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Biz bits

By Times staff writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 23, 2003

The February issue of Smart Money chats with LL Cool J about his "Phat Portfolio." The singer started investing in stocks in the late 1980s. An early favorite was Wal-Mart. More recently, he added shares of Coca-Cola, General Electric and Kohl's. He echoes the sentiment of Warren Buffett: "I don't buy things that are too complicated, that I don't understand."

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Looking for the tax-friendliest place for the golden years? Kiplinger.com surveyed the various taxes paid in each state. The winner must be Florida, right? Wrong. Kiplinger's survey ranked Dover, Del., as tops. A typical retired couple in Dover, Del., doesn't spend a dime on sales taxes. Social Security benefits are spared the state levy, and up to $12,500 -- per person -- of other retirement income is tax free. Our couple's only tax obligation is a $543 property tax bill on their $133,000 home.

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After three straight years of steep market losses, stock picking has become decidedly tougher. From 1990 to 1998, the number of investment clubs registered with the National Association of Investors Corp. grew from 7,000 to more than 37,000. Now it's below 30,000. "When the market soars, people get excited about investment clubs," said Ken Janke, chairman of the NAIC. "Unfortunately, they don't get excited when it's going down."

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Movie theater attendance rose by 8 percent last year, double the 4 percent gain in 2001 and up from a 3.5 percent decline in 2000, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc., which tracks box office attendance and sales figures. Many in the industry attribute that jump largely to baby boomers. "If you create a movie that appeals to the boomers, they will come out and see it. You have to give them a good reason. They won't fall for the marketing like the teens will," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations.

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It's only February, but toymakers are offering predictions for Christmas 2003. The winners are likely to be toys that tug at the heartstrings. Expect a resurgence of popular toys from the past and retooled oldies, such as Twister and Easy-Bake Ovens. One reason: Nostalgic toys reiterate feelings of comfort during uncertain economic and political times.

-- Compiled from Web sites and Times wires.

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