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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.

Insulating your investments from the effects of ‘policy risk’
Jan. 28, 2017

In the absence of a “black swan” event — a difficult-to-predict, typically catastrophic occurrence — the stock market is poised to continue a rise that reflects what promises to be lower taxes, less regulation and continued low interest rates, even if the latter rise a moderate degree.

So economic risk appears to be minimal, and this is reflected in the run-up of stock prices since the election. What is not being factored in is something referred to as “policy risk,” which includes the impact of proposals and laws created in recent days by the incoming administration.

Caring enough to provide decent pay
Jan. 21, 2017

Reflecting on both Martin Luther King’s legacy and the complement of caregivers helping with my father in the final years of his life left me thinking about how the diversity of people from all walks of life creates such a powerful unifying force in society. The demographic bubble of baby boomers now heading deeper into retirement will depend on the strength of that unifying force more than ever in the coming years.

Achieving fiscal fitness, one penny at a time
Jan. 11, 2017

When I was hitchhiking home from college 50 years ago, a talkative guy picked me up in a nice, presentable car as he was on his way to service his string of gumball machines. His advice: “There’s money in pennies.”

Will we be able to resist the market’s ‘sugar high’?
Jan. 4, 2017

The story has it that Debbie Reynolds, expressing some adult supervision, told her daughter, Carrie Fisher, that she craved too much immediate gratification. “But immediate gratification takes too long!” Fisher replied.

I worry that a similar sentiment may have become the mindset of many who have experienced the quick 10 percent rise in market values since the election. Fueled by promises, some investors will feel that the next 10 percent boost will be taking too long.

It was a wonderful life
Dec. 28, 2016

Picture a late-night scene with heavy snow falling and 5 inches already on the ground, with not a car in sight at the single four-way intersection in “downtown” Springfield, Vermont. Dad was giving me, age 15, a ride home from a dinner party, and at the top of a very steep hill leading straight down to the center of town, he said, “Son, let me show you how you drive when it’s slippery out. You pump the brake like this.”

Sound investing strategy trumps rosy forecasts
Dec. 22, 2016

About this time every year, investors are yearning to know what the coming year will bring in the way of stock market performance. Wall Street responds to this craving with rosy, positive predictions for obvious reasons — they want to keep existing customers and encourage the flow of new money.

Want to make money? Then stop fooling around
Dec. 16, 2016

A new book, “No One Ever Told Us That — Money and Life” is another winner from John Spooner who, back in 2001, wrote the best-seller “Do You Want to Make Money or Would You Rather Fool Around?” His latest effort is aimed at young people entering the workforce who can use some insight as to how the world works.

The beginner’s guide to taking on the system
Dec. 9, 2016

For years, annual stockholder meetings were enlivened by so-called “gadflies” who seized the microphone and castigated the CEO and selected directors. Caught momentarily like deer in the headlights, these victims would put up with it for just so long and then summon the guards. Better yet, they held the meeting in some godforsaken, out-of-the way location that discouraged attendance.

Benefits of cooperative ownership can’t overcome greed
Dec. 5, 2016

Would society be better served if more businesses could be owned by their customers? A recent New York Times article prompted me to mull this over as I read an account of how some auto insurance companies, owned by their policyholders, pay out a significantly greater portion of their total premium revenue in claims to their customers.

Do we want to revive a lose-lose health care system?
Nov. 23, 2016

Before the Affordable Care Act, the most common cause of personal bankruptcies was the lack of insurance for health-related expenses. When insurance companies could deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, anyone with health problems was uninsurable and facing bankruptcy in the event of an accident or a serious illness.

Hospitals just spread the costs of unpaid bills out over their insured patients, and we all ultimately paid the bill in the form of higher insurance costs. For everybody, it was “lose-lose.”  

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