Data: National Marine Manufacturers Assn. The time is ripe to visit farmer's markets and farm stands across the U.S. Through October, you'll find fresh-picked produce like the corn at Anderson's Farm Stand in Riverhead, N.Y., on Long Island that's so milky-sweet, customers eat it raw in the checkout line. To locate markets and stands, see www.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/, farmersmarket.com, or localharvest.org. You can also order a limited number of farm-fresh items at farmersmarketonline.com, to be delivered by mail. It may sound odd, but companies making contributions to their underfunded pension plans will boost their bottom lines. Why? "The magic of pension accounting," says David Zion, accounting analyst at CSFB. Instead of requiring companies to record what their pension investments actually earn each year, accounting rules allow bean counters to assume a constant annual return. This is permitted because relying on actual returns would cause net income to jump around with stock prices.
As a result, when General Motors follows through on a recently announced plan to shore up its pension fund by up to $13 billion, it will assume its U.S. pension fund will earn a 9% return on its contribution. The net impact to earnings will be less than 9%, however, because GM borrowed the money for its pension contribution at an average rate of 7%. After taking a tax deduction on the interest on its debt, GM should make a net earnings gain of about 4%. So if the carmaker were to plow $10 billion into its U.S. plan on Jan. 1, its 2004 earnings would rise by about $400 million. Talk about turning lemons into lemonade. Disposable cameras go digital with Ritz Camera's Dakota Digital ($11). There's no liquid crystal display and no ability to download shots to your computer, but you can delete the last shot if you think you've blown it. You still have to return it to a Ritz store -- it costs another $11 for prints and a photo CD -- just like a single-use film camera. Taking to the road in a recreational vehicle? Take along your laptop. A growing number of RV parks and campgrounds, including chains such as Encore Properties and KOA, are installing high-speed wireless networks so visitors can connect to the Internet without leaving their campers. Charges range from $3 a day to $50 a month. Check tengointernet.com or linkspot.com for locations.