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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.

Smooth transition into new lifestyle

My recent Florida road trip had, as its primary purpose, the challenge of helping my parents move to assisted living from independent living.

More on that later, but I started the trip by attending a pension industry conference at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach Florida. Parked at the front of this palatial building was a brand new Rolls-Royce convertible which is priced, I found out, at $443,000. Flipping through a local real estate magazine, the houses for sale nearby ranged from $6 to $36 million. I wondered, who are these people?

Fidelity reluctantly offers 'open architecure'

Remember Jim Carrey in that movie, "Dumb and Dumber"? If you're in a 401(K) plan, there's a good chance that it's run by Fidelity -- a company that dominates the industry with 11 million participants.

Some former Fidelity marketing executives shared some inside knowledge with me that might make me feel like Jim Carrey if I happened to be in a Fidelity plan. I know that sounds harsh, but here's a little background:

Reading inflation between bond yields

That Bob Brinker. While some people think the sun rises and sets with his financial advice, I have to take him with a grain of salt. But then I don't know anyone who has consistently been correct on market forecasting.

For example, Brinker completely missed the latest crash. However, his radio show on more than 400 stations is popular with millions who tune in regularly, and his newsletter is full of good advice. If you don't want to tune in, you can read an interpretation of the show by subscribing to the online newsletter by David Korn.

Inside job throws light on Wall Street's dark corners

Every single registered voter in America should be duckwalked into a theater to see "Inside Job," the new documentary on what and who contributed to the collapse of our financial system.

It's one thing to have read articles and books outlining what people knew and when they knew it, but most of what we learned was piecemeal -- death by a thousand cuts. This movie packs it all into a two-hour blast, and the medium becomes the message. The story is compelling and easy to follow thanks to charts, graphs, visual tools and a narrative that reads like a novel.

Reason for optimism in stock markets

Walking through a packed mall, it's hard to believe that ATMs came within 24 hours of shutting down when the banking industry froze up. Or, that the fired manager of bond-trading who destroyed Merrill Lynch had $10,000 in cash taped to the inside of his desk. He obviously was prepared for a scene out of Cormac McCarthy's "The Road."

Critics of the federal bailout program TARP can't appreciate how ugly things might have been if we taxpayers hadn't stepped up to the plate.

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