What's at stake today? Thirty-four Senate seats, all 435 House seats, 36 governorships, and 200 ballot initiatives across 38 states. Thought midterm races were small potatoes compared to the presidential variety? Think again!

So far, so good at the polls -- no pesky chads hanging around (well, except for maybe this guy).

If you haven't yet, go vote!

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Make Money: Take a Pay Cut

It's one of the more dreaded workplace scenarios: You go in to talk with your boss about your annual compensation, and walk out of the meeting taking home fewer Gs each paycheck.

Turn the scenario on its head, like Fool community member dianakalt, and you can make that pay cut your decision -- and one that sets you up for a sweeter retirement. "I know you all want to know what cosmic force is running against me," she explains. "It's actually the cosmic force that gives out raises."

Huh?

This Fool turned a measly 1.8% raise into a 2% increase in her 401(k) savings. "According to paycheckcity.com, my paycheck will go down by about $7 or $8, because I am bumping the 401k up by 2%." Consider following her lead. Community member catscanner did: With his annual raise, he's now maxing out his 401(k) and automatically funneling the "extra" 2% into a Roth IRA.

See what a pay cut can do for your retirement: Run the numbers to see how different savings scenarios play out, anticipate the roadblocks we run into when planning for retirement.

The next time you get a salary bump -- no matter how slight -- funnel it towards your future.

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Pooh Hits the Fan

Oh, my, but it's getting deep in the Hundred Acre Wood.

For years, Disney(NYSE: DIS) has been involved in a bitter battle with the Stephen Slesinger family over who owns various rights to the loveable Winnie the Pooh character. The family purchased North American merchandising rights from author A.A. Milne in the 1930s and claims Disney has shortchanged it for up to $1 billion in royalty payments since.

Disney pooh-poohs that notion, but it's stepping gingerly because the stakes are frighteningly high: Pooh accounts for about a quarter of the company's annual revenue, according to the Slesinger family. We're not talking small chips, here, especially if the family attempts to withhold Disney's right to Pooh.

The big news today is that Disney has apparently gone behind the family's back and snatched Pooh from them. The company says the Milne heirs -- and those of illustrator E.H. Shepard -- were able to reclaim the rights to the chubby little cubby because of a 1998 copyright law change, and will grant them exclusively to Disney beginning November of 2004.

The Slesinger family, on the other hand, says the whole mess just doesn't smell right. "The Slesingers bought the rights outright from the Milnes," said a family attorney, "and they can't just divest the Slesingers of those rights."

Besides the fact that this will be tied up in court for a long time, another bit of news will be hard for investors to digest: Even if Disney were to be granted full Pooh rights, it may still be on the hook for past royalty payments. Stay tuned.

Quote of Note

"One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors." -- Plato

Pixar's Joy Story

In the tense closing scenes of Pixar's(Nasdaq: PIXR)Toy Story, heroic playthings Woody and Buzz soar through the sky in a valiant attempt to catch up to their owner's car, being trailed by a moving truck. When space ranger Buzz glides past the truck, Woody points out that they have missed their target.

"We're not aiming for the truck," says Buzz, shooting ahead to the car.

If you haven't been following Pixar's fiscal performance lately, grab your kid's copy of Toy Story and watch that scene. The computer animation giant trounced third-quarter earnings last night. Wall Street was looking for $0.74 a share, but that's just the moving truck. Pixar earned $0.87 a share. As impressive as the analyst-thumping may appear, the 19% surprise isn't even par for the course. Over the previous four quarters, Pixar beat Wall Street's targets by an average of 40%.

On the strength of selling 25 million copies of Monsters, Inc. on video and DVD since its September release, Pixar topped the $100 million mark in quarterly revenue for the first time. With DVD players selling briskly, it should come as no surprise that Monsters, Inc. is now also the top-selling DVD of all time.

What can Pixar do for an encore? FindingNemo hits theaters in May, and the company remains in a juicy position to play hardball with Disney(NYSE: DIS) to sweeten the terms of its five-picture deal, which finds Disney taking a generous 50% cut of the profits. While Disney also foots half of the production costs, Pixar's cash-rich balance sheet and flawless box-office track record make going it alone an attractive and potentially more lucrative alternative.

While Pixar is eligible to begin negotiating its post-2005 plans in a few months, there's still time for both companies to find common ground and give Hollywood the happy ending it craves. But with Pixar now raising its full-year bottom-line guidance to as high as $1.55 a share, it can afford to let others worry about the minor details.

Pixar isn't aiming for the truck.

Discussion Board of the Day: Pixar

What do you think will happen to the Disney-Pixar partnership? After scoring nearly $2 billion in worldwide box office receipts through its first four full-length features, what if Finding Nemo can't find an audience? All this and more -- in the Pixar discussion board. Only on Fool.com.

Quick Takes

If you're hungry for some guidance as you watch election results roll in (you did vote, didn't you?), check out these overviews: From MSNBC: 10 Races to Watch on Election Night; from The Washington Post: Watching Tonight's Slow-motion Game; from USA Today: What to Watch For; and from CNN: Create Your Own Scorecard.

Semiconductor giant Applied Materials(Nasdaq: AMAT)announced it will lay off about 1,750 people, or 11% of its workforce, as it continues to slog through a slump in the chip biz.

Meanwhile, Circuit City(NYSE: CC), the nation's second-largest electronics retailer after Best Buy(NYSE: BBY), warned that its third-quarter earnings will be lower than expected. Apparently, large-screen TVs are selling well, but digital satellite systems and wireless phones are not. The company joins many others in anticipating a lackluster holiday season.

Boeing (NYSE: BA) shares took off this morning, as the company reported it expects China to buy 1,912 new aircraft during the next 20 years. It would make China the world's second-largest aviation market after the U.S. Total price tag: around $165 billion.

The Washington Post reports that, according to the results of investigations so far, former WorldCom chairman Bernard J. Ebbers influenced the company's board to approve lucrative compensation packages for himself, using the rise and fall of its stock price to steer a strategic course. Also not smelling like a rose is auditor Arthur Andersen, which reportedly did little about the client that it considered a "maximum risk."

And Finally...

Today on Fool.com: Robert Brokamp explains how to avoid three common roadblocks to retirement.... Tom Jacobs says Goldman Sachs and Guitar Center have raised the bar too high, in Rule Breaker.... Why you need an index fund, in Fool's School.... The Fool Community discusses financing an engagement ring.... And the Post of the Day: Cree.

Contributors:
Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Matt Richey, Jackie Ross, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim