Working Digest

WORKING DIGEST

March 29, 2006|By FROM NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE AND KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE REPORTS

Medical costs

Trend is to foster culture of health

Americans are getting fatter and sicker, and that's raising medical costs for employers and employees, a conference at Duke University was told last week. The assembled physicians, economists and experts in health, nutrition and insurance were exploring ways to reduce obesity and diabetes. Annual health insurance premiums have increased more than 30 percent in the past five years, said Robert Ingram, vice chairman of GlaxoSmithKline and a keynote speaker at the conference. GlaxoSmithKline develops diabetes drugs, including Avandia. Instead of shifting costs to employees, employers should shift attention to prevention, Ingram said. "Disease is the enemy, not health care spending." Some companies offer free, on-site fitness centers that stay open around the clock. Others pay for annual physicals or try to encourage their employees to establish healthful eating habits.

Retirement

`Target' fund cuts risks over time

A new kind of retirement investment is growing in popularity, target-date or target-retirement funds. The funds allocate assets based on a specific time frame to retirement, shifting from a growth strategy heavy on stocks to a fixed-income strategy of mostly bonds as the target year approaches. The funds have become particularly popular over the past few years as part of 401(k) and other employer-related retirement accounts. The funds are offered by Fidelity, Vanguard, T. Rowe Price and others and are actually funds of funds, meaning they contain a mix of mutual funds from the company's own lineups. Their names usually indicate a date, such as Target 2030 and shift the portfolio as that year approaches.

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