Mark Dolliver: Extra Credit?

A cut in interest rates offers little comfort if you don’t qualify for credit. And that’s the leaky boat in which many consumers find themselves, according to the latest Experian/Gallup Personal Credit Index survey. Eighteen percent of respondents said someone close to them has been turned down for credit within the past three months. Among those with household income under $40,000, the figure climbs to 23 percent (vs. 14 percent in the $75,000-plus bracket). But household income is less of a dividing line than age, as you can gather from the chart here. The same poll asked people whether they know anyone who has filed for bankruptcy or gone into foreclosure in the past three months. Twelve percent said they do.

The sweetener of doom

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) continues to consolidate its status as dietary villain. A report from Datamonitor notes a steep rise in the number of new food-and-beverage products that boast of being HFCS-free. Worldwide, 146 such products have made their debut this year, vs. 54 in all of 2006. “In 2003, just six new beverages made label claims that they were free of high-fructose corn syrup,” says the report. The trend is now “heavily concentrated” in the U.S.

Old folks on the job

When you hear about people staying in the labor force past the usual retirement age, you may picture them dabbling at part-time jobs. In fact, though, increasing numbers of old folks are working full-time, year-round. A study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute says 49 percent of workers age 65-69 worked full-time for the full year—up from just over one-third of workers this age in 1995. Among those with a graduate or professional degree, 68 percent were in the labor force full-time/full-year. In all, 29 percent of 65-69s were in the labor force last year, vs. 18 percent in 1985. The report suggests that a need for job-based health insurance is a key factor in the upswing, as is workers’ need to continue building savings in defined-contribution retirement funds.

Men shirking their chores?

Here’s further evidence, were any needed, that men don’t pull their weight at home. In polling of homeowners with kids, fielded by International Communications Research for the Bayer Lawn Care Institute, 39 percent of women said they spend more than half their time on “household responsibilities.” Just 27 percent of men said the same.

Seeking beauty as a bargain

Americans may appreciate the glamour of upmarket brands of health-and-beauty products. But that doesn’t mean they think such items are worth what they cost. In a poll by the Nielsen Co. (Adweek’s parent company), 80 percent of U.S. respondents agreed “very much” or “somewhat” that mass-market products “are just as good as premium or expensive alternatives for hair care, skin care and cosmetics.” The top line of the chart here is certainly in sync with that finding.

Health and wealth

• Asked to divulge their biggest health concern, 43 percent of women cited excessive weight, 23 percent picked cancer and 11 percent said it’s heart disease. Diabetes (5 percent), osteoporosis (4 percent) and fertility (2 percent) got fewer mentions. A blithe 12 percent said they’re not worried about their health. (All You reader survey)

• In rating their family’s financial situation, 26 percent of adults said they’re “getting ahead,” 53 percent have “just enough money to maintain your standard of living” and 20 percent are “falling behind.” The numbers are nearly identical to those of an October 2006 poll. (Washington Post/ABC News)