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A conservative mix of investments is the way to go

On Nov. 29, 2000, I wrote about the “inverted yield curve.” This term refers to the phenomenon where investors will receive higher interest for loaning money for short periods than they will receive when taking more risk by loaning for longer periods of time. Normally, those taking more risk expect to be paid higher interest. To be paid more interest for taking less risk is weird — inverted yield curve is the chosen euphemism in the arcane world of bond markets.

Caveat emptor: Health care hardship if limits return for pre-existing conditions

Charlie Finley was the unloved owner of the Oakland A’s back in the days when, toward the end of his ownership of the team, a crowd on a sunny Saturday afternoon might number about 3,500 fans. Mr. Finley had accumulated the wherewithal to buy a major league baseball team by selling health insurance policies that covered specific diseases only — like cancer. They were cheap to buy, but a terrible deal when insurance companies armed with known odds could unload “protection” on a gullible, frightened public.

Guess who loses when pension plans hit hard times

Some good news from the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp. is that it paid out $6 billion to 840,000 retirees who were beneficiaries of 4,700 failing pension plans in 2016.

While these are big numbers, it helps to know that there are 40 million American workers in the private sector who are covered by these so-called “defined benefit” plans that guarantee a specifically-defined monthly retirement benefit for as long as the retiree lives. Like so many ideas, on paper they can look like a good deal, but the devil is in the details.

How the village system is helping seniors

Lamorinda Village, barely a year old at this point, is serving seniors living in Lafayette, Moraga and Orinda, and is part of a growing nationwide network of similar peer-to-peer, self-help organizations.

Attending a meeting of supporters including some members, I learned, for example, about volunteers known as the “Declutter Buddies.” These are seniors who volunteer their time and expertise to help fellow members clean out their garages and other nuisance areas of the homes residents are choosing not to leave.

As market soars, should investors be a bit more fearful?

Watching the stock market, we would do well to recall Bobby McFerrin’s song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Apart from being a global hit in 1988, as well as an unofficial theme song for the senior George Bush’s presidential campaign, the song offers a useful message:

“In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double …
Don’t worry, be happy.”

The sun shines on investors who saw the light

The last time I wrote about the economics of solar panels as a wise investment was back in 2011. That was after a time when former Vice President Dick Cheney had described renewable energy adherents as “naive” and California utilities had lobbied successfully to limit renewable energy sources to 15 percent of the total power supply.

Fortunately for all of us, including those nonbelievers, we’ve since come a long way while watching renewable energy ride a wave of powerful market forces — fueled by common sense.

Sleeping well while tapping into your nest egg

Many retirees grit their teeth at what they see as the inconvenience of the “required minimum distribution,” commonly referred to as the RMD. It’s the amount of money expressed as a percentage that people have to take from their combination of retirement accounts when they reach the age of 70 1/2.

With people working longer these days, many are still employed beyond 70 and don’t need the money. They would prefer to just leave it in the plan to compound and give to their children or to a charity someday.

Bulls, bears and one ‘Fearless Girl’

Staring defiantly in the path of a charging bull, there’s a new symbol — a young girl — on Wall Street these days. “Fearless Girl” has gained national attention since the bronze statue was installed in March to honor National Women’s History Month.

The iconic bull, of course, represents bull markets. The permanence of the sculpture, we could say, represents the entire period from 1900 until today, as the Dow Jones industrial average has climbed from 50 to more than 21,000, so it has relevance to long-term buy-and-hold investors.

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