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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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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.

Despite ups, downs, long-term investing still pays off
Apr. 2, 2018

So-called “bear markets” refer to stock markets that drop at least 20 percent, so conventional wisdom would hold that we currently don’t have to worry about one. The economy is showing steady gains, and the current administration promises that this is just the start of something big. The Institute of Trend Research, with a long history of being generally correct at predicting future market cycles, offers an encouraging overview as reflected by its leading indicator. This shows the U.S. economy’s year-end industrial production rising 2.2 percent over the same previous one-year period.

Selling 401(k)s to millennials needs more razzle dazzle
Mar. 26, 2018

The financial press continues to harp on the fact that millennials are failing to prepare effectively for retirement. Sixty-six percent of those between 21 and 32 have no retirement savings whatsoever. If offered a 401(k) opportunity at work, however, about 94 percent of them are saving something — but not as much as they should be.

10 years after the financial meltdown, the politics of selfishness persists
Mar. 16, 2018

This month marks the 10th anniversary of the financial meltdown. However, a critical turning point took place on a single night at the Capitol when the banking system was within hours of shutting down ATMs across the country.

Consider rebalancing investments before the next ‘black swan’ event
Mar. 12, 2018

With the market managing to slough off events that would, in normal times, trigger substantial downdrafts, it makes sense to pause and wonder how much longer this might continue. If it makes sense to do some fine tuning of an investment allocation, it is best executed in the calming atmosphere of a bull market as opposed to waiting until we appear to be going to hell in a hand basket.

Why the stock market’s good fortune may not be great for society
Mar. 7, 2018

In the back of every investor’s mind is the nagging thought that stock prices can’t keep rising forever. What seems too good to be true usually ends badly.

Not to worry. In January alone, the Dow Jones Industrial Average stock index crossed two milestones of 25,000 and 26,000, marking the 202nd time since the March 9, 2009 bottom that stocks had hit record highs. However, some unusual fundamentals are at work which buoy up prices beyond what we might expect based on historic price-earnings ratios and other forward indicators.

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