aspen Skiing spokeswoman. A chilly season will do that. Japanese imports remain the favorite targets of car thieves. And Toyota Camrys rank as the top four most-stolen cars two years in a row. What's so hot about Camrys? They last a long time, and they have interchangeable parts.

2000

1. 1989 Toyota Camry

2. 1990 Toyota Camry

3. 1991 Toyota Camry

4. 1988 Toyota Camry

5. 1994 Honda Accord EX

1999

1. 1989 Toyota Camry

2. 1990 Toyota Camry

3. 1991 Toyota Camry

4. 1988 Toyota Camry

5. 1997 Ford F150 truck

Data: CCC Information Services Who is Mark Zandi? In a profession of jargon-laden talking heads, he's an economist who speaks in plain English about everything from consumer spending to the federal budget surplus. That's why he shows up regularly on CNN, CNBC, and NPR, as well as in major print media--including BusinessWeek.

Zandi, 41, has run a consulting company with a colleague since 1990, but it's the Net that has made him famous. His Economy.com is the Web's hottest site for economic data and easy-to-understand analysis. The downturn has drawn hundreds of thousands of eyeballs, and page views top 2 million a month. "When things are eroding and uncertain, it sends a wake-up call, and people are more interested in the economy," says Zandi, who got a PhD at the University of Pennsylvania and is a prot?g? of Nobel laureate Lawrence Klein, a Keynesian pioneer in economic forecasting.

Economists give Zandi high marks for drawing the important points out of mountains of statistics--and for getting things right. Says Richard J. DeKaser, chief economist at National City, a Cleveland bank: "Mark went out on a limb over a year ago in attacking the stock market as overvalued, but stuck with it--and has been vindicated." Trying to shed those pesky pounds? A recent study by Brown University found advice on the Net can help. Dieters who got weekly, personal e-mail messages from behavioral therapists lost three times as much weight in six months as those receiving only general info on the Net--9 pounds vs. 3--but far less than dieters with face-to-face supervision.

So Slim-Fast Foods is using this to draw customers and create buzz, citing the Brown study as it promotes its new "Buddy Program" on www.slim-fast.com. It matches up dieters according to ages and preferences in food and exercise. The aim is mutual, nonjudgmental support over e-mail, and more than 14,000 have signed up so far. "Our club members wanted someone they could share stories with--about their success, their hurdles, how they prepare menus," says Slim-Fast's Joanne Moscato.

Yet dieters are linked only to each other. And, says eating-disorders expert Ruth Striegel-Moore of Wesleyan University, that poses the risk of an "enabling" effect, in which buddies can encourage bad habits. The site does block out teens and warns against anorexic weights. But it can't control what people tell each other. In case there's any doubt that the country of amore has a fidelity problem, a new study finds 70% of Italian businessmen admit to an amorous tryst in the workplace, usually with their secretary; 80% of women polled said that a romance at work helps them "work better" and improves the company's bottom line.

No wonder a Web site dedicated to breaking marital vows is catching on: www.tradimenti.it is Italy's portal for cheaters and their victims (tradimenti means "betrayal"). It started last November and now attracts as many as 6,000 visitors a day. Decorated with red and pink hearts, the site lets would-be cheaters meet online and arrange their rendezvous. It also suggests possible holiday getaways for deceitful couples.

Wives looking to win back their husbands' amorous attention can consult aphrodisiac recipes--such as one for a salami-shaped chocolate dessert. For women seeking revenge, it suggests using their diamond engagement rings to scratch his car windows.

The Web idea started as a joke in the Lopresti family of northern Treviso. Patriarch Giuseppe not so coincidentally also owns the town's private detective agency. "We make sure to keep the two businesses very separate," he says. Number of employers U.S. workers have had in the course of their careers: ages 35-44, 5; ages 65 and up, 3

Data: Lee Hecht Harrison


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