The U.S. is still the land of opportunity. By Janet Bodnar, Editor-at-Large June 4, 2012 My son Peter, 23, left a good job in the U.S. to be an intern at an Internet start-up in Australia before he begins grad school. The idea was to get international experience, but he’s getting more than he bargained for—including an up-close and personal encounter with the European financial crisis. Most of his fellow workers are young labor-force refugees from Portugal, Spain, Italy and other European countries with soaring unemployment rates. The young adults who work with Peter complain that, at home, the people who have jobs have them for life and that there’s no place for newcomers—hence they head for Australia or Singapore or the Philippines. But what really bothers Peter is that they seem so resigned to their fate. They shrug their shoulders because they have no hope of changing the situation and no control over their future. “I hope that never happens in the States,” says Peter.Peter would find it heartening to read the inspirational stories in our special report, Making It in America. With the economy puttering along, we all need to be reminded of why the U.S. is still the land of opportunity for foreign immigrants and how we might avoid the troubles that plague Europe (see our Ahead section). Uncertainty across the pond is just one wild card that has made reporting our midyear investing outlook “pure hell,” says senior editor Anne Kates Smith. In her years of experience covering the economy, Anne has learned that “you often get a clear consensus.” But not this year. “One person sees a sideways market and another predicts a 20% gain.” To complicate things even further, back in January we predicted an 8% to 9% total return for the stock market in 2012. The market had blown right by that prediction by the time we went to press. Advertisement Anne points out that all the focus on picking a number misses the bigger picture. What really counts, she says, is whether the market is a good buy right now, and most indicators are flashing green. Corporate earnings and dividends are strong, stocks seem reasonably valued, and industrial companies are leading the economic recovery for the first time in recent memory. When dealing with other people’s money, it pays to be conservative. But we still think the market can turn in a double-digit performance this year (see Where to Invest in the Second Half of 2012). Ouch! My husband and I are planning a trip to Australia to visit our son. After plunking down more than $2,000 each for airline tickets, we were shocked to learn that Qantas was making each of us pay an additional $20 for the privilege of choosing a seat in advance. Welcome to the world of a la carte pricing, or unbundling—known to the rest of us as those #$%# fees. In our monthly survey of Kiplinger’s readers, you told us that travel fees bug you the most (followed by bank, cable, cell-phone and credit card fees). In our cover story, we tell you how to avoid the peskiest charges—or at least ease their sting. For example, my husband and I took Kiplinger’s advice and paid for our airline tickets with a rewards card that gives us double points on travel charges and won’t tack on a currency-conversion fee on purchases we make in Australia (see Your Bargain Travel Guide). And this month I picked up a new tip: If I take an empty pillowcase, I can stuff a sweater into it just in case Qantas wants to charge me for a pillow. P.S. Our Retirement Planning Guide 2012 is now available on newsstands or online at Kiplinger.com.