• U.S.

In Brief: Aug. 14, 2000

2 minute read
Carole Buia

DIY 401k Self-directed brokerage options are gaining popularity, according to a study by Cerulli Associates. This option lets employees use their 401(k)s to trade stocks or pick mutual funds outside the sponsor’s list. Keep in mind, though, that some plans have limits on the amount you can trade, and the extra fees for trading and commissions could pinch returns.

E-CASH P2Ps (person-to-person payment services), like PayPal and eMoneyMail, are becoming the standard method of settlement on Web-auction sites. Buyers deposit money in an online account that transfers funds to the seller when a transaction is completed. Unlike credit cards, though, most P2Ps have not been offering fraud protection. That’s changing in light of scams in which customers thought they were buying things like hard drives and digital cameras but got stiffed. Varying levels of protection are now available.

HEDGE FOR LESS Hedge funds are reserved for multimillionaires. They offer high rewards–and scary risks. Now the bar is being lowered for “qualified investors” with minimum stakes as low as a mere $125,000. Brokerages, including Paine Webber and Merrill Lynch, are among the “alternative investment” providers that lump these puny stakes together and place them in selected funds. Why? The brokers charge hefty fees–on top of a fund’s own charges.

–By Carole Buia

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