Today, The Motley Fool sadly says goodbye to one of our own, Tim Aycock (TMF Roboto). Tim was one of the most Foolish employees to grace the halls of Fool HQ. He passed away last week after a long struggle with cancer -- a struggle that he by all rights won.

Tim did not let his illness daunt his spirits. Instead, he increased his zest for life, and he inspired all those around him. In true Foolish fashion, Tim never accepted what the conventional wisdom had to say about his prognosis. His relentless search for better -- often radical -- solutions gave all of us extra years with him that we will cherish.

To continue his relentless search, his family has set up a foundation to help continue Tim's mission. (Timothy Aycock Melanoma Research Foundation, P.O. Box 1741, Leesburg, VA 20177.)

Tim's sense of humor, his weekly performances at our company meeting as Court Jester in many forms -- often with costumes and wacky facial hair (after all, he did declare one month "March Mustache Madness" at Fool HQ) -- and his courage will never be forgotten.

In Tim's words to us, "I expect joyful optimism from each and every one of you." Though it is terrifically sad that we no longer have him here, it is even more wonderful that we ever did.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Prison Stripes for Quattrone?

Federal prosecutors reportedly arrested and charged former investment banker Frank Quattrone with obstruction of justice and witness tampering in connection with his alleged orders to destroy documents in the fall of 2000.

Quattrone was the star banker whose IPO work in the bull market's heyday brought in as much as 15% of annual revenue for the Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB) arm of Credit Suisse Group(NYSE: CSR).

The feds have been investigating CSFB's practices of allocating shares in initial public offerings and requiring that recipients share profits with the firm. CSFB settled in January 2002 with the SEC and the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) for $100 million, but cooperated in a continuing investigation of Quattrone and released emails it had previously withheld under the attorney-client privilege. The firm put Quattrone on administrative leave this February, and he resigned a month later.

According to reports, these emails are the basis for the criminal charges. In December 2000, a colleague sent an email alerting those in Quattrone's technology group that it was "time to purge those files," allegedly referring to document-retention policies and anticipating investors' class-action lawsuits. The next day, Quattrone forwarded the same email to others.

This might not seem altogether problematic were it not for one tiny, but relevant, fact: These emails came one and two days after a CSFB lawyer alerted Quattrone that he had received federal grand jury subpoenas from the IPO-allocation investigation. Apparently, ol' Frank didn't get the Nixon memo that it's the coverup that kills ya.

While it doesn't look good for the fallen star, a criminal case is always tougher to prove than one for civil penalties alone. Criminal obstruction of justice cases require prosecutors to prove not only that you did an evil deed, but also did it with intention. Quattrone has denied knowledge of the investigations and will argue he was simply following and endorsing existing policies, while the prosecutors will point to the coincidental timing.

However, because Quattrone already faces civil penalties from the NASD and more, as part of forthcoming charges against analysts for alleged improper influence during the bull market's height, the combined pressure will be intense to plea bargain on the criminal side and settle on the civil.

So far, the feds haven't indicted any of the Wall Street analysts and bankers from the boom's heyday, though civil actions abound. Those who want to see some liberty -- not just property -- taken will be smacking their lips... as well as handicapping the legal race on our Eyes on the Wise discussion board!

Quote of Note: Happy Birthday, Shakespeare!

We honor one of the Fool's primary inspirations, William Shakespeare. And by the way, did you know 30% of Shakespeare's sonnets contain at least one economic metaphor?

"My words fly up, my thoughts remain below:
Words without thoughts never to heaven go."
-- William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 3 scene 3

Take Your Social Security and Run

You know you want it. It's so close, you can almost taste it. The question is, if you get it, can you live with the consequences for the rest of your life?

Of course, we're talking about Social Security. You can begin receiving your retirement benefit as early as age 62, or you can wait until your 70s. The earlier you take it, the smaller the check will be -- permanently. So should you take the money as soon as possible, or should you wait for the fatter payout? The answer -- as it is for an adult with bladder problems -- is... depends.

Early retirement
If you're below full retirement age but still working, it probably doesn't make sense for you to start receiving Social Security. That's because your benefit will be reduced $1 for every $2 you earn above an annual limit (which is $11,280 this year, but is increased annually). If you're not working, then it might be worth receiving Social Security sooner (though smaller) rather than later. That depends on several factors, including your...

Full retirement age
This is the last year that 65-year-old Americans will be able to receive full retirement benefits. Henceforth, full retirement age will begin to creep up to 67. By visiting the Social Security website, you can see what your full retirement age will be, as well as how much your benefit would be reduced if you receive benefits early.

Putting it off
Even though you can start receiving benefits at full retirement age, Uncle Sam gives you a reason to put it off. For every year after your full retirement age that you postpone receiving benefits, your eventual check will increase by 6.5%. If you're eligible at age 65, but don't cash in until you're 70, your benefit will be almost a third bigger. Is it worth the wait?

The breakeven age
By visiting this calculator at the Social Security website, you can get an estimate of your benefit. After submitting your numbers, click on the "break-even age" tab to get a calculation of how long you must live to make a delayed benefit worth it. That's what it comes down to: How long you will live, and thus how long you'll receive benefits. For most people, it will take 13 to 15 years to make a later, bigger check pay off. Unless longevity runs in your family (you can find out by asking your 115-year-old grandmother), you would probably benefit by taking the money as soon as you can.

Want another opinion? See what Fools are saying on the Retirement Investing discussion board.

Get More From Your Savings

You can't put all your money in the stock market. Sometimes you need a safe, guaranteed return. So what are your options? Our Short-Term Savings Center can help you figure out how much you need to save, where to put it, and where to get the best interest rates. There's even some special yields for Fools.

Jeeves Answers Back

Why are search engines so hot right now?

We decided to Ask Jeeves(Nasdaq: ASKJ) that very question, and the engine returned a featured sponsor that provides search-engine optimization. The next four returns were sponsored search sites.

That answers our question: Five companies are paying up for prominent placement in related searches. There was a time when just Overture(Nasdaq: OVER) took this approach, but most portals have now caught on to the financial fruit of sponsored search listings.

So, it should come as no surprise that Ask Jeeves,'s parent, blew past its own initial projections for the March quarter. With a 57% surge in revenue and yet another quarterly profit, it's refreshing to see that search portals of all sizes have started to cash in on their traffic. And, sure, while Yahoo!(Nasdaq: YHOO) and Microsoft's(Nasdaq: MSFT) have larger chunks of dot-com real estate, this welcome trend has hardly made a dent in the financials of those multi-faceted behemoths.

The financial impact is more significant with small, niche players, like Ask Jeeves. The company has upped guidance yet again, as it is now looking to post a pro-forma profit of $0.25 a share on $102 million in revenue.

As an unlikely 10-bagger over the past few months, the search specialist and its new, spiffed-up site has had no problem lining up believers. Paid listings mean big money. And, let's be honest, they're nowhere near as annoying as pop-up ads.

Discussion Board of the Day: Yahoo!

Are paid listings ethical? What will search engines think up next? All this and more -- in the Yahoo! discussion board. Only on

Quick Takes

After the bell yesterday, online auctioneer eBay(Nasdaq: EBAY) reported first-quarter earnings of $0.32 per share, more than doubling the year-ago number. Revenue rose by 94% to $476.5 million, and free cash flow hit $146.1 million -- an 81% jump.

Telecoms AT&T(NYSE: T) and BellSouth(NYSE: BLS) added to the good news with estimates-topping earnings reports. Ma Bell, the nation's top long-distance carrier, soared 18% after it said it would meet or beat 2003 guidance, and BellSouth dialed a 9% gain thanks to strength in its fledgling long-distance service and 100,000 new DSL subscribers.

Drug companies were also on a high after Wyeth(NYSE: WYE) and Amgen(Nasdaq: AMGN) posted strong results. The former saw a 47% increase in earnings, thanks in large part to gains it made from selling off its stake in the latter. Got that?

AOL Time Warner (NYSE: AOL) reversed a bout of bad news by beating first-quarter estimates and confirming full-year guidance. The investigation-plagued media and entertainment giant earned $0.09 per share, reversing a staggering $12.25 per share loss a year ago -- an amount that included huge non-cash charges to reflect "other-than-temporary declines" in the company's investments.

In local news, Ledbetter's Seed & Feed took a $26.30 writedown to cover the loss of the pickle barrel Sam Higgins smashed after an argument over a checkers match. Bookkeeper Brenda Ledbetter said the loss is "other-than-temporary" because, "We ain't buyin' no more pickle barrels."

And Finally...

Today on

  • For updated stories throughout the day, bookmark our ever-changing News section.
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  • Gold would be a good investment... if it weren't such a bad one.
  • Bonds vs. Bond Funds: What's the better choice for you? Robert Brokamp explains.
  • After another good quarter, eBay raises guidance again, and the stock hits a yearly high.
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  • In Fool's School, you need disability insurance. Here's why.

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