Question: A few months ago I saw several references to "clone funds," but I haven't heard anything further recently. Just what is a clone fund? It is a good investment ?

Answer: Clone funds had only a brief and generally unhappy existence.

On March 14 of this year, the Federal Reserve Board imposed a 15 percent reserve requirement on new money market deposits. That is, 15 percent of any increase in the assets of a money market fund above the level "on board" on that date had to be deposited in a reserve account with the Fed. "

This reserve account earned no interest; thus the prospective yield on deposits in a money market fund was reduced by the loss of potential interest on the amount in the reserve.

Fund managers reasoned that it would be unfair (and bad for business) to penalize investors who already had money in their funds. Many of them, therefore, initiated duplicate money market funds for deposits received after the effective date of the reserve rule.

These second funds were practically exact copies of the initial funds -- except for the reserve requirement -- so they came to be called "clone funds." (A "clone" is loosely defined as a genetically identical duplicate.)

The requirement imposed on money market funds was part of a package of actions taken by the Fed in an attempt to curtail credit and -- it was hoped -- reduce the unacceptably high level of inflation.

As demand for credit eased and inflation lessened, many of the actions of March 14 were modified. In mid-June, the Fed cut the reserve requirement for money market funds in half, to 7 1/2 percent. And last month it was eliminated entirely.

So now most managers of money market funds are studying ways to eliminate the clone funds and consolidate deposits with their original funds.

As you can imagine, the creation of these duplicate funds and now their dissolution caused an administrative nightmare -- to say nothing of the costs involved. But unless credit demand and inflation take off again, you can forget about clone funds.

Q: I've been reading about the fantastic amounts of money some people have been saving by using coupons in their purchases. Does this stuff really pay off ?

A: It depends on the value you place on your time. Taking advantage of "cents-off" coupons and refund offers -- the two principal types of manufacturer discounts -- is a time-consuming process. And you won't earn the minimum wage.

My impression (from various surveys I have seen) is that a "serious couponer" spends an average of six to 10 hours a week at the job, and ends up with $6 to $10 a week in savings -- about a dollar an hour.

Obviously the amount of savings you can achieve will be influenced by the size of your family and your general shopping habits.

For example, if you prefer instant coffee to perked coffee, your savings are likely to be greater -- because there are more coupon offers for instant coffee. And if you have a pet, you will do better that a "pet-less" household because dog and cat food is a big "cents-off" area.

Some couponers have made the headlines with big-figure reports, and a dedicated saver can recover as much as $1,000 or more in the course of a year. But to triple their savings (over the average mentioned earlier) these people generally report triple the hours spent.

There are a number of clubs and publications around that can help you get the most out of your work. They usually provide swapping facilities so you can exchange coupons you don't need for some you do. And there are newsletters that keep you up-to-date on new offers in addition to tips on how to make the job easier and more lucrative.

To the advice of the experts I'll add a couple of tips on my own. Don't buy anything you otherwise wouldn't, just to save the coupon money. If you have a preferred brand, don't switch only because of the coupon. And don't spend a dollar in gas to save 50 cents at a store where you don't usually shop. s