Campus crime figures; employment agency rip-offs; short-term health policies; the year's best books FOUR SUPERB MOVES THAT YOU CAN MAKE BEFORE DEC. 31
By Teresa Tritch and Elizabeth M. MacDonald

(MONEY Magazine) – Chances are, you've probably long since canned the financial New Year's resolutions you made last Jan. 1. But you've still got time to make amends by employing one or more of the four following moves that will strengthen your household's finances for the rest of 1992 and into '93. 1. Begin your search for a smart tax adviser. ''Don't wait till March to look for a tax professional,'' says Shelly Jacobson, a self-employed tax accountant in New York City. ''The best are usually booked solid by then.'' Don't overlook the experts known as enrolled agents, or E.A.s, as they're called. Usually they are former Internal Revenue Service agents or pros who have passed a tough two-day tax exam, and tend to charge less than C.P.A.s do. For example, an E.A. might charge $100 to $300 to prepare a federal tax return for a family that earns $60,000 a year and has savings and investment income, while a C.P.A. would ask $250 to $500. The National Association of Enrolled Agents (800-424-4339) can steer you to members in your area. 2. Ditch your high-rate department store credit cards. In an American Banker survey conducted last May by the Gallup Organization, 18% of households said they used their retail store charge cards more than Visa, MasterCard or American Express, up from 15% in 1990. Yet the interest rate on most store cards is still a horrendous 21%, a full three percentage points more than the steep 18% average for unpaid balances on Visa and MasterCard, according to Robert McKinley, president of Ram Research in Frederick, Md. (For the best credit cards in the U.S., see page 30.) American Express cards, of course, have no finance charges since their balances are due in full each month. ''And unlike so many bank cards,'' notes McKinley, ''retailers aren't lowering their interest rates because their cards are still losing money.'' If you owe money on a store card today, transfer your balance to your lower-rate Visa or MasterCard. 3. Arrange for your family to get routine checkups or dental exams if you're insured. This late in the year, you've almost certainly incurred enough medical expenses to exceed your policy's annual deductible limit. So these year-end visits often will be at least partly covered by your insurer. If you wait until January, you'll face a new annual deductible -- probably $200, or $450 for a family -- meaning more of your bill, if not all of it, will come out of your pocket. The same advice holds for the roughly 25% of employees -- mostly at large companies -- who have medical flexible spending accounts (FSAs). These FSAs follow the use-it-or-lose-it principle. You must spend the pretax money you set aside from your paycheck during the year -- typically up to $3,000 for medical costs -- or you forfeit it. So if you still have money sitting in your medical FSA, spend it! About 15% of employees with FSAs fail to use all the money that they set aside. 4. Find a high-yielding alternative to your expiring bank certificates of deposit. More than 13% of the $1.2 trillion bank CDs, some $150 billion, will be maturing before New Year's Day. With six-month and one-year CD rates down to roughly 3% -- a drop of two to three points in the past 12 months -- you'll need options. Your safest move would be to transfer the money into one of the country's highest-yielding 2 1/2-year CDs, such as the 5.1% certificate at the safe J.C. Penney National Bank in Harrington, Del. (For a list of the current top CD rates, see page 30.) But don't lock away your cash in five-year CDs, even those paying 5% to 6%. Most economists expect CD rates to rise about two percentage points over the next few years. So you'll want to take advantage of those higher rates on long-term CDs when they arrive.