Mon01262015

Schools

MVLA revisits prospect of ninth-grade PE exemptions

MVLA revisits prospect of ninth-grade PE exemptions


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District Board of Trustees is scheduled to vote on a proposal to exempt ninth-grade student-athletes from taking PE. Students take part in a physical education class at Mount...

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Community

Midnight Express offers late-night rides from SF

Midnight Express offers late-night rides from SF


From Midnight Express Instagram
A group of millennial-aged Santas celebrating a night on the town prepare for a safe ride from San Francisco to their South Bay homes, courtesy of Cory Althoff’s new Midnight Express shuttle.

It’s no understatemen...

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Comment

More open than ever: Editorial

One of the Los Altos City Council’s objectives for 2015 is implementing an open-government policy. The title of the policy may be somewhat misleading, because it’s not as if the city has had a closed-government policy. But the new proposal goes beyon...

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Business

Cassidy Turley, DTZ plan to combine

Cassidy Turley, DTZ plan to combine


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Cassidy Turley, which has offices at 339 S. San Antonio Road, is combining with DTZ following its recent acquisition.

Commercial real estate services companies DTZ and Cassidy Turley have joined forces to operate as a sin...

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Books

Gawande's

Gawande's "Being Mortal" proves an important book on aging


Books about death and dying are usually not on my list of “must reads.”

I couldn’t resist, however, the best-selling “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End” (Metropolitan Books, 2014) by Atul Gawande.

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People

JUDY HOFFMANN

JUDY HOFFMANN

Judy Hoffmann passed away unexpectedly October 17, 2014 in New York City. It was only fitting Judy would be traveling and enjoying special adventures in so many different places until the very end.

Judy has lived since 1969 in Los Altos with her h...

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Travel

Cuban photographer slated to appear at Foothill

Cuban photographer slated to appear at Foothill


Courtesy of Raúl Cañibano
Cuban photographer Raúl Cañibano is set to appear at Foothill College tonight. His work – including the image “Series: Guajira’s Land, Viñales, 2007,” right – is on display at the KCI Gallery t...

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Stepping Out

TheatreWorks launches '2 Pianos' in Mtn. View

TheatreWorks launches '2 Pianos' in Mtn. View


Suellen Fitzsimmons/Special to the Town Crier
Christopher Tocco stars in TheatreWorks’ “2 Pianos 4 Hands,” which opened last week.

TheatreWorks’ production of “2 Pianos 4 Hands” is scheduled to run through Feb. 15 at the Mountain View Center fo...

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Spiritual Life

Start something great by ringing in the new year with prayer

There is a tradition, which I’m told originates in the Midwest, that calls for people to pray in the new year. A few years ago, I was invited to a friend’s house and a number of people stayed up until midnight (approximately two hours pa...

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Magazine

Christmas At Our House home tour celebrates 26 years

Christmas At Our House home tour celebrates 26 years


Courtesy of Christopher Stark
Homes on the St. Francis High School Women’s Club’s Christmas at Our House Holiday Home Tour showcase a variety of architectural styles.

The days grow short on sunshine but long on nostalgia as the holidays approach...

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Discovering your risk tolerance

If you have an investment account at a brokerage firm, chances are you’ve encountered a risk tolerance questionnaire.

Such a document purports to determine how comfortable you are with investment risk. Questions range from the simple, “Are you investing primarily for income or for growth?” to the sublime, “If you are offered $100 or the chance to win either $0 or $300, which would you choose?” The firms use the questionnaires to help salespeople sell you suitable investments, but they also serve as protection should the firm be audited by its regulator.

The problem? These questionnaires pretty much tell us nothing about your true risk tolerance.

Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky were among the pioneers of what is currently called “behavioral finance,” which attempts to understand the psychology behind the behavior of investors and ultimately how it affects the capital markets. One of their most fundamental findings – for which Kahneman won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002 – was that people’s attitudes toward risks concerning gains might be quite different from their attitudes toward risks concerning losses.

For example, in answer to the gambling question above, risk-averse people will typically choose the $100. However, when confronted with the inverse choice of losing $100 or the chance to lose $0 or $300, the same people will commonly select the risky option ($0 or -$300).

The prevailing economic environment also often influences this asymmetrical attitude toward risk. In early 2009, one of my clients had become so risk-averse that she was ready to sell all her investments. Of course I spent time with her explaining the value of sticking to her financial plan and investment strategy. By 2010 – after her portfolio had rebounded not only from market action but from some tactical allocations to a couple of highly undervalued asset classes – she had become so risk-indifferent as to ask what could be done to get her portfolio to outperform that of her neighbor.

Balancing risk tolerance

In practice, I’ve found that risk tolerance should really be considered in two contexts: (1) your need for risk, and (2) your ability to stomach risk.

The first has to do with your financial plan and how much you need to grow your savings in order to have enough money to support everything you want to do for the rest of your life. The higher the needed growth, the greater the risk you will need to take with your investments (and consequently the greater the potential of having to give up some of your goals).

The second involves your emotional ability to deal with losses. If you are fortunate, the two are aligned – that is, your financial situation is such that you don’t need to take on any more risk with your investments than you can handle should markets drop. Your financial life can become stressful, however, when the two are out of sync. There are many people, for example, who keep all their savings in bank CDs. Clearly they are risk-averse in the emotional sense. But they may be taking on too much risk of achieving their future goals given the potential ravages inflation can impose on a long retirement-lifetime portfolio.

In the end, I’m convinced that a financial plan will help you not only balance the two risk tolerance components, but also act as an emotional anchor when times get tough (like in 2008).

Knowing that you have a plan and maintaining the discipline to follow it can help you avoid making the kinds of risky, dysfunctional investment decisions that we as human beings are all too prone to do.

Artie Green, a Los Altos resident, is a Certified Financial Planner and principal at Cognizant Wealth Advisors. For more information, call 209-4062 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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