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Time to stand back and reassess

With the market falling off five percent after a thirty-seven percent surge, we ought to be wondering: "What's going on?" For the optimists, this is basically a bull market taking a breather. For pessimists, the rise of the last eight weeks was just another "dead cat bounce" of a market doomed to reflect lower corporate profits --- sooner or later.

Dividends, buy-backs key elements

Some readers tell me they sleep at the end of their driveways on Sunday nights so they don't waste a minute getting to my column early Monday morning. My friend, Mike Doyle, says that if he ever detects a hint of pessimism on my part, he wants to know as soon as possible so he can bail out of the markets and sell short to beat the crowd.

We've been through this before

What a great time to be old. My father just celebrated his 93rd birthday and passed his driver's license test that was required this year. At Florida's senior-friendly DMV, they checked his eyesight, too a fresh picture and told him not to come back until age 99. Of today's 75,000 Americans who are over age 100, one-third of them are still driving.

Murky 401(k) fees siphon savings away

Think about this: You're a 401(k) participant with $100,000 in a combination of funds from a popular financial institution, and you receive an annual bill from that fund company for $800 - 0.8 percent of your account balance.
They ask you to write a check within 30 days. It seems excessive, you think. What are they doing for that much money? In a few more years, with earnings and future contributions, it will be $200,000 and the annual bill looks like it will become $1,600 at that 0.8 percent rate.

Sun filtering through our dark clouds

READING ALL the economic prognostications just makes my head hurt.

Nobody strikes me as being that convincing either way, so it's really an exercise of hedging bets and gripping the arms of my chair as tightly as possible.

My fellow Americans are saving money like it's going out of style. One report showed that we have saved four times more in the first quarter as we saved in the equivalent quarter last year. That's not good for the consumer-based economy, necessarily, but it is a reflection of sanity at some level.

GM's CEO exit pay heart of problem

The news that Rick Wagoner was about to receive $23 million as he leaves his post as General Motors CEO left me sick to my stomach. What have those GM directors been smoking?

As CEO for more than nine years, he has certainly reaped well in excess of $100 million. The company is about to say "no" to thousands of employees who thought that part of their compensation was the promise of health insurance benefits for life. If circumstances force GE into bankruptcy, far more promises will be broken.

Look under hood of your investments

While unfortunate events in our investment portfolios may have prompted some anxiety, the vast majority of us can at least enjoy some smug satisfaction at having avoided a wipe-out from the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. Bernie offers, however, a lesson for all of us. We need to lift the veil of our investment packages (mutual funds, annuities, etc.) to see what they hold as their underlying investments. How can we be sure the money is actually there?

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