Tue07222014

News

Q&A with Anne Wojcicki: 23andMe founder, local resident discusses Los Altos investments

Q&A with Anne Wojcicki: 23andMe founder, local resident discusses Los Altos investments


Anne Wojcicki

For the past several years, Anne Wojcicki (Wo-JIT-skee) has been quietly involved in efforts to spruce up downtown Los Altos. She and her husband, Google Inc. co-founder Sergey Brin, helped form Passerelle Investment Co., which own...

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Schools

Foothill fall registration opens Monday

Local residents interested in earning a specialized career certificate, associate degree or updated job skills can enroll beginning Monday when Foothill College opens fall registration.

In addition to its continuing-education courses, the college pr...

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Community

Sports

Stewart accepts job as baseball coach at Los Altos High

Stewart accepts job as baseball coach at Los Altos High


Los Altos High administrators offered Gabe Stewart the job of head baseball coach at Los Altos High even before he could apply for it.

“They approached me – they wanted an on-campus coach,” said Stewart, an AP History teacher at ...

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Comment

A good start – now follow through: Editorial

The recent announcement of a five-year agreement between the Los Altos School District and Bullis Charter School is welcome relief for the entire community. After years of dispute and litigation, the pact is nothing short of a minor miracle.

Among t...

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Business

In the business of fostering business

In the business of fostering business


took over as Los Altos’ new economic development coordinator in May after spending the past two years working as city assistant planner. Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier

Sierra Davis is wearing a slightly different hat these days as a Los Altos cit...

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Books

"Frozen in Time" chronicles harrowing WWII rescue attempts


Many readers can’t resist a true-life adventure story, especially those that shine a spotlight on people who exhibit supreme courage in the face of adversity and end up surviving – or not – against the odds.

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People

GORDON E. BRANDT

GORDON E. BRANDT

In May of 2014, Gordon E. Brandt passed away after a one and one half year battle with Lymphoma. He died peacefully at home, surrounded by his family.

Gordon was born in Los Angeles, CA on July 13, 1930. He graduated from Fremont High School in 19...

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Travel

British Columbia: Richmond, Steveston, Victoria hold surprises

British Columbia: Richmond, Steveston, Victoria hold surprises


Courtesy of Tourism Richmond
Shops, restaurants and museums dot the boardwalk in British Columbia’s Steveston, a great site for strolling.

Picturesque British Columbia has long been on our bucket list, and we recently fulfilled that dream.

We...

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Stepping Out

LA Youth Theatre, LA Stage Company join forces for 'Oz'

LA Youth Theatre, LA Stage Company join forces for 'Oz'


Joyce Goldschmid/Special to the Town Crier
The cast of “The Wizard of Oz” includes, clockwise from top left, Dana Levy (as Tinman), Rebecca Krieger (Cowardly Lion), Sarah Traina (Scarecrow) and Osher Fein (Dorothy).

Los Altos Youth Theatre and L...

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Spiritual Life

Stanford students study religion through campus artifacts

The inscriptions inside Memorial Church, the death mask of Jane Stanford and the nod to the Egyptian ankh symbol formed by Palm Drive and the Stanford Oval all have one thing in common: Each was a topic of discussion for the students enrolled in a un...

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Magazine

Festival features fun for everyone

Festival features fun for everyone


TOWN CRIER FILE PHOTO
The Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival boasts more than 375 craft and arts booths.

This weekend’s 35th annual Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival promises to be jam-packed with fun activities for just about everyone. The eve...

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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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