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Americans not on track to retire comfortably

"Reality bites!" This choice of words would describe the recent Harris Interactive study of retirement preparedness on the part of most Americans.

According to a recent study commissioned by Wells Fargo, the average American is, at best, about 20 percent of where they should be -- given their age -- on a track to a reasonable retirement financial goal.

In spite of what might be real, this survey indicates that most people -- 58 percent -- are confident that everything will turn out just fine.

Oakland's fire and police pension needs rescued

I was shocked, shocked to learn that Oakland's retirement plan for police and firefighters hired before 1976 was now, according to Mayor Jean Quan, "about half a billion dollars short."

The root of the problem -- actually there are several roots -- stems from the promise, back in 1951, that the retirement benefit would be 68 percent of whatever today's employees are receiving in salary for the same jobs. Right off the bat, that strikes me as being a little imprecise.

Budget cuts aplenty in military spending

Look to the right as you approach Oakland International Airport and you'll see a huge advertisement covering the side of a hangar.

The ad is from a jet engine company attempting to talk some sense with regard to military spending. The ad makes the point that the JSF (Joint Strike Force) fighter plane costs as much as 52 engines of the fighter planes it replaces. The new F-22 Raptors, of which we citizens now have 185, have cost us $356 million each, including development costs.

Health care repealers don't have viable fix

I might feel more sympathetic to calls for repealing health care reform if I had any sense at all as to what was going to replace it.

I certainly don't want to go back to the bad old days of premiums doubling every five years (killing jobs) and millions of uninsured patients walking into emergency rooms and getting what (for them) was free treatment that the rest of us effectively paid for.

Wall Street plays both sides of U.S. politics

Trapped in New York by the sixth worst blizzard in city history gave me time to stew in my own juices after reading Charles Gasperino's "Bought and Paid For -- The Unholy Alliance between Barak Obama and Wall Street."

Watching shoppers stream out of places like Sacks Fifth Avenue left me asking what happened to the recession. Then, I remembered. There really hasn't been a recession on Wall Street. They made as much money in 2009 as they made in 2006 -- courtesy of an American taxpayer bailout. But who let it happen?

Snowbound in NYC turns into quite a trip

NEW YORK CITY -- My holiday ordeal here in the Big Apple explains why retired people are wise to live in southern climates if not the Bay Area.

Trapped by the sixth-worst blizzard in the city's history, we had a real-life experience of a typical disaster movie.

Day one of the return home had us leaving my son's house in Pennsylvania for a three-hour drive to New York's JFK Airport.

Financial advice for younger workers

Young adults, home for the holidays, are my targets for advice at this time of year. Beyond just the usual nostrums regarding taxes and the magic of compound interest, I can tailor this year's advice to the economic climate.

First, there are taxes. The average single young worker in California makes enough so that the last few dollars of income are taxed at least 25 percent. People make the mistake of taking total taxes paid and dividing by total income to estimate their "tax bracket."

Taking risk can give you better return

Making the most out of future stock market investments involves capturing the "risk premium" offered by more volatile stocks. You should consider the mutual funds that invest in them.

The term "risk premium" describes the extra rate of return that the "invisible hand" of economic forces will offer to investors who can handle more sleepless nights as markets crater.

Someone investing entirely in small companies, for instance, can expect to earn 12 percent per year over 30 years as opposed to just 10 percent per year as the average long-term return for the S&P 500.

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