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Do-it-yourself managed payout funds

With my home building projects, I used to gain a tremendous sense of visual accomplishment from completing 90 percent of the job. Paying a professional to do the last ten percent would have been an ideal option if I’d had the money, but alas and alack. Instead, I would just stop noticing after awhile that the door jambs didn’t have moldings, and I would only get around to finishing them about the time my parents or in-laws were coming to town.

Enduring the market's 'summer doldrums'

Like stepping on a pop top and blowing out a flip-flop, the stock market's so-called "summer doldrums" are an all-too-common nuisance factor for those who need instant gratification and who hate to be inconvenienced. The fact is, since 1926 the stock market's average gains from May to October have been half of what the remaining six months have generated. Downdrafts, when they have happened, tend to have occurred more often during the summer.

Moving towards a state-owned bank

I personally think the time has come to set wheels in motion to organize a state-owned bank here in California. North Dakota has operated its own bank since the early 1900’s and it has made money for taxpayers while strengthening the state’s own regional banks. The net effect has been to keep bank profits in North Dakota. The only losers have been the “too-big-to-fail” banks that would otherwise have enjoyed making the spread on money borrowed by, and throughout, the state.

Consider stocks that pay dividends

Over the past several years, I been sympathizing with folks who are feeling a little queasy about the stock market's ability to set new records for sustained increases in value. "When will the next shoe drop?" is the question in the minds of many investors -- including me. The antidote for anxiety is certainly not to bail out into cash. Anyone could have made the argument for adopting that course in January 2011 -- 22 months after the market bottom in March 2009.

Weighing home options in Maine

On vacation here in Maine once again, I can’t resist thumbing through local real estate listings to enjoy the thought of any number of these three bedroom homes on or near a lake with an in-ground pool and new stainless appliances on 2+ acres for $95,000. Across the country, the increase in housing prices since 2012 has been 27 percent. In the Bay Area, that statistic has been more like 65 percent with the median single family home price in San Francisco now at over $1.2 million.

Stick to the books on stock market

In June, the Wall Street Journal had a blaring headline that read: “Over the Hill: Retirees Yank 401(k) Funds.” The story went on to question the significance of the inflection point – the point at which new inbound money was now offset by a greater amount of money leaving these plans as boomers retire. Anyone is well into the article before reading that the money isn’t really leaving retirement plans. It’s just moving from a 401(k) to an IRA.

Healthy habits for retirement

In 1966, I was accepted by the University of Vermont medical school at about the same time Bernie Sanders was arriving in the state. Medical school appealed to me in part because I was a hypochondriac, but I had also paid my dues as an undergraduate having to endure tough courses like organic chemistry, and I couldn’t bear to have that ordeal go to waste. As it turned out, I decided to go to the US Berkeley Graduate Business School instead, so here I am. Be thankful that I’m your Retirement Planner and not your physician.

Understanding health care stocks' rapid growth

I need some help from both the proponents and detractors of the Affordable Care Act --- the Odd Couple of the socio-political landscape. Hopefully both parties can help me understand why health insurance company stocks have all doubled within the past two years. Beyond singling out insurance companies, a typical healthcare index or health sciences mutual fund includes health insurance, pharmaceutical companies, bio-tech and medical device companies. These funds have gained roughly 100 percent in just two and a half years.

The effect of human emotions in stock market

This might be a good time to talk about stock market bubbles. Not that they matter to the long-term buy-and-hold investor, but as an object of curiosity they are interesting to watch. For 401(k) investors or anyone steadily depositing money on a monthly basis, the overreaction caused by a bursting bubble typically reduces stock prices to values below the intrinsic value of the companies whose real values (based on income statements and balance sheets) they are supposed to reflect.

Online advisory services

The selling of inexpensive, computerized investment advice should be like shooting fish in a barrel if what I see from the financial services industry is any indication of what the major competition looks like these days. A typical account I just reviewed indicated that on a $100,000 account, a major bank’s “wealth advisory service” was charging 1.5 percent per year to spread a client’s assets over about twenty different mutual funds whose average annual expense ratios were three quarters of one percent per year.

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