Saturday, May 27, 2006

Win $100 with Your Money-Saving Idea

Reminder that Bankrate's Frugal U's tips runs a monthly contest for the best money-saving tip. The best tip wins $100. This month's contest ends on June 1st, so check out the entries so far and vote for a favorite, or wait to enter your best idea until June 2d.

May's winning entry for $100:

Winning tip: When you're finished pumping gas in your tank, turn the pump off and then squeeze the pump handle. You'll get the extra little shot of gas that was left in the hose. You've already paid for it so you might as well take it!

Enter here at Bankrate.

Consider Yourself Warned

While out of the country traveling in the Mediterranean, we watched the DOW climb and crash. Now home, I'm reviewing my portfolio, which contains a good share of foreign and emerging market funds. One of my favorites, and a great performer, has been T. Rowe Price's Emerging Eastern Europe and Mediterranean fund (TREMX).

This story at Smart Money caught my attention, as the NAV has fallen by $6 in a few weeks: "Emerging-Markets Run Ending?"

In part, the story narrates:

"Still, even with the impressive economic gains in developing nations, emerging-market investors must be prepared for the possibility of complete implosion (recall, for instance, the Russian debt crisis of 1998) that is mostly foreign to investors in established markets. And if interest rates continue to rise, emerging markets will likely be hit the hardest, as investors grow cautious and corporate spending dips.

Does that mean there's no place for an emerging-markets fund in your portfolio? For long-term investors, no. But it does mean now is not the time to be chasing returns and the age-old advice that one should only have limited exposure to this group should be closely followed. (Dollar-cost averaging is a tried and true way to avoid buying at the peak). And if you're sitting on substantial gains from your recent forays into Latin America and Eastern Europe, now might be a good time to think about paring back. "

The fund screen used in this story includes TREMX. Since I've harvested some gains during the past couple years and reinvested in other sectors, I'm still watching to see how emerging markets perform.

The Emerging Markets Fund Screen Recipe

Fund Classification = Emerging Market
Annualized 3-Year Return (%) = Top % in Fund Classification = 50.0
Rank in Classification (%) (3 year performance) = Display Only
Annualized 5-Year Return (%) = Top % in Fund Classification = 50.0
Rank in Classification (%) (5 year performance) = Display Only
Expense Ratio, Bottom % in Fund Classification = 50.0
Load Fund (type) = No Load
Minimum Initial Investment <= 5000 Open to New Investors = Yes Total Net Assets ($ millions) >= 50

Foreign Exchange Notes

Having just returned from Europe, we can confirm that the dollar keeps losing value against the Euro. During our travels in Greece during May, we found the exchange dropping dismally, if by pennies, each day.

Foreign currency often feels like "play money" therefore it's always wise to fix firmly in your mind what items or services cost in dollars. How much is that 33 euro pashmina scarf is USD$? Multiply by .25 and find the true cost is over $40.

Several ways to exchange currencies while in-country:

1. Cash exchange. Check both the exchange rate and the commission. Often hotels will change money for guests without charging commission.

2. ATMs. Money can be withdrawn through your ATM checking or credit card and automatically exchanged. Make sure you use your own network provider; fees and commissions are a shot-in-the-dark as they are not generally disclosed prior to the transaction. Save your receipts.

3. Credit cards. Cash can be withdrawn as a cash advance. However, most cards charge an exchange fee of approximately 3%. Contact your credit card company before you leave home to do two things:

a. Find out the exchange fee;
b. Advise your credit card company you're leaving the country. Many companies now automatically do not authorize purchases unless you've advised them you're leaving the country.