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If you're retired, you have to take an annual required minimum distribution (RMD) from your individual retirement account at age 70 1/2. Don't forget. Beginning this year, IRA custodians must report to the Internal Revenue Service which account holders have a required distribution, though not the amount. You'll get a reminder, too. So it's less likely the IRA will waive the 50% penalty on the missed distribution if you forget. If high prices have scared you away from high-definition television, here by far is the cheapest way to get started. Satellite-TV provider DISH Network will set you up with HDTV for under a grand (www.dishnetwork.com, 800 333-3474). Yes, there's a catch: You have to agree to subscribe to a year's worth of programming that starts at a minimum of about $40 per month.
For $999, DISH will deliver a set-top box that receives and decodes HDTV signals and either a 34-inch tube-type widescreen TV or a 40-inch projection TV. If you're not already a DISH subscriber, the company will install a satellite antenna for free as well. DISH offers eight channels of high-def programming, including ESPN, Discovery, HBO, and Showtime. If your local stations are broadcasting in HD, you can plug a regular TV antenna into the dish box to get local programs over the air.
Still wavering? The same sets sell under the RCA brand for $1,200 to $1,500 at such retailers as Wal-Mart and Amazon.com. And you would still need to buy a $400 HD tuner to get HD broadcasts. After sliding 17.5% in 2001 from their all-time high of $137.3 billion in 2000, sales of variable annuities have been making a strong recovery. Last year, despite the stiff fees, investors poured $126.4 billion into these retirement-savings products that combine various tax-deferred investment portfolios with a life insurance feature. Add in stock market gains, and the $985.3 billion in assets at the end of 2003 beat the 1999 peak of $973.5 billion.
Can the good times last? The new 15% tax on dividends makes tax-deferral less attractive. And regulators are looking into the high fees and the possibility that market-timers have been using annuities as well. One of the hottest night spots in Boston is all about slabs of beef, pigs hanging from their feet, and necklaces of $3 sausages. More than a meat locker, The Butcher Shop at 552 Tremont St. (617 423-4800) is also a wine bar, caf?, and charcuterie. You can sip a sangiovese and nibble on mixed grill ($20) at one end, or buy a grass-fed steak to take home from the cooler at the other. The butcher shop is open till 8 p.m., the wine bar/caf? till midnight. Both close earlier on Sunday.