In the closest incarnation of Hell on Wheels to date, Honda and Toyota have created vehicles catering to Generation Y, a demographic expected to account for more than half of the U.S. car market by 2020.

Gen Y consists of the over 75 million children of baby boomers, a group raised in an era of unprecedented affluence. They're used to getting what they want, so Japanese car makers are giving it to them. Honda's Element, nicknamed the rolling dorm room, features hosable rubber floors (ew, why?!), pimpin' seats that fold into a bed, and a removable glass roof. Toyota's cube-shaped Scion bbX -- geared toward the urban techno crowd -- rides low on the road and includes a powerful stereo.

While these new party boxes might leave parents nervous about the safety of their children and Americans concerned for the fate their country, one teen, speaking to MSNBC, assuages our fears: "I've seen the future, and it's tacky."


In today's Motley Fool Take:

Stay-at-Home Stocks

The headlines aren't pretty these days. Between sniper attacks and the rumblings of war, if you're thinking twice before wishing your loved ones goodnight or looking over your shoulder as you pull into a gas station, you're not alone.

The stock market, of course, is not immune to the world around it. But while you've seen a good deal of money pour into defense contractors, such as Northrop Grumman(NYSE: NOC) and Lockheed Martin(NYSE: LMT), over the past year, little has been said about the couch-potato stocks.

In many ways, the trend of folks staying at home hasn't had the same impact in all sectors. Think more people have pizza delivered to their door? Not quite. Last week, Papa John's(Nasdaq: PZZA) warned it would produce slightly negative comps this year. Guessing that folks are rushing to get wired with Internet connections to soak it all in within their four walls? Well, Earthlink(Nasdaq: ELNK) and AOL Time Warner's(NYSE: AOL) America Online division have seen better days in terms of subscriber growth.

However, online transactions are on the rise -- though it's hard to pick out how much of those gains are a direct result of consumers clamoring for in-home safety and convenience. Analysts expect Amazon(Nasdaq: AMZN) to grow its top line from $3.1 billion to $3.7 billion this year. Direct mail DVD specialist Netflix(Nasdaq: NFLX) has seen its subscriber count more than double over the past year.

But the couch-potato plays are offline, too. Assuming we want beer and chips as we ease into our trusty Barcaloungers, Anheuser-Busch(NYSE: BUD) and Frito-Lay parent PepsiCo(NYSE: PEP) have upped profit projections in recent weeks. Video and DVD rentals are also flourishing, with Blockbuster(NYSE: BBI) and Hollywood Entertainment(Nasdaq: HLYW) reporting brisk business. Just last week, the former reported it will produce impressive double-digit comps through the end of next year.

So, yes, home is indeed where the heart is. And for now, at least, it's also where you'll find the pocketbook.

Discussion Board of the Day: Political Asylum

Have current events put you in a pensive mood? If you enjoy your debates heated yet provocative, join some of your fellow Fools in talking politics. All this and more -- in the Political Asylum discussion board. Only on

The Cost of Retirement

You've heard it all before: Don't go swimming for an hour after you've eaten. Cross that bridge when you come to it. You'll be able to live on 70% to 80% of your current income in retirement.

Unfortunately, we're qualified to address only the last adage (though if you can cross a bridge before you've come to it, we'd like to see pictures).

The "70% to 80%" rule of thumb is based on the assumption that many of your current expenses will go away in the golden years. For the most part, this is true. Once you kiss the boss goodbye, you'll no longer endure the following:

  • Work-related expenses, such as commuting costs, professional wardrobe upkeep, and cubicle decor;
  • Social Security taxes (15.3% of income for the self-employed, 7.65% for the other-employed);
  • Contributions to retirement plans (it's time to stop the giving and start the taking);
  • Mortgage payments, if your house will be paid off by the time you retire.

There are two other ways your expenses might decline. First, retirees tend to downsize. There's no need to keep up the four-bedroom house now that the kids are grown, for example, so some pensioners sell the big house and move to the Sag-A-Lot colony for mature nudists. Secondly, overall taxes might decrease. Only a portion of Social Security benefits are taxable -- if at all -- and income might be derived from long-term capital gains, which are taxed more gently than ordinary income.

Some studies support the 70% to 80% rule. The 2001 RETIRE Project report, conducted by Georgia State University, found that retirees would need 74% to 83% of their income to maintain the same lifestyle in retirement.

However, some retirees still require the same level of income in retirement as they enjoyed while they were working. How? It comes down to this: If you're not making money, you're spending money. You have to fill the free time somehow. New hobbies, trips to Europe, and gas-guzzling RVs cost money. Many participants in our Rule Your Retirement seminar conducted last summer said they planned on spending less in retirement, only to find themselves shelling out even more.

What will retirement cost for you? There's only one way to find out: Create a retirement budget. To get an idea of how much you'll pay in taxes, complete a sample return -- if you use an online service or software to prepare your taxes, this won't be so daunting. Once you know how much retirement will cost, make sure you're saving enough to pay for the hobbies, trips, and nudists.

Quote of Note

"... Though the big auditing firms may long for a tail-wagging puppy to be chairman of the new accounting standards board, the American public wants and deserves a much-needed watchdog. John Biggs is an outstanding choice to fill that role -- knowledgeable, fair-minded, and investor-oriented." -- Warren Buffett, letter in today's Wall Street Journal

A Patent Killing

The victor is up 12% today, while the vanquished is down 40%... and that neatly sums up the incredible risks associated with drug makers and patent processes.

A federal judge has ruled that Andrx's(Nasdaq: ADRX) generic version of the heartburn drug Prilosec infringes on valid patents held by the drug's developer, AstraZeneca(NYSE: AZN). Astra's original Prilosec protection expired a year ago, but it asked for an extension because of new patents for a special formulation. In a surprise decision, the judge upheld Astra's claim and also ruled that two other generic makers -- Dr. Reddy's Laboratories(NYSE: RDY) and Genpharm -- infringed on the patents, while Germany's Schwarz Pharma's version of Prilosec did not.

The Andrx situation is a good illustration of the uphill battles generic producers must fight. The first company to receive FDA approval to make a generic drug has 180 days of marketing exclusivity. Considering Prilosec generated $3.7 billion in U.S. sales last year, this would have been an extremely lucrative period for Andrx. Ready to make hay while the sun was shining, the company had already built a $100 million manufacturing plant and purchased $65 million in inventory -- much if it now worthless. This is a big deal for a company that made only $73 million in 2001.

Chairman Elliot Hahn says he's "exceedingly disappointed by the court's decision" and may appeal the ruling. There is also the possibility the company will sell its 180-day exclusivity rights to another drug maker.

Andrx rang in the New Year with high expectations and a $70 stock price. Now trading at $12, its investors know firsthand the cruel twists and turns of the patent process.

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Quick Takes

The White House has dispatched a spin doctor to the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to The Washington Post: "Sending Anne Womack to the SEC is a clear signal that politics is the top priority for the Bush administration and [SEC chief] Harvey Pitt." The Post goes on to note that Womack "has no known expertise in financial markets" and points out that this is an eye-opening move, since the SEC is an independent agency. Pitt, meanwhile, claims that he recruited Womack.

Financial services giant J.P. Morgan Chase(NYSE: JPM), suffering from, among other things, loans to bad apples and risky borrowers such as Enron and Argentina, is cutting costs by letting some 3,000 employees go. Ouch.

Meanwhile, the sluggish post-Sept. 11 economy continues to take its toll on aviation. Boeing(NYSE: BA), which had expected to reduce its production of jets through 2003, is now planning to soft-pedal through 2004 -- if not longer. Boeing also lost out on a multibillion-dollar deal to supply 240 jets to easyJet, Europe's major low-cost airline. Competitor Airbus snapped that up.

The nation's fifth-largest utility company, TXU Corp.(NYSE: TXU) -- formerly known as Texas Utilities -- has some big plans to save money. Up on the block is its European natural gas and power business, for starters. The company is also slashing its dividend by about 80%.

When pharmaceutical companies run their new drugs through the required cycle of clinical trials, they often do so through Quintiles Transnational(Nasdaq: QTRN). But the economy and consolidation within the big drug maker arena is fostering uncertainty and trial delays. Quintiles' stock was down more than 50% for the year, but its chairman has now made a bid to buy the firm, offering $1.3 billion.

Pilgrim's Pride has been humbled. The poultry processor is issuing the largest recall of meat in American history: 27.4 million pounds of cooked turkey and chicken products. The meat may be tainted with the extremely nasty listeria bacteria.

And Finally...

Today on Rick Munarriz gives Netflix four stars.... Matt Richey begins a four-part series on finding cash-generating, cash-rich small caps.... In Fool's School, explaining the ins and outs of stock options.... A Community member's analysis of Yahoo!... and the Post of the Day covers the link between GE seed and pesticide companies.

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