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Issue: "One nation under God," June 26, 2004

Share the wealth When Enron collapsed, more than 20,000 participants in the company's 401(k) plan had invested nearly two-thirds of their assets in company stock. In the following months, employees at WorldCom and Global Crossing also lost huge portions of their life savings following highly publicized accounting scandals. Despite these billion-dollar losses, though, a study by Hewitt Associates says U.S. workers still maintain an oversized portion of their nest eggs within their employer's stock. Among workers at major companies with 401(k) money invested in their employer's stock, those shares accounted on average for 40 percent of the entire account balances. Nearly 25 percent had more than half their 401(k) savings allocated to the company's stock. But it doesn't take an accounting scandal to devalue a company's stock. Anything from changing consumer tastes to an economic downturn can harm a company and anyone too heavily invested in it. While there are countless approaches to investing, all of them recognize the importance of diversifying a portfolio. Although there may be some debate over how many different stocks are needed in a portfolio to provide the maximum benefit of diversification, the answer is never just one. Help wanted? While the United States struggles to strike a balance between labor shortages and illegal immigration, Canada is sending recruiters into Mexico in search of workers. The program was created to help fill worker shortages in agriculture, but has been so successful that Canadian officials are expanding it to low-skilled jobs in construction, the hotel industry, and meatpacking plants. "This is a win-win situation," said Julian Anzaldua, of the Mexican Coahuila state employment service, which contracts guest workers. "Unfortunately, we don't have employment opportunities for many of our workers here, and in Canada they work with all the protections any Canadian worker would have." To qualify, Mexican workers must be offered a job by a Canadian employer who can't find employees locally. Contracted migrants can work from six weeks to eight months, are guaranteed minimum wages, a 40-hour week, and free housing, Mr. Anzaldua said. The program is similar to a proposal made this year by President Bush. Under his plan, which must be approved by Congress, Mexican workers with U.S. job offers could receive temporary visas if no Americans want to fill the jobs. Balance Sheet » Steve Heyer, who is stepping down as Coca-Cola Co.'s No. 2 executive after being passed over for the top job, will receive a severance package of about $23 million. Mr. Heyer is the fourth high-level executive to depart the Atlanta-based beverage maker since 2001. » Mandalay Resort Group rejected MGM Mirage Inc.'s $4.85 billion cash buyout offer that would have created the largest casino company in the world, saying that the $68 per share bid was insufficient. » A weak American dollar and strong European and Asian currencies make Tokyo and London the most expensive cities in the world, according to a recent survey. New York, the top U.S. city, ranked 12th among 144 urban areas compared on the costs of utilities, food, entertainment, and more than 200 other criteria. » May Department Stores Co. will pay $3.24 billion in cash to acquire the Marshall Field's division from Target. St. Louis-based May will take ownership of 62 Marshall Field's stores along with three distribution centers and $600 million owed on Marshall Field's credit cards.

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