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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.

Successful budgeting is key to success

The story has it that the late Tony Curtis -- an actor and father of Jamie Lee Curtis -- had problems managing his money, so his financial adviser suggested that he keep track of every dime he spent for a thirty-day period. The list at the end of the month read something like this: newspaper 25 cents. Tuna sandwich $2.50, Miscellaneous $3,513.00.

So much for successful budgeting. It's one of the toughest challenges that we face, and arguments about money are supposedly the most common cause of relationship failures.

A matter of opinion on taxes and investments

I'm campaigning to create a Mount Rushmore of sorts above the freeway in Lafayette -- it would depict major figures of the financial services industry. For the moment, however, the only Rushmore-worthy candidates would be John Bogle, the Vanguard Group founder, and Warren Buffett. The list could be longer, but that's it for now.

I hardly have to dwell any further on Bogle except to point out that Vanguard is unique in its ability to deliver services at a small fraction of what the rest of the industry charges for managing money.

Time to take stock of your investments

I've been faulted for being an eternal optimist. What follows should not be construed in any way as pessimistic, but, we're closing in on the year-end -- a time that often prompts us to reflect on investment changes that might bring more rewards in the year ahead.

Those who stayed put and waited patiently for the stock market to return to pre-crash levels can experience smug satisfaction while selling today at pre-crash prices. Moreover, we're all four years closer to retirement, which would normally auger for a more conservative tilt.

Crunching numbers on long-term care insurance

After trying without success to collect what I think is about $10,000 still owed on my late mother's long-term care policy, I finally wrote to the chair of the board of the company that provided it. My question concerns the whereabouts of benefit checks that were processed, but never cashed back in early 2011. All I have asked for, repeatedly since March of this year, have been photocopies of those checks to see where they were deposited -- if cashed at all.

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