While most people lose their car keys around the house or at a restaurant, Amanda Webster actually lost hers inside her one-year-old son, Oscar.

Unable to start her car, the London woman noticed the small radio transponder -- a security device necessary to crank the engine -- was missing from her key. The little tyke apparently sucked the chip right off the key while chewing on it. So, Webster did what anyone would do -- she held Oscar against the steering wheel, turned the key... and brrrrm, hit the road. She recovered the chip later, but we'll spare you the details.

The FOOL 50's battery died today, and it dropped over 1.5%.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

AOL Sees Flat 2003

AOL Time Warner (NYSE: AOL) has seen the future of its online division, and it looks as flat as a Nebraska cornfield. Investors responded to the earful by shucking 14% off its stock price in morning trading.

While the rest of this year should go about as expected, the company sees essentially no revenue growth for the America Online division in 2003. The culprit is, once again, flagging advertising and commerce sales, which are now expected to fall by an amazing 40% to 50% next year. That drop will be offset by "solid growth" in subscription revenue.

What makes the ad crunch so amazing is that it appears to be unique to America Online. By most accounts, Internet advertising revenue has leveled off industry wide, and is even picking up a bit in some quarters. Perhaps the same long-term contracts that buffered AOL while many dot-coms were going out of business are now expiring, and are not being renewed at the same levels. The company says the drop is "largely due to lower revenue recognition from prior-period commitments."

Meanwhile, in an effort to make AOL more attractive to subscribers, management has decided to provide content from several Time Inc. magazines as part of the basic service. Although that means the online sites for such publications as People, Entertainment Weekly, InStyle, Parenting, and Southern Living will cut back or even eliminate their free content, it does provide some differentiation and justification for AOL's monthly $23.90 fee.

Quote of Note

"A luxury is something the average person manages to pay for by buying his necessities on credit." -- Unknown

Free Shipping Just Got Pricey

If you find yourself paying more for package and business-related deliveries next month, don't shoot the carrier pigeon.

Airborne (NYSE: ABF) announced rates will rise by an average of 3% to 4% starting Jan. 6. The move mirrors last month's announcements by express delivery specialists FedEx(NYSE: FDX) and UPS(NYSE: UPS) of domestic and international shipping rate hikes.

You won't feel the pinch at the post office. The $0.37 first-class postage stamp should be good for another four years. But with businesses and online retailers demanding speedy delivery service, someone has to bear the brunt of the new rates once any guaranteed contracts phase out. Guess who?

While the new rates sound fair and modest, the delivery companies are approaching accessorial fees with a much broader markup brush. Both Airborne and FedEx will raise Saturday pickup and delivery surcharges by 25% to $12.50.

Because all three have hiked fees at the same time, customers have little choice but to accept the changes. That might make for a more rosy 2003 than analysts have been bargaining for. Right now, UPS, FedEx, and Airborne are trading at next year's earnings multiples of 27, 17, and 24, respectively. While that may not seem cheap, more factors than just the new rates are working in their favor. If consumer confidence continues to improve, corporate demand will create more business for messengers. And if online retailing continues to grow, that's a welcome heavier load of parcels to deliver.

As a consumer, just be grateful that the higher rates won't go into effect until after the holiday rush. As an investor, now might be a good time to camp out on your front porch to see if these companies deliver on the bottom line. They should. The fundamentals look strong, and neither rain, nor hail, nor sleet, nor snow should keep these three companies from their routes next year.

Discussion Board of the Day: UPS

What can Brown do for you -- and your portfolio? What will the new rates mean for UPS and its rivals? Seeing the fleet of delivery specialists more often now as the holidays kick up in earnest? All this and more -- in the UPS discussion board. Only on Fool.com.

Shacking Up?

Unmarried couples face many of the same administrative money issues as their matrimonially bound counterparts. While you may not be covered under each other's work insurance plans or eligible for the family discount card at the Korner Kwik-E-Mart, you do have joint decisions to ponder:

1. To merge, or not to merge?
It's the age-old question for couples, married or not -- joint or separate checking accounts? A few things to consider. Are your salaries dramatically different, or does only one of you work? If so, the partner bringing home most or all of the money may feel penalized by a joint account, depending on how it's handled. With separate accounts, it may not seem difficult to split fixed bills, but what about variable ones? In the case of phone bills, for example, if one of you spends more time on the phone than the other, having one partner cover the bill might be a problem.

2. Who will pay for what?
Which expenses will be shared, and which will be separate? What if one person has more debt than the other? Is that his/her entire responsibility? Does each of you pay roughly the same dollar amount? Or do you contribute a similar proportion of your take-home pay? What about child care and personal travel? Are you going to pool any of your accounts or split utilities, food, laundry, and dog treats 50/50? If your salaries are wildly different, you may want to consider dividing expenses based on a percentage of your income.

3. Who will be in charge of paying the bills?
Anyone who shares a phone line, electricity, and a roof must tackle this chore. Will you establish one account where you each contribute money toward household bills? Will one person pay the phone bill and the other pick up cable TV?

Some of these issues have been mitigated by online account access and personal finance software. Whether you have separate or joint accounts, using these tools can make it much easier to track your finances. Even your bank's 800 number (which enables you to call and get your exact balance) can be helpful.

Regardless of whether your mother is cool with your cohabitation, you need to address these questions. Check out what Fools in love have to say about the subject on our discussion board. And for a more hands-on experience in togetherness, consider our How-To Guide for Couples on how to handle money with your honey.

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Quick Takes

Home prices continue to rise, but they did so at a much slower pace in the third quarter than in the quarter before. The housing market typically lags the stock market, so this may represent the beginning of a housing correction. Still, home prices are up 6.2% over last year. According to TheWall Street Journal (subscription required, free trial available to Fools), it's an improvement over the annual average rate of 4.6% (since 1980), but significantly lower than the recent 12-month 9% appreciation peak recorded in Q1 of 2001.

In other economic news, companies are laying off the layoffs a bit. Downsizing decreased in November, possibly signaling a long-awaited economic turnaround. Some 157,508 workers got pink slips in November, down 11% from October. A Challenger, Gray & Christmas report noted, though, that companies have eliminated more than 3.3 million jobs this year -- more than in the previous five years combined.

Finnish mobile phone titan Nokia(NYSE: NOK) issued some mixed guidance today, forecasting growth of about 10% in cell phones in 2003, along with continuing difficulties in the wireless infrastructure environment. The company also reaffirmed it's not losing market share in China, a market supporting high hopes for future growth for Nokia.

Fido and Fluffy must be living large. PETsMART(Nasdaq: PETM), the pet-supply retail giant, reported boffo third-quarter earnings today. Profits of $20.7 million were up 257% over a year ago, with revenues up 9% in stores open a year or more. The company's cost-cutting measures are clearly paying off.

And Finally...

Today on Fool.com: In today's Rule Breaker, one person filling all top management positions? Tom Jacobs says he'll pass.... Rex Moore opens up the reader mailbag and answers questions about Pitt, Greenspan, and investing.... TiVo owners weigh in on the popular holiday gift, in our Fool Community.... In Fool's School, things to know before donating to your favorite charity.... And the Post of the Day: It's eBay's fault.

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