Skip to main content
Home Working together to build your tomorrow

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.

‘Status quo bias’ rules the financial services industry
Oct. 14, 2016

Enlightenment regarding financial products that benefit investors is often ignored for years until the new concept gains enough traction to create a life of its own. Then everyone piles on while wondering, “Why didn’t we think of this earlier?”

Lessons from Othello and Wells Fargo
Oct. 5, 2016

After a recent performance of “Othello,” the audience was invited to say what they thought Shakespeare’s play had to offer today’s society. A teacher sitting next to me offered this supposition: People who “play by the rules” get beaten down by a cynical society that has no compunction against sowing untruths to advance their selfish interests, often destroying lives in the process -- exactly what happened to Othello in this 400-year-old play.

Don’t simply wait for the bubble to burst
Sep. 29, 2016

I couldn’t help but notice the amount of new highway construction I had to wait for on a recent trip to Klamath. Although inconvenienced, I realized that I was benefiting from the “shovel-ready projects” initiative that helped snap us out of the Great Recession.

These infrastructure projects involved borrowed government money, presumably, which made sense as a way to stimulate job creation here at home. They also took advantage of the low prices of petroleum, the main ingredient of blacktop.

Moving beyond astrology to predict the economic future
Sep. 24, 2016

My mind wandered to the ’70s astrology craze recently and brought back memories of sun signs, moon signs, rising signs and all the dogma that described personalities and predicted compatibility among people based on their astrological charts. I was in good company back then, as Nancy Reagan was said to use a famous San Francisco astrologer for advice while she filled her role as the power behind the throne during her husband’s political career.

Making sense of the employment picture
Sep. 15, 2016

Years ago, a Fortune magazine article bemoaned the fact that many assembly line workers in the automobile industry had insufficient reading skills. The literacy level was so low that instructions had to be presented in picture form — like so many comic books.

It was a sad commentary on the decline in the quality of education. Bill Walsh, the 49ers’ head coach at the time, made the point that cutting back on school sports and music programs removed the primary reason many kids stayed in school long enough to graduate.

Plenty of pitfalls awaiting state’s noble savings plan
Sep. 13, 2016

In Great Britain, standard nomenclature for describing retirement plans is to refer to them as pension “schemes.”  The word “scheme” in the British context is in no way derogatory and conveys no sense of skullduggery the way it does in this country.

A new California law intended to increase employees’ voluntary retirement savings sounds good on paper, but the success of the state-run “Secure Choice” program will hinge on practical reality -- or rather, “the devil will be in the details.”

When our government is allergic to intervention, we pay
Aug. 31, 2016

Government intervention has short-term advantages that avert catastrophe, but it can set the stage for future adverse consequences.

For example, the collapse of Long Term Capital Management back in 1998 was averted by efforts on the part of the Federal Reserve to back up a large collection of banks and make it safe for them all to lend into the breech. LTC, a hedge fund, had used a highly leveraged strategy to rack up gains of roughly 20, 40 and then 41 percent before losing $4.6 billion and collapsing — an event that threatened the nation’s financial underpinnings.

Real estate investing is seductive, but beware
Aug. 29, 2016

When I taught skiing at Sugar Bowl in the late 1960s, the director was Alex Brogel, who had been a teenager in Germany during World War II.

Pressed into service as a bulldozer driver who worked to build Hitler's mountain retreat in Berchtesgaden, he had personal interaction with the detail-oriented Fuhrer himself, whom Brogel described as being "actually a pretty nice guy ... just a little crazy."

Candidates differ on where to find money for goals
Aug. 12, 2016

What passes for daytime TV during my vacation is the broadband access to this summer’s political theater. I can’t recall being this riveted to the action since the summer of the Watergate hearings. Setting aside the sheer entertainment, I’m trying to gain a grasp of how these competing factions (whichever one wins) will impact the challenges of those of us still building nest eggs, or already spending them, in retirement.

The Federal Reserve
Aug. 2, 2016

With vacation time hanging heavy on my hands here on Isle au Haut off the coast of Maine, the solitude invited a plunge into the new book by Mohamed A. El-Erian. Mr. El-Erian, was the CEO of PIMCO, the bond trading behemoth, to list just one of his major accomplishments. His book is “The Only Game in Town --- Central Banks, Instability, and Avoiding the Next Collapse.” To this I add, “Oh, my!”

Get Steve's articles delivered to your inbox!

* indicates required