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A Thong For Your Cell


Know an elderly person who's grief-stricken, demoralized, or even suicidal? Although these are common feelings for older adults, it's surprisingly hard to find trained specialists who can help. Now the geriatrics division at Cornell University's Weill Medical College has developed a Web site (CornellCARES.com) where you can download information on psychosocial as well as financial issues related to the elderly. The topics covered so far include "Grief and Loss," "Managing Health Costs," and "Housing Options." You can also read answers to e-mail queries from primary care doctors to Dr. Robert Abrams, director of Geriatric Psychiatry Services at the med school's geriatrics division. One recent discussion involves suicide screening for elderly patients. Finally, in a service Cornell hopes to take national, the site offers a searchable database of 1,500 mental-health-care providers in New York City who accept Medicare reimbursements. In this era of super-low interest rates, most savings vehicles fail to keep even with the 1.9% inflation rate. If you want to do better, consider "corporate note" or "corporate money market" accounts. They're offered by GE Capital (GE) (www.geinterestplus.com), Ford Motor Credit (F) (800 580-4778), and Caterpillar's Cat Financial (CAT) (800 504-1114).

Depending on how much you invest -- minimums start at $250 -- these programs pay as much as 2.6%. That beats the 2.1% on the highest-yielding money-market accounts and the 0.5% on money market accounts and mutual funds. You can also write checks on these accounts, though for sums below $250, you may pay a fee of 25 cents to $10.

The drawback: While the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. insures bank money markets, these products have no safety net. GE Capital is rated AAA; Caterpillar, A; and Ford, BBB-.) Moreover, since your money is invested in the sponsor's debt, you'll get less diversification than with a money market fund. Still, in a yield-starved market, it may be a risk worth taking. Keep your eye on the new benchmark, the USX China Index (USXChinaIndex.com), which rose 104% in 2003. Unlike the companies in the Shanghai Composite Index, all 34 stocks in the USXC index trade on U.S. exchanges. Among the leaders: China Yuchai (CYD), which owns the bulk of diesel engine maker Guangxi Yuchai Machinery, and Sohu.com (SOHU), an Internet portal. You may not want to carry a purse when you're walking a convention floor or going dancing, but you'd never leave your phone behind. Phone Thong is an easy way for women to sling a cell phone over a shoulder or around the waist for those pocketless occasions. In red or black, it's $15 at www.phonethong.net or $20 at AT&T Wireless (AWE) stores, where it's called the Hip Hugger.


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