I need your help on a small project that I am working on! I have a new FaceBook Page for Top Secret Startup Project # 4 and need 25 people to “like” the page in order to get a proper URL. Would you PLEASE take exactly 10 seconds to visit that page by CLICKING HERE and click the “like” button.
I might even send one of you (by random selection) a surprise gift (HINT: think ‘apple’ and think ‘card’) AND you will be amongst the first to know what I’m up to over the next few weeks! Now, back to today’s post …
Philip Brewer is the first to break ranks … that makes him a pioneer!
He’s the first personal finance writer to question the validity of the 4% Rule; I’ll let him do what he does best … explain:
There’s a rule of thumb that’s pretty well known to retirement planners: the 4% rule. It states that if you spend 4% of your capital in your first year of retirement, you can go on spending that much — and even adjust it for inflation — and you won’t run out of money before you die. That rule is starting to look kind of iffy.
The rule is just an observation: Over the past hundred years you could have followed the 4% rule starting in any year and you wouldn’t have run out of money. That’s been true because the return to capital has been pretty high, and because downturns have been pretty short.
So, that’s the genesis of the 4% Rule … basically an assumption that if inflation runs at 3%, you can get at least 7% return on your investment (the difference being the amount you can spend: 4%). But, most investments haven’t ‘returned’ 7% – or anywhere near that – for quite some time, as Philip explains:
Stock investors saw some price appreciation in the 1990s, but there’s been no appreciation since then. In fact, your stock portfolio is probably down over the past decade, even with reinvested dividends.
… and bonds and cash haven’t fared much better, certainly not enough to keep up with inflation and provide spending money for a retiree!
The problem is we’re trying to fit a square peg into a round hole:
Bonds, cash, and stocks are all capital investments (my term); they are designed to hold (preferably, appreciate) the capital that you put in.
You create ‘income’ from these investments: (a) from their (relatively speaking) meager dividends, and/or (b) by selling down your portfolio as needed. The 4% Rule says that the amount that you need to selll down SHOULD be offset by the increase in value of what you have left even after accounting for inflation.
The problem is in the ‘SHOULD’ word: this should all work, but as Philip points out, there are times when it doesn’t …
When you are retired you shouldn’t spend capital unless you print the stuff … or, at least, have an unlimited supply.
You don’t want capital, when you are retired, you really want income.
Specifically, you want a certain amount of income – and, you want regular pay increases (at least enough to keep up with inflation) – just like when you were working.
But, you want it:
a. without needing to work, and
b. without running the risk of being ‘fired’ (i.e. having your retirement income run out).
Other than some nebulous (perhaps, for you, well-defined) need to leave some of your hard-earned, precious, irreplaceable, capital behind for charity, your cat, and/or the next generation, you really don’t – shouldn’t – care very much about it, except for its ability to provide that much needed income.
So, why try and cajole capital-appreciating assets to do the work of your former employer, when there are perfectly good investments out there specifically manufactured for the sole purpose of:
1. At least maintaining their own value (ideally, after inflation), and
2. Providing you with an income, indexed for inflation, for your life or the life of the asset (whichever comes first).
A few such assets immediately spring to mind … each with their own pros/cons (which we can explore in the comments and/or future posts):
1. Real-estate: it tends to increase in value according to inflation; it tends to provide semi-reliable income that increases (again) with inflation,
2. Inflation-indexed annuities: you give up claim on the capital in return for a guaranteed (well, as long as AIG or its like stays in business) income that increases with inflation,
3. Treasury Inflation-Protected Bonds (some Municipal MUNI’s also do much the same): These guarantee that your capital will increase with inflation, and you can ladder them cleverly to provide some semblance of a (albeit low) income stream that increases with inflation.
Of all of these – and, in retirement – I like 100%-owned (i.e. paid for by cash) real-estate the best; what do you recommend?