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Weighing the risk factor in mutual funds

The ever-inventive securities industry has managed to package yet another type of loan into an investment product for small investors. Banks often make loans to large corporations and then syndicate them -- split them up -- and spread them out to other banks and investors to spread the risk. Recently, there have been a number of mutual funds formed to invest in these syndicated packages.

Time for a history lesson on business cycles

In the wake of a stunning increase in stock market values, this would be a good time to revisit our understanding of business cycles. The Foundation for the Study of Cycles was established in 1941 in an attempt to understand and predict future events in the economy as well as in the stock market.

Today, the foundation keeps track of more than 1,200 cyclical events covering everything from biology to the weather. They are the "go-to" organization for cycle information, with some studies that go back as far as the 1400s.

Taking the plunge without hesitation

Anyone gnashing their teeth because they never got back into what has become a roaring stock market may still have a chance. While the market may have reached all-time highs, I'm like, "Wait. There's more!"

The basis for my chronic optimism this time around starts with the enormous profitability of America's largest companies. Fortune magazine reports that its list of the top 500 largest firms earned $820 billion in 2012, near the all-time record set in 2011. Fifty-three billion dollars of that number was in technology, which bodes well for the Bay Area.

Sobering facts on drinking and driving

My new "breathalyzer" measuring the alcohol content in my blood stream has been instructive over the past few months as I have been conducting experiments on my metabolism. What prompted me to pop for $60 on this drugstore gadget was the story of the San Francisco socialite who had had two glasses of wine with dinner. Then, as bad luck would have it, she was stopped in one of those random checkpoints. The police impounded her car and she spent the night in jail.

Abuse of disability program is rampant

Forty-five years ago, I used to sell disability income insurance, and the sales pitch at the time was that you received benefits from the insurance company if it was determined that you could not perform "each and every duty of your regular occupation." In those days, we used to point out that Social Security, by comparison, also had a disability benefit available, but if you could perform "any occupation -- like selling pencils on the sidewalk" you wouldn't receive a dime from the Social Security Administration.

Letting the cat out of the economic hat

The late Ted Geisel, author of the Dr. Suess books, was the subject of a recent conference at the New York Law School. As reported in the New Yorker, the purpose was to explore the similarity between Geisel's books and the current impasse in Washington. He uses implausible facts to create a plausible world. Geisel created unlikely circumstances and improbable characters that were knitted together in a story that had a message.

A healthy lifestyle can add years to your life

Recently, a study receiving wide circulation indicated that a satisfying marriage or relationship, on a scale of happiness, was equivalent to an additional $100,000 of annual income. I found myself wondering if the same study also included some dollar value for having good health. For retirees, nothing could be more valuable in dollars than avoiding serious health problems.

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