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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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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.

Like Mom’s good fortune in skiing, here’s how Silicon Valley wealth grows
Feb. 22, 2018

My late mother’s single foray into the world of venture capitalism happened in 1957 when she invested $1,500 in a ski area before it had any lifts or trails. It was just an idea of a young 20-something guy who snow camped and tested snow conditions for two winters at what became Killington, a ski area in Vermont which is now the largest in New England. To offer some perspective, $1,500 was about half of what a Ford Country Squire station wagon sold for at the time.

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.

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