Fads can be hazardous to your health: Over the years, boomer women have all learned the perils of buying the coolest thing out there, whether it’s blistering new heels or the first incarnation of any new computer. This week, CNN Money reminds us that fads in finance can be hazardous to our financial future:

According to a recent report
from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a Washington, D.C.
think tank, the collapse of house prices that started in 2006 has wiped
out more than $4 trillion in home equity, putting a sizable dent in the
net worth of millions of baby boomers.


Among its more ominous
findings: By next year, the average net worth of households headed by
homeowners age 45 to 54 will be almost 25% less than it was in 2004.

Of
course, chances are your situation is not anywhere near as gloomy.
Unlike most Americans, you probably don’t have all your net worth tied
up in your house. If you’ve been saving diligently, you can rely
primarily on your 401(k), IRAs and other investments in retirement. A
hit to your home’s value, while hardly welcome, is something you can
likely take in stride.

“Still, I believe the bursting of the housing bubble provides three valuable lessons for retirement planning,” writes senior editor Walter Updegrave. Chiefly,Don’t go ga-ga over go-go investments.”

In
the ’90s it was tech stocks. Then real estate became the sure thing,
which led to a spree of trading up, flipping fixer-uppers, collecting
second homes and even buying condos with IRA cash. This year the “can’t
lose” investments are natural-resources stocks (up 29% for the 12
months to June 30), precious metals (up 29%) and energy (up 26%).


I’m
not predicting that Armageddon lies just around the corner for today’s
winners. But gains of this magnitude aren’t sustainable. They’re likely
to be followed by stagnant returns or outright losses, as was the case
with housing. So while it’s natural to want to plow money into hot
sectors, remember: Big bets on the investment du jour are more often a
recipe for downsizing your wealth than growing it.

The column is full of other useful advice, such as “Gains are no substitute for saving” and “Too much debt can compound a crisis.”  So much for that fifth Mastercard, even if it does have Madonna on the front.


MRI, MBI, let’s call the whole thing off? To us, the initials “MBI”  suggest a new branch of government, perhaps the Menopausal Bureau of Investigation. But no, it’s a promising new screening method to keep more women alive:

A radioactive tracer that “lights up” cancer hiding inside dense breasts showed promise in its first big test against mammograms, revealing more tumors and giving fewer false alarms, doctors reported Wednesday. The experimental method — molecular breast imaging, or MBI — would not replace mammograms for women at average risk of the disease.


But it might become an additional tool for higher risk women with a lot of dense tissue that makes tumors hard to spot on mammograms, and it could be done at less cost than an MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging. About one-fourth of women 40 and older have dense breasts.

“MBI is a promising technology” that is already in advanced testing, said Carrie Hruska, a biomedical engineer at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., which has been working on it for six years. Researchers tried both methods, on 940 women who had dense breasts and a high risk of cancer because of family history, bad genes or other reasons.

Thirteen tumors were found in 12 women — eight by MBI alone, one by mammography alone, two by both methods and two by neither. (The two missed cancers were found on subsequent annual mammograms, physical exams or other imaging tests.)

Looked at another way, MBI found 10 out of 13 tumors, missing three; mammograms detected three out of 13 tumors and missed 10. Using both methods, 11 out of 13 tumors would have been detected. “These images are quite striking. You can see how the cancers would be hidden on the mammograms,” Hruska said.


I TOLD you it would make a great story:
Polly Grose had already found a rich historical subject in one branch of her family: her Quaker ancestors. And then, she said this week, she took on a far messier topic: her own life, from World War II to 15 minutes ago:

“A London Scrapbook” takes readers from the
theater and public affairs world of Minneapolis to society life in
London and sailing the Mediterranean, all the while building the
intimate and honest story of love found.   This
memoir is ultimately a story of love, loss and recovery. But, it is
also a scrapbook filled with insights and snapshots of life as it was
for a girl growing up during World War II and coming of age in postwar
America; for a woman going through divorce and striking out on her own
to develop a career, becoming one of the women pioneers in the Twin
Cities to break through glass ceilings and pave the way for women who
came after her.


Archibald I.
Leyasmeyer, Morse-Alumni Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English,
University of Minnesota wrote, “[This] is essentially a personal memoir
of about a 25-year period in her rich life, but it easily moves across
time and space, acquiring a surprising depth and expansiveness…. [A]
great love story.”

— Chris L.

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