Settling real estate disputes

Most real estate contracts contain optional agreements to participate in nonbinding mediation or binding arbitration should a dispute arise.

Diversify your bonds more than your stocks

Most 529 college savings plans and 401(k) company retirement plans offer a pretty broad range of U.S. stock mutual funds. There are large-cap funds, small-cap funds, value and growth funds, and even sometimes actively managed versus passively managed funds.

When it comes to bond funds, however, many such plans limit you to just one fund that tracks a single bond index – typically, the Bloomberg Barclays Aggregate Bond Index, also known as the Agg. This is backward. They should be providing more choices for bond funds than for stock funds.

How to make yourself safer online

We have allowed for-profit technology corporations access to all our personal data in exchange for some “free services” – data these firms sell to advertisers for massive profits. With our lives online whether we like it or not, taking steps to ensure security grows more important.

The usual response is: “But I have nothing to hide.” Sure. So why don’t we just leave our cars and homes unlocked, maybe even remove the doors and windows to our homes? I don’t think so.

Artificial intelligence enhances MV startup

Courtesy of Jenny Huang
Computer science engineers Siva Nattamai, left, and Pavan Kumar aim to advance Telehealth technology through Cocoon Cam, their Mountain View-based startup. Cocoon Cam’s smart baby monitor uses artificial intelligence to track the vital signs and sleeping patterns of infants and toddlers.

Artificial intelligence has helped us navigate our computer searches for work, school and leisure time. It also serves as the basis for efforts in making cars, trucks and drones fully autonomous. What AI can do in aiding what humans cannot do in enhancing various aspects of our lives is fascinating.

I have been amazed with AI in the past few weeks, learning about its history, understanding its current capabilities and where it’s going. To further my perspective on how AI is applied in real life, I recently interviewed employees at two local startup companies that are leveraging AI to transform their respective markets. Their work has motivated me to present this column as one in a two-part series focusing on AI.

All of the pros and cons of investing in TIPS

Among all the different types of investments available these days, U.S. Treasury securities – and funds investing in them – are the only ones considered risk-free. An allocation to Treasuries helps mitigate overall risk. But there are two different types: Treasury notes/bonds and Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS). Which should you use?

TIPS and Treasury notes/bonds are issued by the U.S. government in maturities of five, 10 and 30 years (Treasury notes additionally come in two-, three- and seven-year maturities). Both have fixed interest rates that are paid semiannually. The biggest difference between them is that TIPS provide protection against rising inflation. This is accomplished by annually adjusting the principal of a TIPS bond based on changes in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U).

Frequently asked question: What's my house worth?

The most frequently asked question I get after “So, how’s the market?” is “How much is my house worth?” Unfortunately, as much as we would all like to think there is some intrinsic value as to what something is worth, it just isn’t true – especially in real estate.

Following are answers to a few questions that will help you determine the value of your house.

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