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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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TIPS can help protect you from inflation

From wire reports

Are you worried that inflation may knock down the value of your investments? Then you might consider buying U.S. Treasury inflation-protected securities, or TIPS.

TIPS are Treasury bonds whose principal moves up and down along with the Consumer Price Index. When your bond matures and you cash it in, you get back your principal adjusted for inflation.

Ten-year TIPS have been returning about 2.5 percentage points less than conventional Treasury bonds. But if inflation averages more than 2.5 percent annually, you come out ahead with TIPS. And like conventional Treasury securities, TIPS are exempt from state and local taxes.

Investors will soon have TIPS with different maturities to choose from.

To buy TIPS directly from the government, go to: http://www.public debt.treas.gov/sec/sectrdir.htm, or get in funds offered by mutual fund groups such as Vanguard and Fidelity.

Site offers car-buying help

One of the most difficult questions to answer when buying a car is how much it will cost a buyer over time — in maintenance and gas, for example.

Fortunately, a calculator developed by auto Web site Edmunds.com can help. The tool, called “True Cost to Own,” considers seven categories that affect the value of a car over its lifetime: depreciation, financing, insurance, taxes and fees, fuel, maintenance and repairs.

To find the tool, visit: ( http://www.edmunds.com/apps/cto/CTOintroController?tidedmunds..direct oryalpha.directory..1.* Simply type in the car, its year and price, and the tool will determine how much the car will cost over five years.

This can be helpful if you are considering two similar car models that are also close in price.

Time to get organized

When your financial filing system consists of piles and more piles, the thought of sifting through years of documents can be daunting. The key is to reduce the number of decisions you have to make.

Get six boxes, and label them “2004,” “2003,” “2002,” “2001,” “Before 2001” and “Important Papers.” Then start sorting.

You’re most likely to be audited in the three years after you file a tax return, so the boxes labeled with dates help you keep those papers handy. The “Before 2001” is for prior-year documents that you’re unlikely to need but still might not want to toss.

You’ll want to hang on to paperwork that documents the purchase and sale of investments and important assets, like your home. Stick these in the “Important Papers” box, along with marriage, death and birth certificates; divorce papers; Social Security cards; passports; current insurance policies; and the like.

Put your pre-2001 tax returns in this box as well, but you can dump all supporting documents (receipts, worksheets, and so forth) into the “Before 2001” box.

Renters can protect themselves

When it comes to disputes between tenants and landlords, the most common are generally over refunding a security deposit or making repairs, said Janet Portman, co-author of the Nolo publishing house’s “Every Tenant’s Legal Guide.”

Consumers trying to avoid these and other issues should make sure they get a lease that spells out in detail what’s required from both the landlord and the tenant.

• Carefully review a rental agreement or lease before you sign it. It may contain provisions you find unacceptable, such as restrictions on guests or pets.

• To avoid misunderstandings about promised repairs or amenities, get it in writing from the landlord.

• Be vigilant about your rights to privacy and to a safe unit.

• Make sure the security deposit refund procedures are spelled out in the lease.

• Invest in renter’s insurance.

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