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Category Archives: Longevity

The Link Between Luck And Longevity

I've always been an unlucky investor. I chose Equitable Life to run my first ever personal pension, and you know what happened to them. I bought tech fund star Aberdeen Technology in March 2000, one week before the crash. I bought the banks just before the credit crunch and sold them at the end of December, just before January's rebound.

Every time I commit to a stock or sector, it falls 30% within a week. Unless it falls 40%. If I sell, it rebounds 30%, as the banks just have.

I am a one-man contrarian signal. If you were to short every stock or fund I bought, you would be rich.

Too quick off the mark

I can put most of my other big mistakes down to my own impatience and short-sightedness. I was too quick to snatch at the falling knife of BP after the Deepwater Horizon drilling disaster, for example.

Similarly, I was too quick to load on banking stocks after the financial crisis. BP and Barclays (LSE: BARC.L - news) both still had a long way to drop. Both were instant 40% fallers.

Anti-Midas (NYSE: MDS - news) touch

I was too hasty to dive into AIM-quoted gold producer Vatukoula Gold Mines (Other OTC: VATKF.PK - news) last year, purely on the say-so of a smaller companies fund manager. My failure to spend time watching the stock was punished by an instant 40% drop.

High (Euronext: HCO.NX - news) -street betting company Ladbrokes (Other OTC: LDBKF.PK - news) was another big-time instant loser. As was last summer's attempt to play the rising oil price with the Junior Oils Trust.

And I can barely stand to think about what happened to Axa Property Trust . Another rash decision, another 30% slap in the face.

I have the opposite of the Midas touch. Every time I touch a stock, it turns to lead.

Absolutely Mullered

Yet when I look down my portfolio today, it's not that bad. As BP steadily recovers, my repeated attempts to catch that particular falling knife are beginning to look a little more elegant.

Ladbrokes is now close to breaking even. Vatukoula Gold Mines is heading in the right direction. RBS (LSE: RBS.L - news) (LSE: RBS), the one bank I held onto, is making good most of its rapid 50% loss.

And I've just accepted Muller Dairy's offer to buy my shares in milk producer Robert Wiseman Dairies at 390p, turning my one-time 25% loss into a 25% gain.

So has my luck finally turned? No, I don't think so.

No friend like an old friend

Looking through my portfolio, many of the best performers are my legacy unit trusts. Artemis UK Special Situations is up 122%. Invesco (NYSE: IVZ - news) -Perpetual Income is up 77%.

Two investment trusts, Baring Emerging Europe and Scottish Oriental Smaller Companies , have more than doubled in value. BlackRock Latin American has tripled.

What do all these funds have in common? I've held them for years.

And that's the only thing I've done that has produced consistently successful results since I started investing. Holding on for the long term should generally produce good results in the end, even if the beginning is a bit dodgy.

Time doesn't heal every wounding investment choice, but it does heal a lot of them. That's why I'll be holding onto BP, Vautukoula, RBS and Ladbrokes.

Living it long

Realising this has changed my attitude to future investments. From now on, I'm only buying long-term prospects. 

I'm lining up a balanced portfolio of low-cost trackers and investment trusts, supplemented by steady, dividend-yielding blue-chips, that I can tuck away for a couple of decades.

You see, I've discovered that over six months, I'm an investment disaster scenario on legs. But over five years, and especially over 10 years, I muddle through just fine.

The longer I invest, the luckier I get. So I reckon that over 20 years, at which point I turn 65, I should have a fair amount of good fortune.

Time is on my side. Even if everything else is against me.

> Harvey holds shares or units in BP, Vautukoula, RBS, Ladbrokes, Baring Emerging Europe, Scottish Oriental Smaller Companies, BlackRock Latin American, Artemis UK Special Situations and Invesco-Perpetual Income. The Motley Fool owns shares in Robert Wiseman Dairies.

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The Link Between Luck And Longevity

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Solano County leaders to discuss eliminating longevity pay

A rather contentious issue at times and now up for discussion today by the Solano County Board of Supervisors is the elimination of longevity pay of Solano County employees -- but only for new hires.

At the request of Supervisor Barbara Kondylis, supervisors will consider elimination of longevity pay over a period of time for people who are not currently employed by the county.

"It didn't go very far when I brought it up before," Kondylis said. "It's based on people taking up space, not on performance."

After thinking about it for a long time, she said the board can be convinced to eliminate the longevity pay if it doesn't touch current employees.

In fiscal year 2009-10, the county paid more than $3.1 million in longevity pay. That number jumped to $3.2 million the next fiscal year.

"These costs are not sustainable given the current county structural deficit," staff said in a report.

Kondylis added that since longevity pay is tied into salaries, eliminating the benefit will also reduce retirement costs.

It would be difficult and probably illegal, according to staff, to eliminate longevity pay for those who are currently working for the county due to contracts and other employment agreements.

"Our goal should be to eliminate longevity for new hires in a way that is fair so that, over time, these costs will no longer occur," staff said in a report.

Staff also noted that none of the actions regarding longevity pay are intended to effect

those who are currently employed by Solano County, including elected officials.

The board will consider several options:

* Eliminate the legislative, executive and senior management groups longevity tier and substitute longevity tier that is in place for all other groups of new hires.

* Eliminate the "credit service provision" for all future hires.

* Eliminate longevity pay for all newly elected officials who take office after Jan. 1, 2013.

* Adopt policy that it is the intention of the Solano County Board of Supervisors to eliminate longevity pay in its entirety for new hires.

The Solano County Board of Supervisors meets at 9 a.m. today in the County Administration Center, 675 Texas St., Fairfield.

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Melissa Murphy at

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Service employees union OKs divisive contract

Monday, Feb. 6, 2012 | 12:08 p.m.

By more than 80 percent, Clark County's union of service employees ratified last week a new two-year contract that preserves longevity pay but eliminates merit pay increases over the next two years.

The deal is seen as a win for both the county, which will save $20.4 million over two years, and for the union, which preserved longevity — something county administrators want to eliminate over the long term.

But it has caused dissension in the union, where even longtime supporter Joseph Campbell, a union steward who voted in favor of the contract, has decided to resign.

In emails forwarded to the Sun, Campbell said he didn't believe union members were getting enough information about the true effect of the contract. He wanted to give members more time to be "properly educated." Instead, he wrote, access to the union's email system was blocked.

So Saturday afternoon, Campbell turned in his resignation as a union steward to Al Martinez, president of Service Employees Union Local 1107. Campbell, who was a member of the union's bargaining team, also said he would now seek Martinez's seat during the next election for union president.

"Union Hall mentality is that membership are sheep to be herded to and fro and never to be given complete information," Campbell wrote. "We are subject, in my opinion, to the 'smart' Union bosses at the Hall and 'we' the membership, can never be trusted to make the right decisions based on the facts."

Union spokesman Nick Di Archangel said the union held informational meetings, put out fliers and made robo-calls, all with the intent of educating members about the terms of the contract.

"Our members knew what they were voting for," he said.

The Clark County Commission is expected to vote on the contract at its meeting Tuesday.

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New Study Suggests an Unconventional Approach May Help Boomers Prolong Retirement Savings

SAN DIEGO, CA--(Marketwire -02/06/12)- Brandes Investment Partners today released a new study by the Brandes Institute suggesting ways for investors to improve their financial prospects in retirement, including reducing the risk of outliving their assets ("money death"). The baby boom generation is now moving towards retirement age while longevity estimates suggest that their retirement may last much longer than expected. The study suggests that many of America's baby boomers could increase their retirement assets at advanced ages by maintaining a larger portion of their portfolios in higher-potential investments such as equities (rather than re-allocating prematurely into fixed income) and managing the risk of money death by investing a modest portion of their portfolio in longevity insurance. The study comes on the heels of the U.S. Treasury's plan to make it easier for defined contribution plans and IRAs to offer annuity options.

"Retirees in good health have a risk of outliving their assets regardless of their investment strategy. Our study suggests they may do better by aiming for superior long-term returns in their investment portfolios and dealing with money death risk separately," said Barry Gillman, Research Director, Brandes Institute Advisory Board. "This contradicts the conventional wisdom, which tells people to play it safe when they retire by moving a large portion of their portfolio to bonds.

"One problem with the conventional approach is that about 60% of the money distributed from typical retirement accounts should come from investment returns earned after retirement. Today's historically low yields are just not providing the returns retirees will likely need to sustain them.

"Until now, this approach has not been widely understood or used even by the healthy and wealthy individual investors who stand to benefit from it most. With the Treasury's new initiative to tear down some of the barriers to investing retirement savings in annuities, this could also become a practical solution for many participants with 401(k) and IRA savings."

The study cites evidence generated by the Brandes Retirement Simulator, a proprietary online model that projects a range of long-term asset outcomes based on an individual's personal finances and expected lifespan, as well as portfolio allocations and investment assumptions, and the use of longevity insurance. The full study is available on the firm's website at Access to the Brandes Retirement Simulator will soon be available on the firm's website at no cost to retirees and advisors who can customize the inputs and integrate it into their retirement planning.

About Brandes

Brandes Investment Partners is a global investment advisory firm based in San Diego and along with its affiliates, manages more than $32 billion of assets as of December 31, 2011, for institutional and private clients worldwide. Since its inception in 1974, Brandes has applied the value investing approach to security selection pioneered by Benjamin Graham. Among the first investment firms to bring a global perspective to value investing, Brandes manages a variety of investment strategies.

Brandes Investment Partners, L.P. is a U.S. registered investment adviser. Brandes does not sell or endorse any insurance policy. More information can be found at

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Healthiest Chocolate Comes in Small Packages

Chocolate Pieces

A little goes a long way (Sharon Basaraba ©)

Attention all chocolate lovers (and that's a club with a lot of members): when it comes to choosing which chocolate is the healthiest, quantity, and frequency, may be more important than quality.  A couple of fairly recent research reviews looking at the effect of chocolate consumption and cardiovascular disease, analysed how often, and how much, chocolate people ate, without distinguishing between milk or dark chocolate.  For example, in a British Medical Journal review of seven studies involving about 114,000 subjects, University of Cambridge researchers concluded those who ate chocolate more than twice a week had a 37 per cent lower chance of developing heart disease, and a 29 per cent lower risk of stroke - whether they ate their chocolate dark, in drinks, baking or as nutritional supplements.


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Study of Alzheimer's-related protein in healthy adults may shed light on earliest signs of disease

The findings, published in the February 1, 2012 online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, mark a crucial step toward being able to predict who may be at risk for developing Alzheimer's disease long before symptoms appear.

Relatively few studies have looked at levels of beta-amyloid in healthy living adults, as until recently, beta-amyloid levels could only be measured at autopsy. Few, if any, studies have looked at beta-amyloid levels in middle-aged and younger adults. Many investigators now believe that the beginning stages of Alzheimer's disease can precede symptoms of dementia by a decade or more, so data on middle-aged adults is critically important to understanding the transition from a healthy brain to a diseased brain.

In the new study, researchers measured levels of beta-amyloid protein in the brains of 137 cognitively healthy adults between the ages of 30 and 89 using an amyloid imaging agent. The researchers found that beta-amyloid levels increased with age across the entire age span and that about 20% of adults aged 60 and older had particularly high levels of beta-amyloid.

"We found that this high-amyloid group showed deficits in cognitive performance even though the individuals were well educated and scored normally on our standard tests of cognition," said Dr. Karen Rodrigue, a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Vital Longevity and lead author of the study. On tests of processing speed, working memory, and reasoning ability—three major aspects of cognition—higher levels of beta-amyloid correlated with lower test scores.

That beta-amyloid burden has detectable effects on cognitive function even in adults with apparently good cognitive health underscores the need to better understand the recently proposed preclinical phase of Alzheimer's disease, which suggests that beta-amyloid deposits in healthy adults do not exert a strong effect on cognition for some time.

"Our findings suggest that subtle effects on cognition occur early," said principal investigator Dr. Denise Park, co-director of the Center for Vital Longevity and Distinguished University Chair in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences at UT Dallas. "These are important findings because imaging patients when they first show signs of very mild cognitive impairment could be essential to determining their risk of future disease."

Long-term follow-up studies led by Dr. Park as part of the Dallas Lifespan Brain Study, one of the nation's largest projects examining neural and cognitive aging across the entire adult lifespan, are already underway to help researchers determine whether high beta-amyloid burden in healthy people necessarily predetermines occurrence of Alzheimer's disease later in life.

"Knowing this information will help us determine at what stage potential interventions, once available, may be most critical and most effective," said Park. Many researchers believe that interventions to slow or halt the progression of Alzheimer's will be most effective during middle age, before irreparable damage to the brain is done. "Just as many adults take aspirin to lower their risk of heart disease or stroke, one day we may be able to help protect our brains and cognitive health by starting a treatment in our 40s or 50s," Park said.

Another of the study's interesting findings was that some people well into their 60s, 70s, and even 80s, had beta-amyloid levels as low or lower than people at middle age or younger.

"Another avenue of our future work will be to investigate what factors enable these individuals to maintain cognitive health well into old age, whether they be genetic factors, lifestyle factors, or environmental issues," said Park.

"Understanding how the brain and mind stay healthy and vital over the long term will help guide our efforts to delay or even prevent the devastation caused by diseases like Alzheimer's."

Provided by University of Texas at Dallas (news : web)

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