With stock options winding up in the hands of people who know little about the basics of investing, we thought some plain-spoken advice may be in order. For example, what criteria should employees consider when evaluating the significance of a financial institution's options program?

To help us provide an answer, we turned to two experts: Ryan Weeden, the project director in broad-based stock options for the National Center for Employee Ownership, Oakland, Calif.; and Howard Golden, a principal with William M. Mercer Inc., a New York-based human resources consulting company.

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