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Our CEO and Founder, Stephen Butler, writes columns and articles on the subject of retirement planning and investing.  His columns are syndicated in most of the San Francisco Bay Area newspapers.  Subject matter includes basic investment concepts and how they should be applied in the context of current financial and world events.  Over the past 16 years, more than 800 of his weekly columns have generated a loyal following among Northern California readers who benefit from his objective, insightful advice --- a counterpoint to the flood of self-serving advertising from the financial services industry.

 

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With Market Near a Record, Bond Funds Deserve a Look
May. 22, 2019

A few weeks ago, the U.S. stock market hit an all-time high which marked a quick recovery from the correction we experienced at the end of last year.  So now what do we do?  Those bulging quarterly statements are burning holes in our pockets.  Enough of us were around to experience what happened at the end of the 90’s and again in 2007 when the market was exhibiting similar levels of hubris.  The value of recognizing yet another high-water mark is that it should prompt some reflection on our current good fortune.

Our Country Viewed from Afar
Jan. 4, 2019

A recent trip to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos left me in awe of the stunning display of economic progress in that part of the world.  Driving in to Ho Chi Min City from the airport offered a testimonial to the success they are achieving as they move toward a free-market economy.  A string of automobile dealerships included those of Rolls Royce, Aston Martin, Jaguar, BMW, Mercedes --- and a complement of other major brands.  Our guide pointed out that changes happened overnight in 1995 when President Clinton lifted the sanctions that had persisted for the tw

Tech and small cap funds were ‘too hot not to cool down’
Oct. 22, 2018

Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things” describes market performance in recent weeks with lyrics such as, “If we’d thought a bit about the end of it, when we started painting the town, we’d have been aware that our love affair, was too hot not to cool down…”  which brings us to a collection of tech funds and small cap funds that gained from 25 to 35 percent over the past 12 months — until last week. Too hot not to cool down, in other words.

Youth Crusade Promises to be a Powerful Force for Change
Oct. 16, 2018

Back in early 2013, I wrote a column about gun-related health care costs for which society gets stuck with the bill.

Avoid being poor, strive to be rich in single retirement account
Oct. 1, 2018

The famous dialogue between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Earnest Hemingway is subject to much nitpicking as to who said what, but supposedly Scott said, “the rich are different from us…” and Hemingway replied “Yes. They have money.”  So to paraphrase, we might say, “those with more than an adequate sized retirement account are different. They have money.”

Is the punchbowl half empty or half full?
Sep. 17, 2018

I don’t know about you, but I tend to worry about things that probably wouldn’t faze the average person.  Worrying is a habit that I’ve had for as long as I can remember, but the practice, for the most part, has worked.  Nothing catastrophic has happened.  So how does someone with this mindset come to terms with a 9½-year stock market expansion marking the longest in history. With market cycles typically lasting from four to seven years, I could have started worrying about five years ago — and for sure starting two years ago.

Factor taxes when making Social Security decisions
Sep. 10, 2018

Every time I take further interest in Social Security, I learn something I didn’t know; it’s like the layers of an onion. In the 19 years of writing this column, I’ve written about different aspects of the program 13 times — everything from the quality of government bonds that fund it to different strategies for getting the most out of what we have contributed over the years.

Lobsters and their coming battle with climate change
Aug. 28, 2018

During my annual vacation in Maine, I read Christopher White’s new book, “The Last Lobster,” which describes the phenomenal boom in the lobster catch since the early 1990s — more than six times greater production over a 20-year period.

Health care investment may offset rising premiums
Aug. 6, 2018

A typical health sciences mutual fund currently shows its 10-year average annual return to be more than 17 percent. By comparison, the S&P 500 stock index generated 10 percent for the same period.

What is it about a single industry segment that allows it to generate sustained profit through such a long period?

Meet an unsung hero of the investment world
Jul. 30, 2018

Anyone needing to be convinced that index funds tend to outperform actively managed mutual funds needs to look no further than the Hulbert Financial Digest. In 1980, Mark Hulbert conceived the idea of ranking investment newsletters to help investors determine which of the solicitations cluttering up their mailboxes were worth anything.

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