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One man’s retirement crusade to help Detroit and baby boomers

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Randal Charlton (REUTERS/handout)Randal Charlton has had a long, colorful career with plenty of ups and downs. In his 71 years, he’s done everything from tending dairy cows for a Saudi sheik to starting a jazz club in Florida. And as a lifelong entrepreneur, he has bought and sold 14 different companies.

Charlton’s last venture was a Detroit-based biotech company called Asterand, which he co-founded and then merged in 2006 with a U.K.-based competitor. He was 67 years old after the deal closed – a time when many would hang up their spikes and take it easy.

Instead, Charlton took on a daunting new challenge: fighting Motor City’s economic blight by building a successful business incubator for entrepreneurs called TechTown. Charlton raised $24 million from foundations and government, gathered together an impressive array of resources for training and start-up funding and recruited a small army of start-ups that have created a total of more than 1,800 local jobs.

TechTown is located in an old five-floor automotive plant with 130,000 square feet. When Charlton took over, just one floor was built out, and the center was running on loans guaranteed by nearby Wayne State University. Since then, the incubator has been home to 250 companies, and more than 2,200 entrepreneurs have graduated from its training programs. Last year, 14 TechTown companies received capital infusions totaling more than $1.35 million. The incubator has invested $700,000 directly in early-stage businesses and helped clients raise $14 million in follow-on funding.

Zap zombie funds within your portfolio

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zombie index fundsDo you have zombie index funds within your portfolio?

Instead of eating up your brains, they devour your nest egg with high expenses and walking dead performance. They may be lurking within your 401(k)-type plan or individual retirement account.

I like index funds because they generally can track nearly any kind of asset class. As such, they are the white bread of investing and should cost about the same from fund to fund. The cheaper the better. Why pay Nieman-Marcus prices for the same thing you can get at Costco or Sam’s Club for less?

Medicare Part B premium hike will be smaller than expected

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Seniors caught a break Thursday when the Obama Administration announced that Medicare Part B premiums won’t rise as much as expected in 2012.

The premium for Part B – which funds doctor and other outpatient services – will be $99.90 in 2012, up just 3 percent compared with this year. And the Medicare Part B deductible will be $140, a decrease of $22 from 2011.

Retirement confidence falls, especially in Social Security: Poll

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Talk about a race to the bottom: Which institution do you think is losing the trust of Americans to provide future retirement benefits most quickly – government, or private employers?

The winner is . . . private employers, but not by much. A new national poll on retirement sentiment by Sun Life Financial Inc. finds worker confidence in the future value of employer-provided benefits plunged 32 percent in the past year. Meanwhile, confidence in the government’s ability to provide Social Security and Medicare benefits fell 22 percent.

Target date funds get better and bigger, report finds

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Target date funds are getting better – and that’s good news, because they’re also becoming the 800-pound gorilla of the workplace retirement saving scene.

The use of these funds, which invest in a mix of assets with the aim of reducing equity exposure as participants approach retirement, has accelerated sharply in recent years, due in large measure to the growth of auto-enrollment options in workplace plans.

What next for long-term care after CLASS act folds?

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Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services REUTERS/Joshua RobertsThe federal government threw in the towel on creating a public option for long-term care coverage last week, and that would seem to be definitive for now.

In defeat, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was doing the right thing in admitting the concept’s flaws and cutting the government’s losses of the proposal, which was a lesser-known component of the new health reform law. It was an attempt to expand the number of Americans with long-term care coverage by providing a basic, inexpensive LTC option deployed mainly through the workplace as an opt-out choice in benefit plans.

Surveys say: Retirees are getting very nervous

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Reference librarians are nothing if not precise, and Kevin Davey plotted his exit from the Chicago Public Library system with all the exactitude of a veteran fact-finder. His last day was Sept. 30 — just 48 hours after his 55th birthday and first day of retirement eligibility.

With his wife still working and the couple’s finances under control, Davey figures that he has the ideal plan in place. All that remains is to land a part-time job with another library to put the icing on the cake. But after submitting close to 20 resumes, Davey hasn’t fielded a single interview.

How cuts to Social Security Administration will hurt you

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Undated handout photo. REUTERS/ICE/Handout  “Starving the beast” is a favorite conservative strategy for forcing cuts in federal spending. The idea is to deprive the government of revenue in order to force spending cuts – and resistance to new taxes is a central feature of the current Super Committee deliberations in Washington.

Advocates for older Americans are watching closely to see how the committee’s work might lead to retirement benefit cuts via a higher Social Security retirement age, smaller cost-of-living adjustments or higher Medicare eligibility ages. Meanwhile, a separate starve-the-beast exercise goes mostly unnoticed: a big squeeze on the administrative budget of the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Some Medicare plans drop prices: time to shop is now

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A nurse holds up a vial of H1N1 flu vaccine prior to an inoculation at the Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania October 28, 2009. If you’re a senior on Medicare – or if you help out aging parents with their money matters  – it’s time to get ready to shop. The annual enrollment period for Medicare prescription drug and Advantage managed care plans is about to begin, and it’s one of the best opportunities of the year for seniors to save money.

The new healthcare reform law is reshaping certain parts of the Medicare marketplace, for the most part in ways that benefit seniors. Although the law gradually reduced subsidies to Medicare Advantage — a change that critics derided as “slashing” Medicare– the Advantage and prescription drug markets are doing just fine. The number of plan offerings for 2012 are stable and average prices are steady or falling slightly.

Here’s the real Social Security Ponzi scheme

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Gov. Rick Perry wants to have a conversation about means-testing entitlements. This is a softer, gentler version of the governor’s earlier assertions that Social Security is an un-Constitutional Ponzi scheme.

And Perry is hardly the only conservative floating the idea that wealthy seniors should get less Social Security — or none at all.