Showing posts from March, 2008

Prescription Follies

The other morning, I had a flashback to the days when I used to watch my stepfather line up nine pills in front of him at the breakfast table and proceed to take each one as he drank his orange juice. I remember marveling to myself at how his system was handling that potent cocktail of drugs. But I never gave a thought to how much he must be paying for them, or how he kept it all straight. Last week, I had the worst bout of allergies I’ve ever had, coupled with some gum surgery and what turned out to be the onset of a head cold, all of which led me to my new personal record of five pills at one sitting. And this got me thinking about the economics of the drug industry.

It’s no secret that we baby boomers are heading into our peak drug purchasing years, and I’m sure the big drug companies are very happy with this demographic trend. In the past, I haven’t thought too much about medical and prescription expenses, or about the insurance that pays for them, although I vividly remember …

Alternative Investments You Should Know About – Part 2

As promised last night, I’m back with some more unconventional investment vehicles.

In my nearly 40 years (this June!) in the investment business, I have often been frustrated when I had a strong feeling that a certain commodity was overpriced or underpriced, and there just didn’t seem to be any way to take that position. I could have opened an account with a commodities broker but I was reluctant to do that. So I would either drop the idea or try to find some stock that fairly faithfully moved with the commodity. If the commodity was a metal, for example, I would buy shares in a company that mined that metal. If I liked oil, I would buy an oil company. But it is often difficult to determine which company is the “purest play” for a given commodity. And nothing is more frustrating than being right about a commodity and then “choosing the wrong horse” and having it lag for some reason.

But this frustration has now faded away. In November of 2004, StreetTracks Gold began trading und…

An Alternative Investment You Should Know About

In the superheated stock market of 1998-2000, the Platinum wife would occasionally comment on how I seemed to be spending a lot of time talking clients out of “doing crazy things.” In my clients' defense, I have to admit that it was hard not to get caught up in the "irrational exuberance," as Alan Greenspan put it, of the dotcom boom. But after the bubble burst in March of 2000, everything changed. By 2002 and 2003, the Platinum wife was telling me I should hang out a shingle as a depression counselor. She’s a very perceptive lady.

Stocks have been going up and down ever since there have been stock markets. The problem is that, with the exception of some sophisticated investors who have the stomach for "short selling" or perhaps some sophisticated option strategies, investors pretty much have to try to pick which stocks or which sectors of the market are going to go up, or just give up and buy an index fund. But the good news for them has been that with the …

Sadly, It's Time for a Disclaimer

Every time I blog on an investment topic, I get the nagging feeling that I should have a disclaimer for this blog and the Platinum Years website, As I strive to fulfill the mission of providing financial and life planning "for the rest of us," I obviously have to give opinions that could influence your financial decision making. And although I am in that business, I am not writing in that capacity.

People have told me that my relatively informal style comes across as "advice from a friend," and that's the way I like to think about it. But I have enough work experience as a former officer of a brokerage firm to know that I need to be clear on this point.

I'd love to live in an unregulated, unlawyered world where people just kept their word, didn't try to take advantage of each other, and never tried to blame others for their bad decisions. But alas, this is not the world we live in. And since tomorrow, I'm going to introduce…

Where is My Money? It’s Not So Easy to Answer Anymore

Over the last few days, I’ve been asked the above question three times in different forms. One of my firm’s clients emailed, “Is my money safe?” I know he didn’t mean his investments themselves, as he is a relatively aggressive investor. One of our reps asked about where exactly our securities and cash were “custodied.” And the question was asked most directly, in the form above, by my mother-in-law about an hour ago… “Where is my money?”

One of the things I’ve always envied about my friends who work in the building trades is that at the end of the day, they can step back and say, “I built that.” But for a lot of us, our work is much less tangible than that. What do we really do, after all? In the financial business, we talk on the phone, look at blips on a computer screen, and write things on paper and shuffle them around a lot. So the "where is my money?" question is not that easy to answer.

As I attempted to answer my three questioners, one of my questioners mention…

CD Maturing? Time to Re-Evaluate Your “Sleep Quotient”

I usually listen to the weekend radio "money talk" shows when I’m running errands on a Saturday. Today was no exception, and I couldn’t help but notice that all the callers today had variations of the same question… What can I do about my CD/Bond that just came/is about to come due?

Some, but not all, were retirees who were looking at 40-50% drops in the rates they have become accustomed to earning, but everybody was feeling the pain. Welcome to the downside of economic stimulus, specifically the fine tuning of the economy by Federal Reserve manipulation of short term interest rates.

The financial press has made much of the stimulative effect of the recent Federal Reserve rate cuts, and Wall Street certainly encourages and embraces them. And it’s great that businesses can borrow money cheaper. Right now, it’s probably necessary, too. But there is a down side to this, just as there are two sides to every transaction. In this case, the two sides are the borrowers and the l…

New Link - The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide

New Link - The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide
Whenever things get a little slow, I poke around the internet and the "blogosphere" to see if there's anything worthwhile to report. Tonight, I have a new blog link for you called "The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide." It is written by Rita Robison, a consumer affairs columnist from the West Coast, and although it just started in January (that's even younger than "The Platinum Years Network"), it already has some excellent articles.

And the articles are already neatly categorized for you, something that I've been threatening to do as my list of articles grows and grows. Anyway, check it out. There are lots of consumer tips, and there's something for pretty much any interest. So far, it's very much living up to its mission, "Sharing information to help you get what you want in life." Sounds very much like mine, "Helping You get the Best out of the Rest of Your Life," but…

Carnival of Personal Finance is up ...

... and my article on "The Best Financial Advice I Ever Gave (or Got)" was an Editors Choice this week. Thanks to Lynnae over at for all of her work editing and choosing the 80+ selections this week. It's a special St. Patrick's Day edition with Irish sayings and proverbs sprinkled throughout. I assure you, there's something for every interest.

And for previous carnivals, you can go right to the Carnival of Personal Finance website.

And welcome to all you new readers, almost 200 of you just today... Hint: The subscribe button is right over there -->

:-) Bob

I'm So Shallow... but Maybe We All Are!

Sorry I haven't blogged for a few days. I won't make a habit of dropping out like that.

As I told you Wednesday, I had gum surgery that left me needing some major league pain medication and a pretty limited diet. On top of that, this past week was the worst ever for my hay fever and allergies. So Friday, as I was sitting at my desk watching the market plummet on the news of the Bear Stearns bailout, I was starting to feel pretty depressed and sorry for myself. Just about then, a good friend called and asked me how I was doing.

I'm sure he expected the standard, almost required, answer. But he is a good enough friend that I knew he could handle it if I dumped on him, so I told him my troubles. He listened and then said, "Well I think I can brighten your day."

It turns out that his daughter is doing a high school project and was assigned to interview a number of people over 50 years old about their recollections of the day JFK was assassinated. When my friend…

A Quick Video Trip to the Sixties

I had some surgery on my gums this afternoon. When the doctor offered to call in a prescription for pain medication, I told him not to bother, I doubted that I would need it. A little Motrin would do nicely, thank you. Wisely, he wrote out a prescription for me, "just in case."

Two hours later, I was begging the Platinum wife to run down to the pharmacy for me. So much for bravery... My mouth was throbbing. But now the drugs have kicked in and all is well... except that I doubt I'd make much sense tackling any kind of serious topic tonight ... oh wow, look at all the pretty colors ... groovy.

All of which got me thinking about the sixties and my teen and college years ... how's that for a segué? ... I was recently sent an email link to a flash video by one of my high school friends. I clicked on the link, and for maybe ten minutes, I was transported back in time. Very cool.

There are lots of blogs and websites geared for boomers that obsess on the past, in part…

The Best Personal Finance Tip I Ever Gave (or Got)

This article is a little longer than normal,
but I hope you'll agree that it's worth the time.

Over the years, I’ve taught classes and given seminars in personal finance, budgeting, and similar topics, and I have received more positive feedback about one particular money saving tip than all of my other “imparted wisdom” combined. People still occasionally come up to me and tell me how they have used this method successfully. And I am not exaggerating when I say that in following this one piece of advice, I have personally saved tens of thousands of dollars.

I’m quite sure I have your interest by now, so without further ado, let me give you my "prime directive." (drum roll please) ...

When you feel like you want or need to buy something, put it on a list, but do not buy it right away. When an item has been on the list for a predetermined amount of time, say three or six months, feel free to buy it.How can this simple rule be so effective as a money saver? There are s…

Thanks New Subscribers!

I'm running late today, and working on some corporate taxes (due March 15th!), so I may not be able to properly blog, but I just wanted to thank all of you who subscribed already the this blog.

Your first day subscriptions greatly exceeded my expectations, and are a terrific encouragement to keep at it. I'll remember this the next time I want to let things slide... Actually, it kind of makes me feel guilty that I don't have much for you today. But I'm thinking about a great article for tomorrow, the best personal financial advice I ever gave... or got! :-) Bob

Now You Can Subscribe to The Platinum Years Network!

I know that I have many readers who are very familiar with "the blogosphere," and quite a few of you, friends and relatives mostly, who may have "favorited" this website so that you can check here regularly. To the former group, I apologize for taking so long to provide this service. To the latter, let me explain what it's all about.

The blogosphere is growing so rapidly that it can become cumbersome to manually check all of the blogs you like to "visit." Wouldn't it be nice if there was a way to "aggregate" all of your favorite blogs on one nice neat page? Well there is. The place where your articles will be aggregated is called a newsreader, and all you have to do is "subscribe" to each blog once, and it will "feed" your newsreader every time a new article is published.

I have added a "subscribe" button in the right hand column. If you already have a newsreader, you probably know what to do. I just si…

This Must Be My Lucky Day... I'm a Winner!

Wow, have I been on a run of good luck lately. You wouldn't believe it. In the past 24 hours, opportunity after opportunity has come my way.

It all started when I opened my email this morning. First I saw there was a business opportunity to make BIG MONEY just sitting at my computer filling out surveys. But even though I can make over $100 an hour doing this, I probably won't need to, because a very nice lady from Nigeria who stands to inherit $6.5 million has offered to share it with me if I just act as her agent in the US.

Then later, when I visited a website, a message was flashing that I was their one millionth visitor and all I had to do was click to claim my prize. Imagine beating a million to one odds!

And I have people looking out after me, too. A nice man from Citibank has just informed me that there's been some unusual activity that threatened my account, but if I just click on the handy link he provided, and confirm my account information, he'll take care…

"Are There Risks of Being Too Conservative?"

I have to admit that I feel a little bit like I am attacking motherhood and apple pie in this article, so let me stipulate up front that I do not believe that any investor should take risks beyond their comfort zone, nor do I think that anyone really has a leg up on being able to predict the direction of the stock market… in the short run at least. In the long run, however, I can predict the stock market direction with great confidence … (cue the drum roll, please) … in the long run, the stock market will be … UP.

I can state that because the economy of the United States has been an amazing juggernaut, overcoming every obstacle and impediment in its path … wars, near wars, political upheavals, assassinations, and all kinds of government mischief in the disguise of various taxes and regulations. And in the face of all that, the U.S. stock markets have managed, ON AVERAGE, to gain about 10% per year throughout the 20th century, while bonds and more secure investments tend to average 3-…

Mistakes that Could Cost You a Million

An article on the Motley Fool website (one of our Platinum Web Sites, from February 27th just caught my eye today. The article is entitled, "Mistakes That Could Cost You a Million," which in turn refers to a recent Consumer Reports article that lists several potentially expensive blunders people can make. And two of the mistakes they warn about directly apply to boomers facing retirement.

The first is:

Investing too conservatively during retirement - They looked at a range of 20- and 35-year periods between 1940 and 2006, and found that "an all-stock portfolio provided [a hypothetical investor with $500,000 to invest at age 65] $750,000 more than an all-bond one." You might think that it's risky to invest in stocks during your retirement, but remember that even at age 70, you may well have another 20 years to live and invest, and that the portion of your money that you won't touch for at least five to 10 years may flourish in stocks. You needn…

Six Word Financial Biographies
A Carnival of Personal Finance Highlight

I didn't submit anything to the Carnival of Personal Finance this week, but I checked it, and here is my favorite so far. Madame X over at My Open Wallet has an interesting "contest" going with readers submitting "six word financial biographies" to match some of her originally posted favorites. So far, I like:

Bought high, sold low, smacked forehead.
Expensive toys were my only weakness.
I save, he spends, we're broke
Why won't student loans go away?
I came, I saw, I overspent
Must mend holes in my pockets!
school debt. hate job. can't quit.But they're not all negative. Here are some hopeful ones:

We budgeted, saved, and retired early!
ebay keeps me looking good cheaply.
doing my best to retire early.
Invest wisely now. Live comfortably later.
Dream big. Plan for your future..It's not too late to enter. I couldn't think of one, but I did post a comment:

Loved your article. Linked to it.
:-) Bob

Can't Get No Satisfaction? Try This!

Every once in a while, we all need to step back from our day to day activities and make sure that we've got our priorities straight. It's so easy to get caught up in daily busy-ness and the pursuit of stuff. Two of my recommended books, Chasing Daylight, and Authentic Happiness, are geared to this sort of activity. In fact, when "Platinum wife" Melanie and I first read Chasing Daylight, she even suggested that we re-read it once a year as a "perspective refresher."

Chasing Daylight is the true story of Gene O'Kelly, a high powered executive who contracted a rare disease and was given three months to live. It chronicles how he spent those precious remaining months and what he did that allowed him to say at the end that his "death sentence," that knowing WHEN he would die, was a great blessing.
Authentic Happiness is part of an ongoing project by a University of Pennsylvania psychologist with a goal of determining and encouraging the true sour…