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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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Could ‘go anywhere’ funds be going nowhere?
Jun. 11, 2018

Like the search for the perpetual motion machine, the money management business never ceases in its effort to invent what could be a perennial winner in both rising and falling markets. Not that long ago, a possible answer was the notion of a “go-anywhere” fund — a mutual fund that would make no pretense of representing a specific investment style (e.g.

Tightwad or spendthrift – question for retirees
Jun. 5, 2018

Anticipating the day when my job income stops and I have to depend on investments and retirement accounts for income is NOT something I’m suited for given my background and temperament. I’m always worried about what can go wrong, and I like to have “back-up.” This came up in a discussion with my wife (a retired licensed therapist) when she caught me reading Bob Rotella’s book “Golf is Not a Game of Perfect” — for the umpteenth time.

The revolving door of investment success
May. 28, 2018

To create some investment excitement, and to help the greeting card industry, let’s designate something called “Losers’ Week.” This would be a week set aside to celebrate the fact that yesterday’s perennial fund losers have finally begun to stir. We may soon be disappointed once again as we enter what is traditionally the “summer doldrums” of a seasonally weakening stock market, but for the moment, we have something to be happy about if we’ve been patiently holding, say, energy, precious metals or China funds — to pick a few examples.

Investment risk and some antidotes
May. 21, 2018

Professional bond investors are canaries in the mine shaft when it comes to predicting long-term future movement in the economy. Unlike economists or pundits, bond traders are playing with real money. Long-term bets on the future of interest rates can move today’s bond values up or down significantly — prices drop if market interest rates rise and prices rise if market interest rates drop — like a rope over a pulley. Added to this is the fact that bond investments are purchased with borrowed money to a greater extent than stocks, and leverage, of course, can work both ways.

The sleep machine of stock market logic
May. 14, 2018

Your Fitbit or similar monitor will illustrate that night after night, your deep sleep lasts for almost exactly the first four hours. That’s the sleep you really need. Time spent tossing and turning after that is important primarily to “work out the conflicts in your life.” Those who have no conflicts, in theory, only need the first four hours of sleep. When those four hours are up, those who are “conflict-free” reportedly bound out of bed and start, well, tweeting in some cases.

Who do stock buybacks leave behind?
May. 7, 2018

A major component of stock market gains in recent years is attributable to stock buybacks. Companies have been using their historically huge hoards of cash to purchase their own shares on the market and retire them. This reduces the total number of outstanding shares representing a company’s value, so the value per share increases. It’s a gift to stockholders in lieu of dividends.

Marriage is just one of those crazy things
May. 1, 2018

Driving to work and tuned to my favorite jazz station, I heard Cole Porter’s song, “Just One of Those Things.” I thought about my 45th wedding anniversary, which was on Saturday, as the song’s lyrics included the stanza, “We’d have been aware that our love affair — was too hot not to cool down …”

No right answer on how to react to economic events
Apr. 23, 2018

Gary Larson, the cartoonist, used to drink eight cups of coffee in the morning and then go hang out at the San Diego Zoo for inspiration. Those of us trying to get a fix on the matrix of influences that can impact our investment decisions would do well to go for a blast of caffeine before trying to make sense of the Rubik’s Cube of current financial events.

Dividends a good choice while the market yo-yos
Apr. 17, 2018

So much news to digest and so little time. We just hold the arms of our chairs in a death grip and wait for the next blast of economic input to smack us upside the head. On the brighter side, the folks at Institute of Trend Research (ITR) have just issued their April report that indicates continuing economic gains through mid-2018 and then a slacking off as the year progresses — with a possible mild recession in 2019. Stock market performance often starts reflecting what the economy is expected to do about a year before those economic events take place.

Retirement plan protections face rollback
Apr. 9, 2018

In 2016, our U.S. Department of Labor stepped up to protect the fortunes of middle America from some segments of the financial services industry that were overcharging for retirement plan advisory services. Since all tax-qualified retirement plans such as 401(k)s and 403(b)s are retirement TRUSTS, they are required to have trustees overseeing the money who, in turn, are deemed “fiduciaries” because they are responsible for choosing financial products on behalf of the plan participants.