Given the scarcity of blankets on airplanes, it makes sense to bring your own. Our pick is the $30 CoolMax Travel Blanket from Cocoon (cocoonusa.com), which also happens to sell our favorite goose down travel pillow for $24. The blanket is made of a knit polyester that feels luxuriously soft and warm and moves with your body better than woven blankets. While it opens to a generous 55 inches by 70 inches, the blanket packs down in its own drawstring bag to a briefcase-friendly 3 1/2 inches by 7 inches, the smallest on the market. You'll have space to pack a snack, something else in short supply on planes.
If you own a variable annuity and you've held it long enough to avoid surrender charges, consider switching to one that invests in exchange-traded funds. ETFs are fixed baskets of securities that track a specific benchmark, such as the Dow Jones industrial average, and are among the lowest-cost investments around. So variable annuities that invest in ETFs can be less pricey than traditional ones.
Integrity Life Insurance charges 0.69% to 0.77% of assets for its ETF-based annuities, plus 0.60% for fees associated with the annuity, like the mortality and expense risk charge -- making it cheaper than your average offering at 2.3%. Other players, such as Jackson National Life Insurance (PUK), have been looking at ETFs as well.
But beware: Not all ETF-based products are cheaper than your average annuity. MetLife (MET), which has teamed up with brokerage A.G. Edwards (AGE) for its new asset-allocation product that can invest in fixed-income, stock, and real estate ETFs, charges 1.10% to 1.15% for the underlying assets and around 1.3% for the bells and whistles of the annuity.
Most people know the benefits of diversifying their portfolio with commodities. But did you realize that it's better to invest in the actual commodities than in the stocks of commodity producers? That's one finding of a new study by Gary Gorton of the Wharton School and K. Geert Rouwenhorst at Yale School of Management. Looking at returns since 1962, the pair found that commodity stocks had a 0.57 correlation with the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index, larger than the 0.4 correlation between the commodity stocks and commodities. When the stock market had its worst month out of 100, losing 14% on average, commodities rose more than 2%. Luckily for investors, a growing number of mutual and exchange-traded funds give direct exposure to commodity prices. So don't forget the pork bellies and crude.
Pining for the new Bentley Continental GTC, the convertible version of the Continental GT coupe? Then no doubt you've heard about the top speed of 195 mph, the 12-cylinder engine, and the special rear suspension. Well, there are 1,500 orders for the luxury soft top, and it could take up to nine months to get to the top of the list.
But you have a way to get into the fast lane: Bid on the first model to arrive in North America. Sotheby's (BID) will auction it off at the East Side House Settlement Gala, to be held at the Jacob Javits Center on Apr. 13. The gala includes a sneak peak of the New York International Auto Show, which opens on Apr. 15.
Bentley bidders can buy tickets to the cocktail party for $150, or dinner for $1,000. You can also place a phone bid by calling 248 754-4531 by Apr. 10. The sticker price hasn't been announced, but you can bet it will be in the $100,000-to-$200,000 range.