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Punitive tax reform for some banks overdue

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said the rich are different. Hemingway added, "Yes. They have more money." This comes to mind as I read about the residents of an exclusive enclave in Montana who are suing Credit Suisse Bank because the bank loaned them too much money.

Then, there's the despicable behavior of Goldman Sachs who was selling mortgage securities short (betting that they would drop in value) while selling them to institutional customers.

Roth IRA conversion not worth the taxes

With all this talk about Roth IRA conversions available to everyone in 2010, I don't see the attraction. It seems so simple to me to understand that if I don't write a big check to pay the taxes a conversion requires, I will have a lot more money, along with compound earnings, to pay whatever taxes I might owe on future distributions.

Plus, I control all the money and I have hedged my bets against what might be changes in tax policy or another market crash over the next 40 years.

Health care reform big leap forward for America

While Congress marches toward health care reform, I'm surprised that I haven't heard two obvious arguments for why passage is so critical.

First, the 40 million uninsured Americans are not the same ones year after year. The average employee changes jobs every seven years, so this means that at any one time, there are 40 million uninsured. However, the number of people who can expect to be part of that 40 million at some point during their lifetime is easily more than 100 million or more.

Never invade your nest egg's principle

What America needs is a simple book spelling out the most productive decisions people need to make as they transition from work to retirement. I've been asked to write such a book, so I thought it would be good practice to see if I could confine the basic ideas to a single column. So, here goes:

Retirement accounts, savings, home equity and Social Security are the only assets and income sources to support a lifestyle for the duration of life.

Bond funds better than fixed-rate annuities

A REPORT in last week's New York Times pointed out that AIG was once again the top-selling provider of fixed-rate annuity products by banks. Backed by the government, AIG now has an unfair advantage over its competitors like New York Life and can generate "teaser rates" that bring in new money.

Banks sell these products to disgruntled customers who are upset at the historically low rates paid on certificates of deposit. Right now, AIG annuities will pay a teaser rate of 5 percent for one year, but longer-term rates are presently at 2.6 percent.

Happiness in retirement not dictated by money

AFTER MEETING one of the authors at a book-signing, I was prompted to read "How Remarkable Women Lead," by Susie Cranston and Joanna Barsh. The book is a collection of interviews with female business leaders we read about in the press. How these women developed the skills needed to get to the top is a great read for anyone, especially a young woman starting out today.

Do not look for trust at major brokerages

The poor Saint Anthony Foundation will have to sue Citibank to get its money back from what was purported to be a money-market fund. I found myself wondering why anyone thinks major financial institutions are worth trusting for advice.

In a sea of some 350,000 Citibank employees, how could any one of them feel any personal responsibility to do the right thing for an organization that just feeds and shelters homeless people.

Investors who exited seek way back in

"The market rises on a wall of worry." For those who bailed out at some point during the downdraft, it's now a "wailing wall."

Those folks have missed the "snapback," and are gnashing their teeth trying to decide when, if ever, to expose themselves to risk again. Current statistics reveal that investors still have 43 percent of their money in fixed income (cash or bonds) and this is after a 62 percent rise in market values since March.

Alternative to 401(k) plans not in your interest

So, there I was last Thursday on WNYC radio, the public broadcasting station of New York City, where I was rebutting the recent Time magazine article that called for "retiring the 401(k)" because of the latter's apparent failure. I can't beat these people off with a stick. On Brian Lehrer's show, I was pitted against Stephen Gandel, the author of the cover article that was riddled with errors and half truths.

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