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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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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.

A quest for the computerized investment tool
Jul. 24, 2018

The Holy Grail of mutual fund investing back in the ’70s and ’80s was the concept of a computerized “black box” that would move money in and out of mutual funds in anticipation of future market moves. It was a search for anything that could time the markets. With most people being “newbies” to the practice of investing in mutual funds, this had an obvious attraction.

Tips for avoiding cognitive dissonance
Jul. 16, 2018

A police officer once told me that most crimes are solved because the criminal mind, as he put it, was “stuck on stupid.” At Stanford back in the late ’50s, Leon Festinger developed theories and tests to define and measure something called “cognitive dissonance” — academia’s attempt to elevate stupidity to something warranting serious research.

Focus on the goal and the investments will fall into place
Jul. 9, 2018

Professional golfers within 150 yards of the green focus only on the target (the flag stick) and forget any and all of the 21 so-called “swing thoughts” that come into play to create the perfect shots we see on television. In the same vein, mastering the mental challenge of investing by focusing on a goal is more important than understanding all the qualities and uses of various investment products. Gaining a clear picture of an investment goal is a first step, and what follows is a march to achievement that may, or may not, take place with certainty.

The time for tariffs may come and go
Jul. 2, 2018

So, a participant in one of our 401(k) plans with more than $1 million in her account called me in a panic to ask if she should roll all of her money into a money market fund. She was rattled by the consequences of the trade war that is now underway. From what she had been hearing, it sounded like the world was going to hell in a hand basket. This is true of any perceived threat to market resilience.

The afterglow of giving burns brighter with a tax deduction
Jun. 25, 2018

The new tax law changes the dynamic for charitable giving, as many people’s altruistic efforts will not receive the same level of government encouragement — meaning, of course, that the tax deduction for some is not what it used to be. Studies show that this doesn’t matter as much as we might think, but it is still a factor for contributions beyond what just the warm glow of giving would have prompted. A short overview of some of the basic giving vehicles may offer a starting point for those wondering how their past giving patterns may be affected.

Is the China syndrome worth the risk?
Jun. 18, 2018

With China in the news on so many fronts, I was prompted to check out some of the mutual funds that are categorized as “China funds.” Whoa! Some have gained almost 40 percent during the past 12 months. It’s clearly an economy that is growing faster than ours, and we sell a lot of products to them — starting with cars whereby General Motors sells more in that country than it sells domestically.