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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.

Why stock prices rarely reflect companies’ true value
Feb. 16, 2018

With the market finally delivering its long-overdue correction, it’s comforting to recall Warren Buffett’s statement: “Stock prices rarely reflect the true value of companies. When it does happen, it’s an accident.” Say again? What do stocks represent if not the value of the companies we have in our mutual funds and investment portfolios?

After first ‘Black Monday’ of 2018, event-risk cloud looms on the horizon
Feb. 8, 2018

On this year’s first “Black Monday,” I happened to be busy all day and was oblivious to what was happening in the stock market. I had other reasons to bring up my accounts late in the day and was surprised to see that all the stocks or stock-oriented mutual funds had dropped about 5 percent. Whoa! Looking at the bright side, the uniform losses across the collection of my holdings confirmed the fact that any single stock’s performance is a function of what the entire market is doing — the latter being like a tide that raises and lowers all the ships.

Why Vanguard’s mutual funds may get a little more expensive
Feb. 5, 2018

Since its founding in 1974, the Vanguard mutual fund organization has driven the financial services industry nuts. Run as a giant cooperative, effectively owned by its investors, the firm has illustrated how little you actually have to charge in fees to operate a mutual fund.

In what Forbes once described as “the world’s most profitable industry,” the financial services industry sells a product for which no one ever receives a bill or has to write a check. Costs are just automatically deducted from account balances on a daily basis.

Balanced fund investing: Only half the freak out during a stock market slide
Jan. 26, 2018

Any time the stock market reaches all-time highs, the contributing factors are varied and their influences are impossible to measure. What we do know is that American companies for several years now have enjoyed steadily increasing profits, which are finally resulting in lower unemployment figures.

Stagnant growth of incomes, of course, has been a contributing factor to these rising corporate profits, but there are many other fundamentals, like the expected continuation of low interest rates, which make it impossible to credit the highs to any one factor.

How “selling too soon and never buying at the bottom” might actually make sense
Jan. 18, 2018

J.P. Morgan once opined, “I made my money by selling too soon and never buying at the bottom.” Other financial titans from Baron von Rothschild to Bernard Baruch have made similar statements — not to mention (probably) Yogi Berra.

While on its face, the advice may sound counterintuitive compared to the simplistic “buy-low/sell-high” mantra, the investment climate today presents challenging extremes.

A technique exists that can automatically prompt us to sell too soon and not buy at the bottom.

Beefing up your retirement plan might help you avoid a tax-reform hit
Jan. 15, 2018

If they can avoid the stigma of being categorized as exempt, business owners’ treatment of so-called pass-through income offered by the new tax bill creates a yawning window of opportunity to lop 20 percent right off the top of annual income.

Eroding fraud prevention in U.S. government is detrimental
Jan. 8, 2018

Forty years ago, I owned an interest in a local bar that immediately showed indications of getting ripped off by the manager and employees. I hired a moonlighting IRS agent whose day job involved hanging out in restaurants and bars to determine how much cash was not being declared for income tax purposes. After hanging out in my bar for just two nights, he reported that there were five different ways money was being stolen. The bar closed anyway soon after opening when someone got stabbed outside, but that’s not the point.

Advice for young adults on investing for a life of abundance
Dec. 28, 2017

A golden opportunity awaits children who are home for the holidays. Parents can’t help it. Their unsolicited advice just comes flooding out — like a dam has broken. Enter “Steve Butler — Retirement Planner,” whose traditional year-end advice, focused on young adults, just adds grist for the mill. So, listen up.

Money talks: Investors heap pressure onto companies over climate change
Dec. 22, 2017

When science-based reasoning fails to dislodge ideology and orthodox dogma, selfish interests and the exigency of just making money can be what it takes to jolt political intransigence.

2017 brought good tidings for the economy, but what lies ahead?
Dec. 15, 2017

The Disney character Uncle Scrooge McDuck must be happily swimming around in his money bin these days thanks to our economy in its record eighth year of expansion. While there is plenty to be anxious about today, most Americans can at least take some joy in the state of their financial affairs — a condition fundamentally attributable to we citizens having had the resources and leadership to preserve our financial system when it teetered on the brink back in ’08.

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