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How to choose the right financial adviser

At what point might someone need a financial adviser? It depends largely on what we sense our particular weakness to be. Depending on the amount of money under management, a typical adviser will be charging, on an annual basis, somewhere between one-half to one full percentage point of assets under management, so with 100 percent certainty, we know that this amount of money will be subtracted from managed earnings -- in good years and in bad.

There're no guarantees in stock market

The financial industry is filling the world with a plethora of products that involve guaranteed returns in a variety of shapes and sizes. Starting with annuities that guarantee a monthly lifetime income, there are a number of new inventions that offer protection against falling stock markets -- products that guarantee, for example, that we will "always get back at least what we had invested originally."

Taking a page from my own book

There's a new book available from Amazon and other vendors both in Kindle and hardback form. It's titled "Roadmap to Retirement Security: How to Build and Conserve Retirement Wealth" by Stephen J. Butler. A promotional blurb on the front cover says, "Considering its subject matter, I found your book to be surprisingly pleasant to read."

Random thoughts, Herb Caen style

Herb Caen was a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle for 53 years ending in 1991. He sometimes offered what he called my "thoughts while shaving," which introduced a potpourri of random ideas he considered to be column-worthy.

Today I'll offer an entire column of my own thoughts while shaving as they relate to what is happening in the stock market and the economy in general. And by the way, this August will mark the end of the 16th year that I have been serving as your weekly financial gossip provider. I'm closing in on Herb's record.

Time to rebalance investment portfolio

One New Year's resolution worthy of consideration is an annual rebalancing of investments in our IRAs and other retirement plans. While almost every mutual fund invested in stocks is showing gains for the year, some have done better than others -- some far better, like health care and technology funds up more than 50 percent. Selling portions of some of our relative winners and adding more to the shares of our relative losers is counterintuitive, but we just have to hold our noses and take the plunge.

Keep yourself safe during the new year

"Stuck on stupid" probably best describes me when I left the top down and the keys in my convertible at 7 a.m. on a recent Saturday morning to go for a 20-minute daily run. Running back up the street, I thought I might be suffering from a touch of dementia when I couldn't figure out why the car wasn't where I thought I had left it. This was only a mile from my house on a quiet residential street. It turned out that I had been robbed.

Investment basics can take you far

My holiday "Advice for Kids" column typically offers grist for the mill designed to stimulate a family discussion around saving and managing money. This year, some regular readers over the years may find the usual advice like "stay out of Starbucks and invest the $2 per day" a little tedious. For them, I'll offer the fundamentals that explain how Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg can suddenly be worth close to $15 billion -- and how it could just as well happen to you.

For retirees, stick to tried-and-true strategies

At the five-year anniversary of the Bernie Madoff tragedy, major news publications have published interviews with victims regarding how their lives have been altered, in some cases, by losing everything. It brings us to the question of how much money is enough.

People were attracted to Madoff because of a lack of understanding about what they were trying to accomplish. They talked themselves into taking risks to achieve what they thought was important.

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