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Ideology won't fix Medicare

My summer vacation in Maine was interrupted by the birth of our granddaughter in New York on Aug. 19th. The exhilarating event left me thinking about what kind of a world our little Clio Bogart will be living in over her next 90 years or more. It's interesting to consider what her life will be like if Mitt Romney is elected and begins a Republican dynasty stretching far into the future, as envisioned by supporters.

Gambling on taxes not good business

Spooked by the specter of the year-end tax cuts' demise? Cheer up, because it was once much worse.

The book "L.A. Noir" by John Buntin offers a true story of mobsters and their tax problems coupled with the explosive growth of California during the '50s and '60s. The epic battle between gangster Mickey Cohen and a newly reformed Los Angeles police force involved hit-men who, in those days, murdered with impunity and rarely spent much time in jail because, as law enforcement saw it, "they were just killing each other."

Diversify investments to reduce risks

High-frequency computerized stock trading dominates more than 70 percent of all stock market volume today and is disadvantageous for us "little guys." Rapid trading distorts market pricing when our favorite mutual funds decide to buy or sell a major position in a stock. They are forced to buy higher and sell lower than would otherwise have been the case five or 10 years ago.

'Dark Pools' are a threat to our future

"Dark Pools" is the title of a new book that describes the "flash crash" when the stock market imploded for a day on May 6, 2010. Some may recall that the stock market effectively shut down for the day as stocks like Procter & Gamble dropped from $32 a share to a few cents. For the 100 million of us with 401(k) and IRA accounts, what if the problem had persisted for more than just a day? Who, out there in cyberspace, is messing with our money?

Investing options for the long run

Believe it or not, some people have lost confidence in the stock market, and the recent net outflow from equity mutual funds reflects this collective feeling. Some may be spending or investing their money elsewhere for reasons that make perfect sense, but I suspect that many are simply no longer placated by the historic rewards of taking the "long view." So, what are the options for someone who jettisons their stock funds so they can finally get some sleep at night?

GM retirees' dilemma: Pension of buyout

The former General Motors white-collar employees have been given a choice between a lump sum payout of their retirement account or a guaranteed monthly annuity check for the rest of their lives.

According to recent published accounts, there is much agonizing over which lever to pull. Anxiety caused by analysis-paralysis is being replayed across all of big-company America as the baby boomer bubble moves into retirement. Corporations see this as a way to rid themselves of the loose cannons on their decks -- their underfunded pension plans.

Financial corruption reaches high-water mark

On a motorcycle trip to Puerto Vallarta years ago, we had to have some additional paperwork to get on the overnight ferry from La Paz to Mazatlán. The banks were closed and we tried to argue that we could get the same paperwork when we docked in Mazatlan. Finally, one of my companions did something stupid. He gave the customs official a document that we did have, but with a $50 bill attached. The official handed it back saying, "You're in the wrong country for that." And this was Mexico.

Some health insurance policies can make you sick with worry

The sign on the cement truck's barrel that says "Find a need and fill it" reminds me of a new business arising out of the dysfunctional health insurance/medical services industry. It's the art of determining what bills are correct and knowing when better deals can be negotiated.

Working the system, avoiding overcharges and learning how to shop for the most cost-effective services is something the average layman is simply not equipped to do -- especially when they're sick. Therefore, a cottage industry of consultants or patient advocates is starting to form to meet that need.

Defying the odds and Social Security benefits

For a blast out of the past, I suggest attending your 50th high school reunion as soon as the opportunity arises. My 50th back in Springfield, Vt., last week was a Norman Rockwell scene that included an alumni day parade through a one-stoplight, brick-building town -- a parade complete with marching bands, class floats and a trailer with chairs for my classmates who couldn't have walked two miles. Later, at a dinner party in the evening, we were squinting at each other's name tags and reminiscing.

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