Historic Diablo Country Club – Century Old Gem of the Valley

The historic Diablo Country Club was established in May 1914. Part of a large land parcel purchased by developer Robert Noble Burgess in 1912, it was known as the Oakwood Park Stock Farm stretching over 6,000 acres from Green Valley Road to Mount Diablo’s peak. The grassy knolls and woodsy terrain was home to thoroughbred trotters, contentedly grazing alongside cattle herds in the shadow of Mount Diablo. A eucalyptus stand bordered the raceway and horse feed was sheltered in Swiss chalet barns in the shade of heritage oaks and rocky outcrops. Crops of hay, wheat, barley and alfalfa grew near the fruit orchards.

Burgess was a trailblazing entrepreneur who bought the land and developed the Diablo Country Club in 1914 to encourage investors to buy lots for summer homes. Despite the imminent possibility of the First World War on the horizon, the developer attracted wealthy buyers from The City by running four trains transporting the urban folk on the ‘millionaires special’ to the rocky hills to build country homes off the beaten path. The journey from San Francisco or Oakland to Diablo was truly an unbeaten path in the early 1900’s. Paved roads were sparse and automobiles few. Passengers traveled on the Oakland, Antioch and Eastern Electric Railway, to the pristine country that included Diablo, far from big city life and still years from the Great Depression that altered ostentatious luxury.

Tycoon William Randolph Hearst, whose printed words were peerless, compared the rugged wild magnificence of Mount Diablo to Yosemite; his newspapers focusing on Diablo Country Club’s sporty horsy set, Jazz-era dances and parties that he splashed across the society pages—dimmed only by movie stars’ antics at his own Hearst Castle. The Bay Area’s social upper crust flocked to be near their own kind.

They were not the first Big City seekers of peace who migrated to the serenity of Diablo’s undulating hills—green in winter, golden in summer—a palette of painterly perfection. In the late 1880s, Golden State captains of industry, the Southern Pacific Big Four; Charles Crocker, Leland Stanford, Collis Huntington and Mark Hopkins, ran the land parcel as the Railroad Ranch. They left their marks of luxury on the rolling hills, an imprimatur of pioneering prestige if you will, and other entrepreneurs followed.

Burgess carpeted advertising all over the Bay Area and people flocked to the raw beauty of the storied place. By building the Diablo Country Club; he knew they would come—600 potential buyers arrived in one day.

The 128 acre Diablo Country Club was a parcel cut from the original 6,000 acres. Club members enjoyed camaraderie—dining in the Red Horse Tavern with panoramic views, riding horses at gymkhanas, canoeing or swimming in the man-made lake, dancing at midnight parties, playing golf and attending harvest festivals—the club anchoring them to the pristine community, while lending a sense of belonging, a sense of place.

The serene hideaway mushroomed from a sleepy resort to year-round living for over 400 families who took ownership of the club in the 1920s. As the arrival of guests burgeoned, Burgess built the 28-room Chalet in 1922 to serve as an inn. The present clubhouse served as a gambling casino, movie theatre and billiard hall during the heyday of The Jazz Age.

All was well until the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, leading to World War Two. When supplies were restricted and food shortages trickled down to rich and poor alike—rationed gasoline hindered driving from San Francisco and neglected golf greens turned to seed. Diablo Country Club was put to wartime use for housing Naval Officers and military personnel stationed at Parks Air Force Base in Pleasanton, and 30 female telephone operators. The horsy history of the club slowed and the property gradually fell into disrepair.

Renaissance of Diablo Country Club

The legendary Diablo Country Club that today occupies 115 acres, part of the 6,000-acre Oakwood Park Farm, was previously on a land mass parcel that encompassed 50,000 acres from Diablo and Green Valley Roads to the mountain peak, clear across to where the Blackhawk Development is today. By 1948 Diablo Country Club, the spread of “God’s most beautiful acreage,” had seen better days and was in need of deep restoration. Investors put the club up for sale to a developer who planned to densely carpet the golf course greens with post-war $10,000 G.I. loan houses.

The clustered home-sites near-disaster was thwarted by one-time Vallejo naval ship builder, turned golf course architect, Larry Curtola, who bought the estate for $175,000 in April 1948, restoring grounds and refurbishing the buildings. Curtola built a sparkling new clubhouse with the stately columns reclaimed from the Pony Express barn on Mount Diablo, and added a ballroom spacious enough for big band dances.

The new upscale club instantly attracted dances, wedding parties and social functions—again taking its well-earned place, nestled among 400 private residences—as one of the most prestigious country clubs in Northern California.

Larry Curtola, one-time partner with Joe Alioto, gave new life to the club, growing the membership with social activities; the upgraded facilities becoming a viable and vital asset to Diablo’s community. Curtola’s success grew; designing the Auburn Country Club, and in 1952 purchasing Castlewood Country Club, later devastated by fire in 1969.

In 1961 the Diablo Country Club members purchased the facility from Larry Curtola for $445,000, and in 1988 invested $5.2 million to rebuild and renovate the existing structure.

Diablo Country Club offers many upscale amenities; seven tennis courts, of which five are lighted, a pro-shop and lounge, fitness centre, Olympic-sized pool, bocce ball courts and year-round recreational activities. The golf course has small but demanding greens; tough par 3’s and challenging bunkers—designed for walkers and carts. The PGA pro, Jason Walter, is dedicated to the needs of guests and members.

Diablo Country Club, set on a knoll above the greens, managed by a superbly professional staff, offers elegant facilities for weddings, social functions, business meetings and charity fundraiser events in several small rooms, the old-world charm bar or the spacious ballroom.

Historic Diablo Country Club, its white building shimmering in the light of uninterrupted panoramas, reminiscent of antebellum grandeur, nestles near majestic Mount Diablo. The celebrated club remains a favorite destination for great golfing, socializing and elegant functions, offering a unique banquet ambiance exuding a warm welcome and a long-standing heritage of excellence mirrored by a traditional sense of place and a century of stories.

For more information about the Diablo Country Club, go to www.diablocc.com, or visit the club at, 1700 Clubhouse Drive, Diablo, CA 94528. Phone: 925. 837.4221


Occupy North Pole

If you read my last article, Another Election Year, in the November issue of Alive Magazine, you would know that I’m not overly political. I am proud to be an American citizen and I do exercise my right to vote, but it’s not like I would ever join a call center movement and interrupt your dinner hour with a courteous reminder to support my candidate or vote down a referendum. In the past, I was never one to protest. While I whole-heartedly believe that protests have their time and place, I’m just not a joiner—that is, until me and my bowling group of dads decided to fly to the North Pole and “Occupy” Santa’s Workshop. It’s not that we have anything against Santa or Mrs. Claus; we were just caught up in the moment.

We got our idea from Occupy Wall Street (“OWS”). OWS, as most everyone knows, is a people-powered movement that began on September 17, 2011 in Liberty Square in Manhattan’s Financial District, and has spread to over 100 cities in the United States and over 1,500 cities globally. OWS is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations. The movement is inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and aims to expose how the richest 1% of people are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future. I got that from their website www.occupywallstreet.org.

I would be lying if I told you we have enacted some altruistic global movement to liberate the working class elves, to determine if Santa’s monopoly on Christmas has made him a billionaire or to expose the NYSE symbol “SWS” as Santa’s Workshop. From what I’ve seen, the elves seem to be pretty merry. Santa runs his operation as a Not for Profit and SWS is actually a failing solar company headquartered in Sunnyvale. Granted, the folks at PETA might have something to say about the cruelty of making reindeer fly, but to a man, our group of super athletic suburban dads agreed that if we could fly we would gladly pull Santa’s rig.

Can you imagine a bunch of premium-jean-wearing-dad’s, from the I-680 corridor, pulling Santa’s sleigh? Santa might yell out, “On Blackhawk, On Diablo, go Crow Canyon and Round Hill.” No, the truth is, me and my boyz were just looking for something different to do during our holiday break and a trip to the North Pole sounded cool. No pun intended.

The occupations around the world are being organized using a non-binding consensus-based decision-making tool known as a “people’s assembly.” We don’t even know what that means. This process of organizing your local community and bring awareness to social injustice makes sense and it’s sure popular, but I’ve heard many people verbalize that a great majority of the occupy participants just seem to be on the “encampment bandwagon.” I’m not saying that Occupy North Pole was well thought out, but we’re going to cause trouble. We actually did have a “hidden agenda.” We wanted to see how the toys were made.

For my entire lifetime, I’ve heard about Santa’s Workshop. Who doesn’t know about the “naughty and nice” list, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman? It wasn’t too hard to convince sixteen beer drinking suburban dads to take a little road trip for the good of mankind. I also promised them we would stop at In-N-Out Burger. Ultimately, what got my brothers to jump in our SUVs and begin the 13,000 mile journey from Danville to the North Pole, was that I promised anyone that accompanied me that they would be able to ask Santa one question.

After a rather long drive, our occupation began once we set up our tent city and began making protest posters. Slogans such as; Less than 1% of the world has Mistletoe, Jingle Bells the Government Smells and, Frosty is Cold Blooded seemed harmless enough.  Truth be told, we were just hoping to get some face time with Mr. Kris Kringle and enjoy the hot chocolate dispensing fire hydrants. If we could score a University of Santa’s Workshop hoodie and a candy cane foam finger, the trip would be considered a success. Sadly,

Santa didn’t appreciate our occupation. He came out a few times and told us to go home because he was busy working on the logistical challenges of delivering presents to the seven billion people that now inhabit the earth. Needless to say, he was a bit more effective than Mayor Quan in Oakland.

Sometime after our beer buzz wore off and the ten thousandth elf thrown snowball rained down on Occupy Wiener Roast, we decided to pack it in and head home. It’s not that we didn’t believe in our cause… wait, what was our cause? No, we just realized that we could be more effective at home being good dad’s to our kids during the holidays. Not to mention that we froze our “bowling” balls off it was so cold.

Santa reminded us that the holidays are a time for family not fighting … or something like that. The Jolly one is usually munching cookies and mumbles a lot. Maybe next year, we’ll Occupy Arizona “Spring Training” or Occupy San Diego with the kids (the zoo, Sea World and LEGOLAND) for spring break.

We’d like to Occupy Maui or Orlando during the summer if the economy picks up. I just hope my wife doesn’t expect me to Occupy Michigan (the in-laws) for Thanksgiving or you’ll really hear me protest.


Bear Valley Mountain: The Outdoor Classroom for Adventurers of All Ages

Bear Valley MountainInterest in outdoor education and recreation has spiked significantly in recent years; cautionary stories about our sedentary digital lives abound, as do ad campaigns and editorials imploring us to get outside and explore. As more of our culture looks to reconnect with an authentic experience in nature, schools are also looking for ways to broaden the classroom walls and incorporate hands-on outdoor learning into their curricula. Mountain resorts like Bear Valley now find themselves in a unique position to respond to these needs, and are creating a new outdoor resource for school groups and adults alike.

“We recognized that by combining our year-round mountain recreation with the expertise of our local outdoor professionals, we could offer really valuable programs to people of all ages that go beyond sports,” said Rosie Sundell, Bear Valley’s marketing director. “It’s really a way for people to connect to the mountain and learn about the different ways to experience it.” Inspired by the new opportunities to combine adventure with outdoor education, Bear Valley has launched an exciting new line-up of programs for the current season.

Adventure Academy

In a partnership with local outfitter, Bear Valley Adventure Company, and mountain guide service, Mountain Adventure Seminars, the resort earlier this year inaugurated the Sierra Adventure Academy. In this program, school groups can customize their own multi-day adventures that combine environmental education and team building activities with a variety of seasonal mountain sports. A typical summer itinerary might include rock climbing, kayaking, nature hikes and mountain biking, all the while surrounded by a living classroom of Sierra geology and ecology. Winter courses will generally include skiing, snowboarding and cross-country ski instruction with hands-on workshops in avalanche awareness, building snow shelters and backcountry travel. The concept is for educators with an existing science and environmental curriculum to look to Bear as a venue and technical facilitator to help bring the courses to life in a real world setting.

Reading Challenge Program

Continuing with their efforts to reach out to the student population within their region, especially those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to learn to ski, Bear is now offering a special incentive to encourage literacy, outdoor education and recreation. The Reading Challenge Program, launching this fall, will award lift ticket, lesson and rental packages to elementary students who complete the month-long assignment, which will correspond to their grade level. For example, a second grader would complete 300 pages in a month, while a sixth grader would need to read 400 in the same time span. For the high school crowd, the stakes get a little higher, and instead of reading the challenge will instead be multimedia creation. Basically, students will work in teams to produce a short video piece that demonstrates how they connect to the outdoors. Winning pieces will be featured on the resort’s website and the winning teams will be awarded a comprehensive snowsports package.

While most of the schools within Bear’s immediate vicinity have welcomed the reading and multimedia programs, the opportunity is being made available to any school within Bear’s market, which includes Central Valley and Bay Area schools. Those interested should contact Bear Valley Mountain for further details.

Grown-ups will find plenty of ways to improve both their skills and snow safety awareness as well this year at Bear. New lessons and clinics being offered by the resort include Powder Progression, a group workshop specializing in powder skiing technique. “Last season we started offering these in response to the enormous quantities of fresh snow that seemed to be forever falling on the resort, and they were wildly popular,” according to Snowsports Manager Chris Moore. Since the clinics are completely weather dependent, and conditions change from one day to the next, anyone interested in improving their powder turns should sign up for “powder alerts” on the resort’s website. Powder clinics will meet in the early morning and last a couple hours. If you prefer to catch air and pull tricks in the freestyle park, there is the Park Progression series for you. Sunday afternoons, freestyle instructors will be on hand at the mountain’s beginner/intermediate park for clinics on railslides, aerials and other park techniques.

Moving beyond the resort’s boundaries, a new partnership with Mountain Adventure Seminars opens up the backcountry and “sidecountry” (terrain that is outside the official boundary, but still skiable with lift access) for special adventure tours, including half day snowcat tours accessing untouched powder for groups of up to eight people, and ski descents of the fabled “Zones,” a closed area with technically demanding chutes and steeps. Along with the great skiing these trips offer, MAS also provides a comprehensive set of courses in everything from avalanche rescue to snowshoeing to winter mountaineering, all within the vicinity of Bear Valley Mountain.

This season MAS will also be teaming up with the resort’s ski school for two programs—the Adventure Ski Team and the All Access Team—specifically for teens that want to learn solid snow safety and backcountry skills to combine with all mountain free riding. The resort’s other team opportunities are Competitive Ski Racing and All Mountain. The Competitive categories are for youth only and include Competitive Freestyle Teams. The Development teams in the Competitive category are specifically focused on preparing youth athletes for competition but do not travel. The All Mountain teams are development teams for youth and adult athletes that will cover a variety of technical skills, techniques and terrain across the entire mountain, including parks and side country.

To keep up to date with new events or to sign up for any of the above mentioned programs, please visit the Bear Valley Mountain website at www.bearvalley.com, or call their central reservations line at 209-753-2301 ext.777.
To learn more about Mountain Adventure Seminars, visit them at www.mtadventure.com, or 209-753-6556. Bear Valley Adventure Company is found at www.bearvalleyxc.com, or 209-753-2834.

Points of Life – A Resource for Families

I typically write about family issues in the context of my most embarrassing stories growing up;, my daughters’ total disregard for my amazing sense of humor or how our dog’s persistent flatulence condition has ruined many a family fun night. However, a larger majority of us deal with much more serious family matters, especially when it comes to the care of their aging or ailing parents. “Caring for sick, disabled or dying parents will never be easy,” says Richard Wexler, founder of Points of Life, “But if you are prepared it will make the process easier.”

Richard, an attorney and former national sales manager for a software company has created a family resource service driven by personal experience. Some time ago, both of his in-laws and his own father were diagnosed with various forms of terminal cancer during a six month period. At that time, Richard and his wife, Anna, juggled the responsibilities of work, home and children while getting their parents to countless doctor appointments and making plans for their short and long term care.

“Everyday approximately ten thousand baby boomers turn 65 years old. With aging, there are questions and issues that require attention and planning.
Should we keep the house?
Is our estate in order?
Will our money last once we stop working?
Who will care for us should we become infirm?
Which sibling should take the lead?
How will finances be managed and should we designate a power of attorney?
Could we move in with our children or is a retirement home or assisted living facility appropriate?
If we choose a facility, how do we make that choice?
Who will pay for everything?

“These are important decisions to make, but often times our parents need their children to take an active role in the planning process,” Richard says.

Roughly seven months ago, while delivering an elder care presentation to a community service organization, Richard was approached by Marilyn Ellis, a business coach and thespian, about giving his talk more pizzazz and making the whole subject more entertaining. Richard says, “We practice a process called “elder Ed,” teaching families to plan for life’s stages, so they can retain and control their lifestyle.” At Points of Life presentations, this information is disseminated through a series of humorous vignettes performed by Richard, his partner Marilyn, and a growing group of the lawyers, financial planners and health care providers who have subscribed to be part of the network “dream team,” in each chapter.

“Everyone is welcome at our presentations, but the people that get the most of it are those that have parents in their late sixties,” fellow ALIVE writer Paul Hirsch, who works with Points of Life, states. “Once someone reaches age 70, chances are they will wear down over time and require care in their latter years. Only about one person in 20 dies suddenly at that age.” With innovative skits and songs the Points of Life ensemble use levity to lighten the mood of the audience. With titles such as Help, My Hair’s on Fire, Denial isn’t a River in Egypt and Pushing Up Daisies, the vignettes deal with difficult topics in a light hearted, yet sensitive, manner.

There’s something to be said for dealing with the heavy topics of aging, illness and death with a laugh. “Often times the people in attendance come ins with a heavy heart. We try and help lighten the mood so that after the ninety minute presentation they will engage with our team of experts there to answer questions show,” says Paul. The company’s mission is to help of families plan for life’s stages so they can retain and control their lifestyle. Medicare will cover a person’s hospital stay and rehab, but not the “at home” care, which can be very costly often times running $8,000 to-$10,000 a month. Children of failing parents often aren’t prepared to cover these expenses out of pocket.

“As our parents live longer, they inevitably run into more medical issues. This often translates to family financial pressure. With no plan in place, families will run into a myriad of problems, stress and anxiety,”, Richard says. Richard personally screens all interested professionals and selects who will ultimately make up that county’s chapter. “Most of our experts come through referrals and recommendations, but now we’re starting to get highly qualified people to approach us.”

Being the executor of my parent’s estate gave me the ability to handle necessary matters when they grew ill and passed away just four years apart in the 1990s. However, being in my early thirties, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. A living trust is a great place to start, but there are so many issues that come up related to various levels of care, hospitalization, hospice, funerals, finances and family dynamics that are tested during a difficult time. I relied on friends who had lost parents when questions came up or decisions needed to be made. Having access to a resource such as Points of Life would have made my life easier. Having been there, Richard Wexler is trying to help make an emotional time for families easier and more manageable.

Points of Life’s presentations are often held at schools, churches, senior centers and hospitals. A schedule of upcoming performances can be found on their website at www.pointsoflife.org.

4 Vital Secrets to “Stress-Less” Holidays

Have you noticed that combining unrealistically high expectations with the chaotic pressure of the season is a “perfect recipe” to create holiday stress? In addition, when insecurities are stirred into the mix of our holiday behaviors, the natural joyful flavor of the season…often soggily sinks to the bottom.

Can you relate? I sure can. Unfortunately, the holidays can escalate our stress levels—especially if we allow our own competitive (or perfectionist behaviors) to take over. Meanwhile, when we succumb to these stress-generating modes, we act out our insecurities and our vulnerabilities.

Furthermore, when we relentlessly push ourselves to check off tasks from our mile-long “to-do” lists—we often end up with intense holiday exhaustion that prevent us from enjoying (or appreciating) the moment. In this way, we transform a holiday—an uplifting celebratory event—into an exhausting drama!

So, now that we’ve illuminated the shadow side of the season (and hopefully clarified how we don’t want to spend our holidays), let’s focus on how we can create what we do want. Here are my 4 Vital Secrets to Stress-Less Holidays.

~ Mindfully G.I.V.E. ~

The acronym G.I.V.E. is an invitation to trade in holiday exhaustion for holiday exhilaration. This concept came to me during a recent morning meditation and it can serve as a reminder that… Generous Intentions = Vital Energy.

G: Generous

I: Intentions

V: Vital

E: Energy

Okay, let’s explore the individual aspects of G.I.V.E. now:

G: Practice opening your heart to an attitude of GENEROUS abundance.

When you open to a sense of generous abundance you shift away from scarcity thinking, such as: there aren’t enough positive resources—like attention, love, or joy—to go around. If you practice embracing sincere generosity, then you align yourself…with free-flowing abundance.

I: Ask yourself, what is my  INTENTION for:

  •    Buying (or making) a gift for someone?
  •  Creating (or attending) a celebratory event?

First, notice if your intentions include perfectionist tendencies or being overly concerned with, “What will people think?” If you identify these stress-generating intentions, then remember that you can’t control what anyone else thinks. So, consider focusing your energies on what you can control.

Next, clarify and connect with positive intentions. For example, when it comes to gift giving: “I’m buying a gift for my brother to express love and care. I don’t need to compete with other family members by spending more than I can afford.”

 And, when it comes to attending a celebratory event: “I’m going to my friend’s holiday party to connect with people I care about and to have fun. I don’t need to impress anyone to feel okay about myself.”

After clarifying your intentions toward various holiday activities (especially the ones that feel stressful), spend a few minutes jotting down your thoughts on paper. While writing, invite your own supportive wisdom to flow.

V: Nurture your VITAL needs. Maintaining your needs is essential year round—and crucial to create “stress-less” holidays. For example, remember these basic daily needs and:

  •  Breathe deeply and slowly…to calm yourself (especially while sitting in holiday traffic)
  •  Keep yourself well-hydrated (even at the mall)
  • Exercise regularly (according to your doctor’s recommendations)
  •  Eat balanced, healthy meals (avoid skipping meals and increasing “overly zealous” holiday snacking)
  •  Make time to receive lots of nourishing sleep (savor those z-zzz’s)

E: Honor the natural ebb and flow of your ENERGY during the holiday season. So, if you need a break while shopping, decorating your home, or cooking, then listen to your body and momentarily hit the “pause button.” Then, head for a café (or your kitchen table), sit down, and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea. On the other hand, if you’re home, consider taking a short nap. The good news is—resting, regrouping, and recharging leads to increased positive mind/body energy.

Finally, you might want to keep these 4 Vital Secrets to Stress-Less Holidays in mind as you G.I.V.E. to yourself and others. Then, invite in the exhilarating gift of Generous Intentions = Vital Energy. My best to you as you consciously create…a stress-less and play-more holiday!

 Join Trina and attend her upcoming Walnut Creek workshop for women and men: Managing Emotional and Compulsive Eating—John Muir Women’s Health Center: Monday, December 19, 6:30-8:30 pm. Cost: $40 (Includes Weight Loss: 2-CD set). Seats are limited—register today for this inspiring workshop: (925) 941-7900 option 3. For more info, go to www.TrinaSwerdlow.com & click on “Private Sessions & Workshops.”

Trina Swerdlow, BFA, CCHT, is a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, an artist, and the author and illustrator of Stress Reduction Journal: Meditate and Journal Your Way to Better Health. Trina has a private practice in downtown Danville. She soulfully shares her creative approach to personal growth and passionately supports her clients in reaching their goals. You can reach her at: (925) 285.5759, or info@TrinaSwerdlow.com.

Certified Clinical Hypnotherapy services in California can be alternative or complementary to licensed healing arts, such as psychotherapy.


Rethinking Retirement

It is no secret that the investment landscape has changed significantly over the last few years. We are witnessing a sea change to many of the traditional investing principals of years past. The financial markets are more dependent than ever on the coordinated actions of policymakers around the world. No longer can we totally rely on fundamental company and economic analysis to make investment decisions. These can still be valuable, but pale in comparison to the role governments around the world are taking in trying to get the policy decisions correct. In this environment, economic growth and investment returns are expected to be below their long term averages for the foreseeable future. With all this going on, now is an important time to rethink your retirement plans.

Many consumers planned on their home values being a significant contributor to their retirement. This is not going to happen for most. The combined effect of lower housing values, investment declines, longer life expectancies and the prospect of low returns going forward make this a real game changer when it comes to retirement. Most consumers are going to have to work longer, save more…a lot more, and be more realistic about their spending and rates of withdrawal during retirement.

Working a few more years can have a tremendous impact on your long term retirement success. Every extra year you work is one less year you have to support yourself in retirement and one more year of additional savings toward retirement, a powerful double whammy. If the rates of return on our retirement savings are going to be below average then we simply will need to save more. Consider a simple example; assuming you could earn a static 6% annual rate of return you would need to save $1,021 per month for 30 years to accumulate $1 million in a tax-deferred account, like an IRA or 401(k). A 20-year period would require you to save $2,195. Better get going!

So let’s assume you accumulate a $1 million. Great! That’s a lot of money. But how much income will that reasonably provide someone during a 25-30 year retirement? Less than most think. The general consensus among financial advisors is that retirees should plan on a portfolio withdrawal rate of 4% to 5%. This is the percentage of the portfolio’s value that is withdrawn in the first year of retirement. The amount is also assumed to be increased each year for inflation. So, if you have $1,000,000 saved you can reasonably expect to have that account support a draw of $40,000 to $50,000 per year plus inflation for a 25 to 30 year retirement period. Doesn’t seem like much does it? We all need to rethink retirement!

Damien helps individuals invest and manage risk. He is a Certified Financial Planner™ professional and a principal of Walnut Creek Wealth Management. These are the views of Damien Couture, CFP® and should not be construed as investment advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Not all recommendations are suitable for all investors. Each investor must consider their own goals, time horizon and risk tolerance. Your comments are welcome. Damien can be reached at 925-280-1800 x101 or Damien@WalnutCreekWealth.com.

Not-So-Candid Camera

It was 1:00 a.m. when the alarm to her business woke her up. She thought it was another false alarm, so she didn’t want to notify the police for fear of incurring a false alarm fee. But it was a burglar, who broke the glass to the front door, trashed the place and got away with only about $50 in cash. The business owner, an acquaintance of mine, is now installing a motion-activated camera system. Now, she will have the proof she needs before contacting police.

We have tried to make the point in this column that you are responsible for your own safety and security measures, for your family and for your business. An alarm system does not offer much protection. By the time a security guard or police arrive, it will likely be too late to protect anyone.

So what’s the best approach for security? Hint. It’s akin to dressing for cold weather. Answer: Layers.

Our previous column discussed “human intelligence,” and how seeing something with your own eyes or verifying facts with your own eyes yields the most reliable information. However, it might be too expensive to have trained security personnel for your home or business. A good camera system, perhaps one with remote viewing, adds an extra layer of security. And, whether it’s for home or for business, a camera system is a fixed cost.

Law enforcement has made excellent use of video technology. It seems the video surveillance systems just keep getting better and cheaper. As a society we seem to be growing more accepting of cameras in public. The applicable legal standard for cameras is the old “reasonable expectation of privacy.” If you are in your living room, you have the expectation of privacy  At the grocery store, bowling alley or driving in a public place, you don’t have the reasonable expectation of privacy.

One local case highlighted the benefit of surveillance cameras in public places. Over the summer police charged a woman with the killing of nursing student Michelle Le. The charges were brought, in part, because of surveillance footage of the suspect at a Kaiser Permanente Medical Center parking garage. Footage showed the suspect in the parking structure before and after Le disappeared.

Police around the world are turning to cameras in hopes of reducing crime. Police can’t be everywhere at once. While cameras seem to be effective in fighting crime, how the cameras are deployed and how they are monitored are the key components. If criminals perceive the cameras are not being monitored, they are not going to change their behavior.

To recap, any single means of security or investigation might have its flaws. To rely solely on one database for doing a background check is not thorough enough, nor is hoping that an alarm system will protect you from all intruders. Rotate methods. Experiment and see what systems work best for protecting your family, your business and your assets.

I Do (or Not?)

For people who are living together and building families, getting married is not always automatic. Some couples, for various legal reasons, can’t get married. Some people choose not to get married. I’d like to address some of the legal ramifications of the impact of getting married versus not getting married.

As same gender couples can testify, there are some significant legal benefits that married couples have. For example, a widowed spouse, as well as a divorced spouse of marriages lasting 10 years or more, can receive a higher Social Security payment during retirement, based on the Social Security payment due to the higher earning spouse.

Married couples can file a joint Federal Tax Return, which may be either an advantage or disadvantage, depending on the relative income levels of the couple. In many cases, a spouse is entitled to an ongoing portion of a pension should the pensioner pass away. With regard to health insurance benefits, some companies allow the designation of a domestic partner, but many do not. This means that company health insurance benefits may not be available to a partner when the couple is not married. In this day of the high cost of medical insurance, this can be a very significant cost. If hospitalized, a partner often does not get the respect that a spouse would get when receiving information or making decisions regarding medical care, particularly if there is a not a written Power of Attorney.

According to the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), there are 1,138 statutory rights gained by a couple who gets married. Marriage also means that spouses have legal responsibilities for each other. Some couples choose not to marry deliberately for economic reasons, such as the loss of a pension by a widow or widower. If one partner has significant liabilities or chronic illness, they may not wish to impose potential liabilities on the other. In our complex society, we may marry for love, but are subject to the law, for better or for worse.

Things of Beauty – A Wish List for the Holidays

The Holidays are upon us once again and to keep up with all the excitement we have put together some of our favorite things. Here are some of our most popular products that women love.

What We Love:
Neulash: Eyelash Growth Stimulator Fleur Visage
Why You’ll Love It:
You can achieve the look of a fabulous flutter without the hassle of tacky adhesive or the embarrassment of a wayward false lash. Glide this protein and vitamin-enriched serum along the upper eyelid daily, and start to see fullness in just a few weeks. Clinical results have shown a 62% increase in longer, more natural-looking lashes. Plus, this conditioning treatment has none of the harsh side effects of similar prescription products. We also have Brow Growth gels available now.

What We Love:
Ultra Firming Eye Cream
Ongrien Advanced Skin Care
Why You’ll Love It:
With the hustle and bustle of the holidays and everyday life, getting a full night’s sleep, which is vital for healthy skin, can seem like a luxury. Apply this triple action eye cream around the eyes massaging nightly to decrease puffiness, minimize fine lines and to restore hydration for youthful looking eyes and you’ll look caught up on your Zs – even if you’re not.

What We Love:
Ultra Firming Night Cream Anti-Aging Ongrien Advanced Skin Care
Why You’ll Love It:
Quenching a Thirsty complexion takes a good dose of this nourishing treatment. Skin will soak up the healthy Nuero-Peptide based nutrients, which refines the skin and gives the complexion a toned appearance. This cream repairs sun damage and visibly reduces wrinkles. We love this fine anti-aging treatment, and you will too when you notice your skin is smoother and more beautiful than ever.

What We Love:
Anti-Aging Firming Neck Cream Ongrien Advanced Skin Care
Why You’ll Love It:
The neck is one of the first areas to show the signs of aging. The neck can look years older than you are. Slow the effects of time with this marine cell-enriched nightly formula, that will firm, lesson the formation of wrinkles, heal dryness, and reduce melanin spots.

What We Love:
Vitamin C&E Lip Treatment Fleur Visage
Why You’ll Love it:
All the requirements for a beautiful, moist, plump-looking pout, packed full of nutrients, including Vitamin C and Vitamin E. Restore the lips and help fight dry, chapped, cracking lips this winter with intense hydrating lip moisturizing perfecteur.

At The Rouge we only carry the finest products with the highest grade of ingredients on the market. Don’t know what you want for Christmas? Ask your man for beautiful skin and start glowing for the holidays. We have holiday gift certificates and wish list available. Come by anytime and talk to one of our professional skin care experts for the right skin care plan for you.

Everyday Style…Beyond the Fitting Room

Keeping warm this winter is easy…just cozy up on your sofa with a Snuggie and stay there ‘til spring! However, if leaving the house is part of your plan, then investing in a coat is something I strongly suggest. There are wonderful options to choose from when you’re braving the elements, and here are my favorites:

Photo 1

*Puffers (photo 1) have evolved from the all-over poof of volume that they once were. No more marshmallow man. Made with micro-fiber, silhouettes are slimmed dramatically, so that you will feel the warmth of a comforter without the bulk. Perfect for a quick trip to the snow, and packing is a snap—just roll it up in a ball squeezing out all the air, put it in one of those space saver bags, and you’re all set.

Photo 2

Modern style coats (photo 2) can stand alone as an outfit, especially when they come in a bold color like red, orange or green. A statement coat is great when you’re going to be outside, and your coat is essentially your outfit. Shopping in The City, I love a modern coat with a turtleneck sweater, skinny jeans or leggings, and a sleek, flat riding boot (photo 3). Insanely chic.

Photo 3

An evening coat is the answer for the dilemma every woman experiences when dressing for a holiday event. Instead of a barely-warm-enough pashmina, try a classic trench in velvet or satin. Look for details that are more feminine and less “trenchy,” like ruffles, a subtle print (photo 4), a standout color (like purple) or a touch of metallic. Don’t let me catch you wearing your daytime khaki coat. If that’s all you’ve got, stay home or be cold!

Photo 4

A tailored camel coat will never go out of style. This season, whatever style works for you will work: single and double-breasted styles, belted, and collar-less all give you a look of timeless elegance. Feeling a little more daring? Try a cape (with leather accents, perhaps?) or a knit poncho (photo 5). Since camel goes not only with black, but also brown, navy, charcoal grey and winter white, it’s always going to be one of the most versatile pieces in your wardrobe. A forever piece.

Photo 5

Faux fur is everywhere this winter, and no fauxs were killed in our effort to look good—just a little faux humor! Anyway, from vests to jackets or hats to handbags, fake fur is a major trend (photo 6). Be aware of the temperature (outside and your internal thermometer), as sometimes it’s like wearing a portable furnace on your back. A sheer peasant top under a vest may be a more comfortable option than a wool turtleneck—I’m just sayin’…

Certainly, there are more coats to choose from—leather motorcycle, anorak, shearling—too many to list. Select the style that will fit your body and your lifestyle best. Completing the look is a must, including a great hat (like a wool fedora or a plaid trapper), an infinity scarf (no bulky ties to deal with), and gloves (fingerless, if your phone has a touch pad). Now, lose that snuggie and enjoy!
If you have a style question for Carolyn, please email her at Carolyn@c2style.com, and your question may be the subject of an upcoming Alive East Bay article.