Tag Archives: education

How are your New Year’s Resolutions going?

18 Feb

Was budgeting one of the resolutions? Did you swear that in 2015, you’d begin to get a handle on spending?  Folks, rich people and poor all struggle with this aspect.  It is difficult for so many Americans, regardless of their relative wealth.

If this sounds like you, Check out these easy ways to save money on household expenses, broken down by room: http://aol.it/1qaW9Qs

If you’d like more one on one help, we’re here for you. Just give us a call!


What Goes Up, Must Come Down.

5 Feb

But is the opposite true, then? What comes down must go up? Do you wonder if rates will rise soon? Or how that even happens? Or what the outcomes might be?

This blog linked here is an interesting perspective from Forbes magazine writer Tim Worstall.

For anyone interested in the more technical side of economics, this is a good read and a very interesting proposal. The author asks “Will the Fed raise interest rates before they reverse QE? Or will they run down their balance sheet as a method of raising interest rates first?”

I’m for the prior over the latter but would love you thoughts.

Where are the Leaders?

2 Feb

Not sure who said this but it applies very well across the globe today. “Leadership involves remembering past mistakes, an analysis of today’s achievements, and a well-grounded imagination in visualizing the problems of the future.”

Whether divisiveness in Europe, the Middle East or here at home what is needed is leadership.  We seem to be very good at recalling the mistakes and trying to place blame. But our current world leaders have no skill in analysis of today nor any imagination for a better future.

You know where else we lack leadership in this world? People’s money and savings. Whether it is a poorly constructed 401(k) at work or Wall Street’s continual refusal to do what is right by the American public due to their out-sized need for egregious profits, the industry of financial advice lacks solid leadership.

The quasi-regulators at the SEC and FINRA would rather focus on making sure this blog is written in an ‘approved’ manner than catch crooks like Clay Stephens or Bernie Madoff before they destroy the finances of so many. Why are they focused on the wrong places, time and again?

Advisers in Sonoma County and all over the country continue to legally sell awful equity indexed annuities, garbage private or ‘alternative’ investments, stuff people into insurance policies they don’t need and worse.  All because the regulators in power refuse to stiffen their backs to heavy industry lobbying.

Individuals far and wide continue to bank at major Wall Street corporations, continue to invest on the advice of major Wall Street corporations and continue to get fleeced by both.  Why? Why do folks do things against their self-interest?

Out here, in our humble Santa Rosa outpost, we keep swinging at the windmills.  We keep urging people to take responsibility with their money.  To find a financial adviser who is independent of Wall Street, someone they can trust will put the client’s interests before the advisor’s.

So, I commend you reading this. Many of you are our clients.  You’ve placed your trust in a firm that respects and appreciates you rather than sees you as an easy mark, a dollar sign, a chump. You are ‘shopping locally’ when you engage our firm.  You are telling Wall Street you’ve had enough. You are telling your government there is a better way to regulate the securities world. Thank you!

Share this with your friends. See if they are fed up with the misdirection, the half-truths, and the obvious skullduggery of the big guys on Wall Street.  Let’s go have coffee with someone you know who might be tired of all this.  Let’s keep swinging at windmills and see how many we can take down!

Rental Car Insurance: Are You Covered?

25 Aug

We get asked a lot – should I buy the rental company insurance? Here are some good thoughts on what might work best for you when renting a car.

I drove down to Los Angeles to visit clients a few months ago.  I chose to pay for the company’s damage waiver at $13 per day.  Someone next to me snickered.  “Sucker,” he said.  “They just sell that so they make more on the rental, you’re already covered!”

I didn’t feel like informing the good-intentioned but rude jackass that my deductible with my personal policy is $1,000. Renting the car for three days meant a $39 insurance bill.  If anything happened to the car, I’m out only that $39.

As my luck had it, the plastic grill of the car I rented was crushed by a person in LA who felt no moral obligation to let me know they had wrecked the front end of the car when they had tried to parallel park in front of it.

Had I relied on my insurance, it would have cost $1,000 to cover the deductible.  Had I paid out of pocket, it was likely $500 in damages or more.  I paid $39 and, unless my insurance company reads my blog, my premiums won’t go up for making a claim and I won’t lose any safe driver credits.

In most cases, your personal policy will extend to a rental car. Just be sure to call your carrier to confirm what your policy covers (e.g., damage, theft, liability). Be sure you understand your deductible.  Is it more than the daily damage waiver?

Is insurance coverage through your credit card an option?

You may also get some form of rental car coverage through your credit card. American Express, Discover, MasterCard, and Visa all provide car rental insurance options to members for free, as long as you charge the rental to your card. If you choose to rely on insurance from your credit card, call your company first to find out exactly what kind of coverage it provides.

When using your card for rental car insurance, keep these pointers in mind: 

  • Charge it. To get coverage, you’ll need to charge the whole rental fee to your credit card and decline any extra coverage the car rental company offers.
  • Choose the right vehicle. Trucks, off-road vehicles, and expensive, exotic, or antique cars generally aren’t covered. Other exceptions may apply, so be sure to check with your credit card company.
  • Be aware of time limits and other restrictions. Find out if there’s a cap on how long your credit card covers your rental car. Coverage may not be available in some countries, so check the company’s policy if you’re traveling abroad.


What kind of coverage does the rental company offer?

Typically, I’ll use the company’s coverage.  But you want to know what you’re buying when purchasing coverage through the car rental company. There are usually four main choices:

  • A damage waiver transfers financial responsibility from you to the car rental company in case of damage or theft.
  • Supplemental liability insurance protects you against claims that exceed your regular policy limits.
  • Personal effects coverage protects personal property that’s damaged or stolen from a rental car. (Your existing homeowners insurance policy may also cover these items.)
  • Personal accident insurance covers any injuries you or your passengers sustain. (Personal injury protection on your regular auto policy will also cover the rental.)

Read the Small Print of the Contract! 

Finding a balance between the cost of coverage and what you get for that price point is key to evaluating your options.

Don’t wait until you’re at the rental counter to start considering your insurance options. Call your insurance and credit card companies to find out if you’re already covered or if you should purchase insurance through the car rental company.

A little preliminary research will help ensure a smooth start to your trip—and possibly free up some funds in your vacation budget. Safe travels!

© 2014 Commonwealth Financial Network®

An Expert’s Opinion on the Markets

7 Aug

Yesterday, I mentioned how I went to Boston last week.  But I didn’t have time to share with you that one of the sessions I sat in for was about the current state of affairs in global markets.

Brad McMillan is the chief investment officer at Commonwealth.  His insight is one I truly value and when he speaks, I listen.  Brad got into a talk about where markets and the economy stand today.

His talk was a tale of two worlds. Wall Street vs. Main Street.   What Brad was saying is, in his opinion, Main Street is doing pretty well and we might want to be cautious about Wall Street right now. Check out his blog, it is well worth the time.

For more on his insight, check out the link above.  If you have any questions, please call me. I’d be happy to talk over the points in the article as well as anything else on your mind regarding the financial world.


Math is COOL!

30 May

YES it IS! I know you said “Nu uh!” But it is! It is very cool.  I just wish more people who understood math were…um…more cool?  Because then they’d think up more cool ways to explain how cool math is!

Like this guy! Check out this video!

So, if the 6th grade algebra teacher had taught things with cool tricks, how much more would you have paid attention?

Have a great weekend!

Want to Throw Up in Your Mouth a Little Bit? Read this…

28 May

Some of the stuff I talk about here is from my own reading. But we often get input and links from clients. Much of it very good. I thought I’d share this very irritating little piece of reporting on Hedge Funds and Private Equity companies and all the many fees they charge.

It is so frustrating to me that there is no capacity at all withr the folks managing these companies to see how negatively they impact everything. Yes, everything.  You see, when they take their unearned and certainly undeserved fees, they take it from you and me. From the folks who start new companies. From those company employees. From the folks who buy that company’s goods and services. They take money out of the pockets of teachers and other public workers because the fees lower the amount of money in the pensions that invest with these jerks. They rapaciously steal money from all Americans and think they deserve and should be allowed to do so unfettered and, get this, untaxed!

Money disappears the community at large and sinks into the ever growing bank accounts of these scum bags.  And guess what, not only do these craven and morally bereft jackalopes pay themselves ungodly fees they never earned, they also DO NOT PAY INCOME TAXES on most of those fees.  That means, that after they are done sucking more money out of the economy than a Dyson on steroids, they pay very little taxes on that money which further depletes our economy.

Guess who (besides the guys I’m running out of good names to call that run the funds) doesn’t want this behavior stop? Guess who believes this sort of activity is American and good for us all?  Your Republican and Democratic Senators and Congresspeople. Seems politicians are the only place these fund managers feel good ‘giving a little piece of the pie.’  An enormous, $3trillion pie it is!

Thanks Pat Britton for sending this to me. Now, excuse me while I go vomit.

Como Se Dice?

21 May

As I prepare for my two week visit to Brazil, I’ve been studying Brazilian Portuguese for 15-20 minutes each day.  Sarah is pretty tired of hearing me repeat “Onge fica o hotel?” Where is the hotel? But you know what, it is working? I have a bit of an aptitude for languages, to be sure. But I do feel this method I’m employing (Pimsleur Language Learning) is very effective. When I arrive in Fortaleza in three weeks, I’ll be able to make short conversation after only two months of study.


It proves a point made in this article from Forbes. That memorizing verbs and vocabulary are really not the most efficient means of learning a language.  Rosetta Stone figured this out years ago. So has Pimsleur, the software I’m using. If only they had told my old French profs at Sonoma State.  I’ll never forget Madame Fallandy hewing to old-fashioned teaching methods.  It seemed to me the only thing missing was for her to beat my knuckles with a ruler! She’d have loved that, I think.

But she beat my brains in to memorize the subjunctive tense and use it correctly.  20 years later, I still cannot effectively use that tense in French, or English, really.  But because of my many months of living in France, immersed in the language, I’m still quite fluent conversationally. Sure, I mismatch noun genders and verb tenses.  But the French understand me. “Je me debrouille” the French might say. I get along well in French.

And isn’t that the point of learning another language? To get along? To find understanding? So why do we focus on verb tenses and conjugations we’d only ever use 1% of the time?  It turns out, if you master about 200 words and sayings, you can pretty much make it through any language pretty well.  Because most languages lean heavily on the usage of a limited amount of words.

It is only in writing or reading that your other vocabulary and verbs come into play.  But think of your own day to day conversations.  More than 80% of what you say on a daily basis is a combination of questions and answers and thought words you use all the time.

Hope our Middle schools and High Schools will learn from this. It would help America in so many ways to be more open to Spanish and Mandarin.  In the long run, it will certainly be difficult for us to continue down this monolinguistic path.


How Can You Be Happy?

15 May
Ever heard of an Englishman named Stephen Fry?  He’s absolutely hilarious. But he’s also incredibly intelligent.  He lends his voice here to the philosophy of Humanism.  I have to admit, I loved this three minute video. I suppose it may be offensive to some who have deep faith or belief in their own religion of choice.  That is not why I’m sharing this, to offend anyone. I just liked the thoughts shared.
It does seem to me the meaning of religions often get confused and even more often, are found in the middle of our global conflicts.  Perhaps these humanistic ideas are worth considering. He’s a fascinating, brilliant man, Stephan Fry.  But his points of view do challenge the status quo. So, if you find yourself easily offended, skip this blog.

401K Plan Trustee – Do You Know What You’re Paying For?

8 May

If you aren’t the contact or trustee of a 401(k) plan in Santa Rosa or Sonoma County, I’ll do you a small favor…go ahead and skip my blog today. Today’s blog is really only for people who are in charge of their company’s 401(k).

You might be aware, now that it has been going on a few years, that the US Department of Labor (DOL) requires plan service providers to disclose fees these days.  We call this ERISA 408(b)(2) and this disclosure is apparently a real focus for DOL auditors.

So, are you doing this right? Are you finding out if there are conflicts of interests? Are you sure what these fees are paying for and if the fees are reasonable? Are you sure the disclosures are proper? Are they easy for your employee participants to understand?

The DOL is finding that small companies are generally not getting this done right. That the disclosures are not concise and clear.  The DOL is finding that small company trustees are having trouble with this new aspect of the law. In many cases, they are violating their fiduciary responsibility to assess whether their plan is disclosing relevant information and determine if the plan fees and expenses are reasonable.

Ask yourself, when is the last time you had a plan cost comparison done for your company plan? If it has happened, it would be in your investment committee meeting notes. What? You don’t have an investment committee?

You need to call us!

For more on this topic, click here

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