RALEIGH — North Carolina business executives are pessimistic about the global economy but more optimistic about the national and state economies heading into 1999. That's the finding of a polling of the subscribers to my weekly newsletter. Here are the highlights of this unscientific, but enlightening, survey: * Seven out of 10 are pessimistic or very pessimistic about the global economy; * A 50-50 split about the U.S. economy. * Eight out of 10 are optimistic or very optimistic about the N.C. economy; * Six out of 10 are less optimistic or much less optimistic about their earnings outlook than they were this time last year. * Six out of 10 have made no changes in their business plans. Those who have intend to be "more conservative" and do less "risk taking". * Forty percent intend to increase their work force; the rest will keep it stable. * Eight out of 10 who need cash are having no trouble finding it; * Seven out of 10 believe N.C. is better equipped to withstand an economic slowdown than other parts of the U.S. None believe N.C. is less well equipped. * A 50-50 split on whether recession will hit the U.S. What do you think? Send me your opinion by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by fax at 1-919-836-9477. To view the responses in graphic form on the Web, go to http://www.gibsonreport.com *** Now, to a few personal finance items that were posted to a chat site maintained on WRAL-TV's Internet page by financial planner Tom Vass and myself. We recently received the following question from a young woman in Raleigh: "I have a little money saved and would like to buy a house in two to three years. Is investing in the stock market a good idea for a short-term goal such as buying a house?" Our answer: "Oh my, no, no, no! You must not invest with a two-year time limit. Take your eggs and place them in a very safe nest at the local bank or credit union until you have your down payment. And should you start feeling the urge to invest again with this two-year time horizon, seek out a dark, quiet place, lay perfectly still with a wet cloth over your eyes and think pastoral thoughts of puffy sheep." A net surfer from Bailey asked this: "My husband and I are in our late 40's, and unfortunately we have not saved hardly anything. My husband is in a 401K at work, just a little over a year old and I can get in one but my company won't match it. We have an extra $500 a month in 'blow money' after all the bills are paid. I want to start investing aggressively. What should we do? Here is Tom's answer: "Whenever I hear the word 'aggressively' used in the same sentence as investing, I start getting a little nervous. Please go out to the well right now, drag up some cool water and wash your mouth out, and then promise you will never use these words, especially blow money, again. "We like the investment philosophy of starting where you are and moving you forward. You need first of all a family emergency account. So find a decent, high-quality U.S. government bond mutual fund and begin investing $100 per month in the emergency account. "Define the events that constitute a family emergency and leave the emergency account alone. It needs about $10,000 in it. When it has $10,000, leave it alone until the emergency comes up. "Next, go to the library and look up some materials on mutual funds. Find four that are called either 'balanced,' 'equity-income,' 'growth-income,' or some such thing. Send each mutual fund $75 per month. "Next, you and your husband both open an IRA, either at the mutual fund or at your local bank and start funding the IRA each month with the rest of the blow money. This advice presumes that the family's insurance coverage, including life, health, disability, etc. is taken care of through your employer group plan." Have a prosperous week. Dale Gibson is a Raleigh-based journalist who publishes The Gibson Report, a weekly electronic newsletter focused on North Carolina business. Questions or comments may be directed to him by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 919-834-1033.