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A little-known Internal Revenue Service regulation change makes it easier for IRA beneficiaries to extend the benefits of such accounts. The change applies to named nonspouse beneficiaries when the account owner dies before the required age to begin distributions (generally age 70 1/2). Before, such beneficiaries had to withdraw all funds within five years unless they specifically opted for payments based on their own life expectancy. With the rule change, the beneficiaries automatically get the benefit of life-expectancy payouts unless they choose the five-year rule -- something Ed Slott, editor of Ed Slott's IRA Advisor newsletter, says you should never do. Remember, he says, you can always take more than the minimum under life expectancy -- withdrawing everything in five years, or even fewer, if that's what you want. You just don't have to. Instead, you can let the money continue to grow tax-deferred. If you've ever dreamed of being in the movies, here's your chance. Starting on May 28, Chicago's Museum of Science & Industry will offer visitors a chance to learn first-hand how movies are made. The new exhibit takes you to a sound stage, where, on a half-dozen sets, you can star in a short adventure called Escape from Zircon. There are also parts for extras, at a faux outdoor café in Paris, for instance, as well as off-stage roles for the camera-shy. You follow a script, but there are no speaking lines: Sound and voice-over narration are dubbed in.
The entire production, which is directed by a museum staff member, takes a half hour and is done in groups of up to 60. For $5, you can buy a DVD of your performance, or download it later for free at www.escapefromzircon.org. You can also see movie memorabilia, including Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones costume. The traveling exhibit, which costs $7.50 for adults, will run through Jan. 9. Pablo Picasso's Garçon à la Pipe (Boy with a Pipe) set a new art-world record when it sold for $104.2 million on May 5. But is art a good investment over time? To find out, Jianping Mei and Michael Moses, two professors at New York University's Stern School of Business, tracked 6,000 objects auctioned at least twice since 1875 (meimosesfineartindex.org). While art has performed roughly the same as the S&P 500 over the past 50 years, the two asset classes don't always move in sync. Art might not make your portfolio look more beautiful, but it can serve as a nice diversification tool. Gardening would be a lot more fun if your loaded wheelbarrow were easier to push. CartCraft Co. has a solution: Its new motorized Lawn Utility Vehicle (cart-craft.com) carries up to 200 pounds at 2 mph, propelled by a 12-volt battery that recharges from a standard household outlet. Available for $299 through major hardware chains and catalogs, the LUVcart requires assembly.