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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.

Health care priorities have gone awry
Apr. 21, 2017

A New York Times article detailing Wells Fargo’s “clawback” of former CEO John Stumpf, totaling $70 million of his $300 million in compensation, was certainly noteworthy, but I was more interested in the standard of comparison the article cited.

That was the high-water mark of “clawbacks,” in which United Health Group CEO William W. McGuire had to give back $618 million of his billion-plus bonus. We’re talking about the halcyon days of health insurance when nonprofit insurance companies such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield found a window of opportunity to go private.

The Retirement Equation and results of the 2014 MFS DC Pulse Survey
Apr. 19, 2017

The retirement equation is not only to figure out the lump sum needed at retirement but really an equation to figure out how much is needed on a monthly basis during retirement. The basic equation involves total contributions and investment gains less withdrawals.  The results of the 2014 MFS Funds Distributors, Inc. (MFS) DC Pulse Survey will help plan sponsors identify these areas for plan participants.

Weighing the rewards, and living with the risks of investing
Apr. 14, 2017

A lineup of the five-year returns of the major investment categories illustrates some truisms of investment theory.

We can start with one of the most basic fundamentals of modern portfolio theory, which holds that it isn’t stock picking that determines success, but rather success is predicated on asset categories that happen to be in the right place at the right time. Or in the case of some hapless laggards such as precious metals, success is based on avoiding being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Swimming with sharks in the market’s margins
Apr. 8, 2017

Short selling and stocks purchased on margin can offer what some consider a forward indicator as to what to expect in future stock market returns.

Both terms describe ways that stock investors use OPM (other people’s money) to magnify the value of their winning bets (buying on margin) or to actually make money when the market falls in value (selling short.)

10 Rules for the Retirement Road
Apr. 5, 2017

Financial advisors recommend various strategies for investors to follow as you plan for your retirement. Here are 10 strategies that can help steer you in the right direction for retirement planning.

Consolidating Retirement Plan Assets
Apr. 5, 2017

You may find that you have accumulated a number of workplace retirement accounts over the years. Consider the option of consolidating these assets to help simplify your life. Read more to familiarize yourself with the options available to help you make your decision.

Choosing Beneficiaries for Your Retirement Accounts
Apr. 5, 2017

Selecting beneficiaries as part of your retirement planning process can help contribute to your financial well-being. It can have significant impact on the income tax consequences on whom you designate. Read more to familiarize yourself with the rules for different accounts and type of beneficiaries, as well as options available to you.

401k Plan Choices for Job Changers
Apr. 5, 2017

When you change jobs, for whatever reason, this is the perfect opportunity to reevaluate your long-term financial plan including your retirement. Reviewing your situation at this transitional time can not only help you feel better about your new job, it can also get you refocused on your long-term savings plan. Read more to familiarize yourself with the options that are available to you. As always, consult with your financial planner and tax expert.

A common-sense approach to tax reform
Apr. 1, 2017

How tax reform affects retirement savings is of special interest to me, so I’m reviewing some of the proposals that have been put forth by various legislators since last summer.

What we know from previous tax reform efforts is that the deductibility and favorable treatment of retirement plans was successively undermined by the four tax reform bills enacted during the 1980s. To refresh your memory, they were TEFRA, DEFRA, REA and, finally, TRA in 1986. Sort of like Huey, Louie and Dewey — plus Donald.

Investing for retirement with a DIY mindset can keep fees low
Mar. 24, 2017

My copy of Organic Gardening magazine years ago suggested that the best way to get the outer shells off walnuts was to “spread them out over your driveway and drive your Volvo over them repeatedly.” The idea that subscribers all drove Volvos was just axiomatic. In the same vein, investors inclined to be “do-it-yourselfers,” or DIYs, find themselves beating a path to organizations like Vanguard, TIAA CREF, USAA — the shockingly small number of mutual fund companies whose business models are effectively nonprofit.