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$3,662 is the average amount employees contributed to their 401(k) plans in 2001. The maximum pretax contribution that year was $10,500.

Data: Profit-Sharing 401(k) Council of America With the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index falling 23% in 2002, it's not surprising to discover you could have done better on your own. According to Merrill Lynch, almost 62% of the stocks in the S&P beat the index last year, vs. only 31% in 1999 and 46% on average between 1986 and 2002. Your stock picks may have still lost money, just less than the index. To come out ahead, you had to pick one of the 1-in-4 stocks that were winners.

Are young kids getting too much fluoride? They could be--if they swallow rather than spit out toothpaste while brushing.

Fluoride, which was added to many municipal water systems in the 1940s and 1950s, and subsequently to most toothpastes, has drastically reduced kids' cavities. But when youngsters under 6 get too much fluoride, their permanent teeth can come in with white spots or brownish mottling. Besides being tempted to ingest toothpaste in yummy flavors like bubble gum, kids can also get too much fluoride if they drink soda and processed juice drinks made with fluorinated H2O.

What can you do? Check with your dentist and pediatrician about your child's fluoride intake. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises no fluoride toothpaste for kids under 2 unless recommended by a doctor. Kids 2 to 5 should limit brushing to twice a day, and use a pea-size dab of toothpaste. The CDC has recommended that toothpaste makers cut the fluoride dose in kids' brands. That hasn't happened yet, but Orajel, for one, makes a fluoride-free version. Competition making you sweat? There's only one thing worse than missing crucial video-game targets because your hands are too clammy, and that's taking over a friend's damp, slippery gamepad when it's your turn. No more. Nyco's Air Flo video game controllers ($25-$30) for GameCube, Xbox, and PlayStation 2 have a tiny fan that blows air through the controller's grips. If devising an estate plan is one of your 2003 resolutions, Susan Hirshman of J.P. Morgan Fleming Asset Management suggests you answer these questions before seeing an attorney. Do you want:

-- your money to go to family, charity, or both?

-- to give away your assets while you're still alive?

-- to turn over all of your assets or simply their future appreciation?

-- to give up control over the assets or keep some via a trust?


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