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The Independent Online
Index-tracker funds which go up and down in line with the FT-SE 100 share or some other index have become extremely popular over the last 18 months, thanks to low initial charges and management fees, and the gradual rise in the indices in most main markets. But what happens when indices start to fall, as they probably will soon in the US and possibly the UK too?

Guaranteed stock market bonds offer capital protection but usually lock investors in for five or six years. Premier Equity protector from Premier Fund Management and John Govett (Jersey) offers investors between 40 per cent and 90 per cent of any gains in the index over three months but limits the maximum loss to 2 per cent by investing in a combination of options and interest-earning deposits.

The next three monthly offer closes on 30 September, minimum investment is pounds 5,000, there is an initial charge of 5 per cent of which up to 4 per cent goes in commission to intermediaries, and the annual charge is 1.5 per cent. Freephone 0800 212577 for details.

Barclayloan is offering Barclay customers personal loans combined with Barclayloan Lifestyles, the first ever customer card which entitles holders to a range of shopping discounts on travel, motoring, home and leisure goods and services.

The loan rates themselves range from 14.9 per cent APR on amounts from pounds 7,500 to pounds 10,000, rising to 17.9 per cent on amounts down to pounds 3,000 and 20.9 per cent on amounts down to the minimum loan of pounds 500. Call 0500 200 250 for details.

Three-quarters of employees in company pension schemes think they will have enough for a comfortable retirement but only 1 per cent now qualify for the maximum company pension of two-thirds of final salary, usually by working 40 years for the same employer.

To help them decide how best to top up their pensions through additional voluntary contributions, or whether to switch to a personal pension NatWest is offering a fact-sheet, free by calling 0800 255200.

At least half the women in the UK are not making adequate provision for their retirement according to Mark Howe, head of pensions marketing at TSB. The bank has a free booklet (phone 0645 758700) to help women get to grips with state pensions, company pensions, and personal pensions, how to budget for retirement and how to make up for career breaks.

Nearly 90 per cent of people don't know the difference between private medical insurance (PMI), which pays the cost of private treatment and income protection (IP), which pays household and other bills if you are too ill to work, according to research done for Norwich Union Healthcare.

To help sort out the differences and explain what PMI and IP policies do, may, and do not cover Norwich Union is offering readers a free 46- page booklet. Definitions like moratorium policies which require no medicals but will not cover existing medical conditions you had within five years of starting the policy if they recur within two years, are particularly useful. Call 0800 424242.

Irish Life International has linked up with PPP Healthcare to issue a Lifetime Care Investment Plan which funds the care policy through investment in gilts, certificates of deposit.

Minimum single premium investment is pounds 20,000, the long-term care benefits are between pounds 400 and pounds 3,000 a month and the initial capital can be run down to as little as pounds 3,000.

Liverpool Victoria, the largest friendly society, is offering a new Health and Sickness Plan which pays out cash to help cover in-patient and hospital casualty charges, optical and dental cover, maternity benefits and income replacement. Premiums do not rise with age, policies cover children under 18 free, there are three levels of cover. The cheapest costs 92p a day.

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