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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.

Reading between the lines on housing price boom

The current nationwide boom in housing prices illustrates some important investment fundamentals that have little to do with housing. For one thing, a basic commodity that undergoes a price collapse will exhibit a "snapback" in values with a speed that will take most experts by surprise. It wasn't that long ago when experts were predicting a "second round" of foreclosures that would "dwarf" the original collapse back in 2008. Apparently, that isn't going to happen.

Saving and rolling with a Tesla sedan

Once we disabuse ourselves of the notion that solar roof panels have to "pay us back," they offer one of the best cash-flow investments we can possibly make if we consider the value of the annual after-tax savings in electrical energy costs. The number of solar households increased by 50 percent in 2012, which constitutes a "tipping point" in my book. I contributed to that statistic, but I didn't stop with roof panels. Recently I took delivery of an all-electric Tesla sedan -- a noble experiment for which I had signed up years ago as a leap of faith.

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