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Don't let market's volatility spook you

Holy cow. It looks like the stock market is going to hell in a hand basket -- again. Fortunately, this is an opportunity for most of us and a problem only for those with a short memory.

First, we have to keep front and center the reality that there is, periodically, a disconnect between the value of stocks and the companies that they represent. For example, with the S&P 500 index off by 17 percent since its high four weeks ago, do we all think for one minute that the actual appraised value of our largest 500 companies suddenly dropped by that much in just a month?

Hard workers deserve safety net

Filling in as a volunteer bartender at my yacht club once every few months has reminded me of what it's like to have a real job away from the comfort of a desk.

A five-hour shift behind a busy bar is a nonstop exercise of mixing drinks, filling pitchers with beer, trying to make a martini, and shoving dishes through the dishwasher. Then there's the computerized cash register, with a mind of its own, offering yet another source of anxiety.

About four hours into this experience, one starts watching the clock.

Create your own fund to track Dow

Is there any such thing as the perfect mutual fund? Or are we all running around like Indiana Jones trying to find the lost Ark of the Covenant?

The perfect "Set It and Forget It" fund would have to be one that rises with the rest of the market, cranks out annual income, protects reasonably well against the downside during a market crash, and charges next to nothing in management fees.

Tax hikes won't cut business hiring

The myth that raising taxes on business owners will cost the country jobs continues to thrive.

Recently, Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., made this claim on National Public Radio. Why? "Because," he said, "95 percent of all small-business owners pay taxes at the individual rate rather than a lower corporate rate."

What he meant was that they file as sole proprietorships, partnerships or Subchapter S corporations. Those owners all pay taxes based on the same rate that the rest of us pay -- a rate, by the way, that is already the lowest it has been since 1969.

Markets not only place to make profitable investments

Ten hours of sleep, according to a test study of the Stanford basketball team, can actually improve foul shot percentages. This proves that sleep is important, although we don't need to go overboard. Pawan Mehra, my erstwhile yoga instructor, used to say that all we really need is four hours. Anything beyond that is spent working out the conflicts in our lives. If we simply resolve all our conflicts, we can just bound out of bed after four hours and get a jump on the day. Imagine how much we could otherwise be accomplishing between 2:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m.

Solar can give you tax-free electricity

This is not a column about solar energy savings. It's about how our financial decisions, all too often, never get beyond the outer layer of the onion. They are viewed through a framework that ignores the big picture.

For example, when Hank Paulson, the former Treasury secretary, was asked by reporters if his kids were going to inherit his reported $500 million, he said, "Why would I want to wreck their lives?" Clearly, Mr. Paulson was thinking beyond the traditional concept of providing his children with a little financial help.

Moving to assisted living a big step for all

Money, and having enough of it, is a challenging aspect of retirement, but far more demanding can be the communication and planning that goes into providing a comfortable retirement for our parents today and ourselves tomorrow.

My own parents are finally in an assisted-living facility that offers a very high level of care and attention. They are 91 and 95 and still in reasonably good health for people that age. However, I am dumbfounded by the amount of attention that they need. And, I'm amazed at what the living facility is able to provide.

CALPERS managers give little bang for buck

I was encouraged to learn that the California Public Employees Retirement System is almost back to its high water mark of $260 billion it reached in 2007.

After losing $70 billion in the crash, it is now within $30 billion of the top. Some of the $40 billion it gained would be attributable to three years' worth of annual contributions -- a total of about $10 billion -- but still that investment gain of $30 billion is nothing to sneeze at.

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