Financial Slide Rules Substitute For Computers

These days, if you don’t have access to a computer and the Internet, you’re in real danger of being left behind in personal finance matters. Any inexpensive computer can help you devise an investment strategy, search for stocks and mutual funds, and figure how much you need to save to reach your goals.

Fortunately there are people out there trying to figure how to give some computer-like service to people who don’t have machines.

The first, offered for free by American Express, is for figuring whether you’d earn more in a traditional IRA or in the new Roth IRA. You adjust the slide rule for your age and the tax bracket you expect to be in after you retire. Then you find the window that corresponds to your current tax bracket to see the after-tax value of an account in which you invest $1,000 per year. On the other side, the calculator figures whether it would pay to transfer assets from a traditional IRA to a Roth.

To order the calculator, call 1-800-437-3133.

The second slide rule, from the American Century mutual fund company, is used to figure the future cost of a college education and how much you would need to save each month until your child starts college. Adjust the device to reflect a child’s current age and a window displays the estimated cost of a four-year public, private or “elite” college - costs ranging from $99,936 to $277,312 for a child born today.

On the flip side you adjust the slide to the child’s current age to figure the monthly savings needed to reach investment goals.

To get the calculator, call 1-800-345-2021.

Brochure helps teens trim taxes

Because many teen-agers earn less than $4,000 a year, they may be due a refund of taxes that were withheld from their paychecks in 1997, says Citibank of New York.

To help teens understand the rules, including how to file a tax return, Citibank has published a plain-language brochure, “Tax Facts for First-Time Filers.”

For a free copy, call 1-800-669-2635 any time. Your request won’t result in any follow-up calls or mailings.

Book tells how to find planners

“How do I find a good financial planner?”

It’s a common question, though sometimes the reader is looking for some other kind of professional - a stockbroker, real estate agent, tax preparer or lawyer.

Recently, a mother lode of information and advice on the topic was published. It’s a new book called “The Right Way to Hire Financial Help”, by Charles A. Jaffe, personal finance columnist for the Boston Globe.

The 320-page, $25 book is far more thorough than the typical free brochure on shopping for help. It tells how to begin a search, what to ask about fees and services, and how and where to check a professional’s background. Order it directly from MIT Press at 1-800-356-0343.

Sante Fe fund a top performer

Thornburg Management in Santa Fe, N.M., is known for its bond funds, but for years the firm has been running a stock portfolio for its employees with excellent results.

In 1996, the Thornburg Value Fund (1-800-847-0200) went public, and for the past two years it has been the No. 1 growth and income fund out of 512 tracked by Lipper Analytical - up 88 percent.

Manager Bill Fries is a bargain hunter with a concentrated portfolio, and the fund is small enough to maneuver.

Top holdings include U.S. West Inc.; Sun Communities Inc.; Bank Austria AG; Occidental Petroleum Corp.; Advent Software Inc.; Unisys Corp.; and Checkpoint Systems Inc.

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