Those who are thinking about early retirement have to consider what they'll do about health insurance until Medicare coverage kicks in at age 65, notes Changing Times, the Kiplinger magazine. Many companies, particularly those with more than 500 employees, extend health benefits to retirees. Otherwise, you're on your own.

That doesn't mean you'll have to get a new policy immediately. Federal law requires your employer to allow you to stay in your current group plan for 18 months after you leave the company. You can be charged the full cost of the coverage, plus up to 2 percent extra to cover administrative expenses. (The law does not apply to firms with fewer than 20 employees, churches or certain governments.)After the 18-month period, you will probably be able to convert to an individual policy with the same insurance company. Even if you don't get the extra 18 months of group coverage, your employer's plan may have a conversion option. The advantage is you can get coverage regardless of your health.

Because conversion coverage is usually less comprehensive and more expensive than a group plan, compare prices of other individual policies, especially if you're in good health.

If your spouse plans to continue working after you retire, you might be able to join his or her company's group plan.

Stock reports

The following are sources of basic information on stocks, as listed in the April issue of Changing Times.

- "Value Line Investment Survey" (800-634-3582) follows 1,700 stocks, hundreds of which are priced below $20 a share. It is available in many libraries. An annual subscription costs $525.

- "The Speculator" (800-444-3190) lists stocks that sell for under $20. Published every three weeks and costs $175 a year.

- "Browser Report" (804-877-5979) specializes in stocks that sell for $3 or less a share. Published monthly. Annual cost is $48.

- "The Low Priced Stock Survey" (219-931-6480) looks at stocks that are priced at $20 or less. Published biweekly. Costs $82 a year.

- "United & Babson Investment Report" (617-235-0900) publishes from time to time a list of stocks selling for $20 or less. The company's weekly newsletter costs $215 a year.

- The brokerage firm Oppenheimer & Co. (800-626-6853) publishes a list of "Stocks under $10."

- Some material in today's column was distributed by AP Newsfeatures.