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       Investor's Insight - November 21, 2006           
          "A Digest of Investment Opinion From the 
             World's Leading Financial Advisers"


by Scott Burns

RUIDOSO, N.M. -- There is a difference between gambling 
and real life. If you've ever gambled, you've probably 

When you gamble and play a particular game, the odds are 
known. They may be against you, but they are known. 

Real life isn't like that. The odds change all the time. 
You never really know them. That may be why some people 
like gambling: In a peculiar way, it's more secure than 
real life. 

And some games have better odds than others.


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Here at the Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort and Casino, 
as with virtually all casinos, the blackjack tables have 
the best odds; the slots have the worst. Play disciplined 
basic blackjack and you'll still face Gambler's Ruin, an 
unrecoverable loss. But you'll stay in the game longer 
than at the slots.  

So what's a personal finance columnist doing at a casino? 
Simple: My wife and I are here to gambol for the weekend, 
not gamble. We're here for the resort part, in celebration 
of my 66th birthday.

Today, the odds favor my having many more. 

I learned this from the United States Life Tables for 2003, 
published by the National Center for Health Statistics. It 
tells the story of what might be called Nature's Ruin -- 
the rounds we all play in the game of life. We still face 
ruin in this game, but the odds improve every year.

For all the daily news of misery, angst and death, this 
document tells us something different. It tells us that 
the odds in the Casino of Life are getting better. We can 
play more rounds before being overtaken by Nature's Ruin. 
And unlike wealth or poker winnings, a longer life is 
widely and democratically distributed.

If you don't think this is grand today, trust me, you will 
when you are 66.

Of course, the improvement is glacially slow by videogame 

But it's real. And it is measured in what truly counts: 
years of life.

In 1940, the year I was born, the life expectancy of a 
white male was 62.1 years. That's nearly four years less 
than I have already been alive. A white male born in 2003 
had a life expectancy of 75.3 years. That's an improvement 
of 13.2 years. It happened in what is now less than a 
lifetime. Expectancy improved about two years for every

A black man born in 1940 had a life expectancy of only 51.5 
years -- a full decade less than a white man. He could ex-
pect to pay the employment tax every year of his working 
life. But he could also expect to die more than a decade 
before he was eligible to collect his Social Security ben-
efits. (Readers who've opined that a national sales tax was 
unfair and regressive should ponder this odd little wrinkle 
in our current tax system.) 

A black male born in 2003 can expect to live 69 years, an 
improvement of 18.5 years, about three years for each decade.


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Things look pretty good going forward, too.

The life expectancy for a white male at age 65 is now 16.9 
years. The life expectancy for a black male at 65 is 14.9 
years. Black men, who have survived the greater hazards of 
life to age 65, now have a gap of only two years. 

As everyone knows, women of both races live longer. But the 
improvement for black women has been spectacular -- a gain 
of 21.2 years in expectancy from 54.9 at birth in 1940 to 
76.1 in 2003.

This is the main event. Everything else is a side show.

Live long and prosper.

You can discuss this issue or any other topic in the new 
Investor's Insight forum. Check it out here...

Investor's Insight Forum

(Investor's Insight reflects the opinions of experts. It does 
not recommend any specific investments, and no endorsement is 
implied or should be inferred. For more information, contact 
the individual firms cited).



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