The myth of semi-retirement …

We were driving through Sedona and stopped into some sort of Big Box Store to pick up some rubber beach shoes so that we could take the kids to Slide Rock.

We met a nice, older lady at the checkout and – as I tend to do with anybody and everybody – we got chatting.

Then she said something that took me totally by surprise:

She said that she moved to Sedona now that she is retired!

Retired?! Hang about, I thought, isn’t she standing at the cash register swiping my credit card?

Perhaps, reading my mind (more likely, the expression on my face), she clarified: she moved to Sedona when she retired from full-time work, and now that she is ‘retired’ (there it is again!) she only works part-time.

Why is that when you are studying – or perhaps slowly returning to the workforce post-parenthood – you are happy to tell your friends that you are “working part-time”.

But, when you reach 65 and suddenly find that you still need to work (perhaps with reduced hours, or in some sort of micro-business that you set up for yourself) you are “retired” or you are in that even less definable state of “semi-retirement”?

In fact, there are whole websites and books devoted to the subject of semi-retirement. One of those books is “Work Less, Live More” by Bob Clyatt; I bought it on the recommendation of Jacob from Early Retirement Extreme (he left a comment on this post) … I’ll be commenting on one specific aspect of this book (in fact, the very aspect that prompted Jacob to recommend it to me ) in an upcoming post.

In the meantime, Bob did confirm that I am not retired … I am semi-retired.

According to Bob, I am semi-retired because I do various income-earning activities: I still own a business; I own two development sites (and, am going though the process of having development plans approved by council); I have started an angel investing incubator (or, at least, started to put the foundations in place); have a web 2.0 startup and a book well under development.

But, if I am doing these things because I am a hobbyist, am I any different from the guy who is game fishing every other day as a hobby?

But, if I am game fishing every other day because I need the income (e.g. I take some paying clients out on my boat, or I sell the fish), am I any different to the guy who needs to have a part-time business – or blogs – because he needs the money?

In other words, isn’t the difference between working part-time and being semi-retired the need to bring in income from the activities that you undertake?

Doesn’t that change the dynamic just a little?

Even though he may enjoy the core activity, isn’t the part-time game fisherman who needs the money a little bit more upset when a trip is canceled due to bad weather (or customer cancelation) than the guy who is doing it purely because of his love of the sport?

Whether you agree or not, let’s at least agree on something … at least for the purposes of this blog:

1. If you are retired, you don’t need the money – you just do stuff for fun.

2. If you need the money, you aren’t retired, you are [insert activity of choice: writing a book; blogging; game fishing; real-estate developing; etc.] part-time.

The day that I need to consult to top up the income from my investments is the day that I am no longer just having fun: I’m working part-time.

Maybe we can coin a new term: flexi-working? Semi-working? Whatever you call it, there ain’t no retirement happening …

How about you? Where do you draw the line between work and retirement? And, does it even matter?

Wrapping up …

You can check out the latest Carnival of Personal Finance (#298 – The Best Money Articles Online) here.


I didn’t expect that one of my most argued series of posts would be about dividends; I thought it would be around my vehemently anti-anti-debt stance (see if you can work THAT out).

So, I’d like to wrap up that discussion with a point-by-point review of a really interesting comment left by Deek:

I see where you are coming from and disagree to a point. It depends on what your outlook is. 7 mil in 7 years of course dividends aren’t going to get you their.

But my grandfather who was a coal miner who cannot work into his 70s because of the type of job. He was able to be a dividend millionaire. When he did retire the income from dividends, his pension and social security was more than enough for him to live comfortable into his 90s and leave money for his children.

At 90 years old he isn’t going to work,build a business or mess around with real estate. He wanted to check he dividend paying stocks once a month and enjoy retirement, drink a few beers and his biggest worry was cutting the grass.

I also find it interesting you mention Berkshire Hathaway. Depending on when you look at BRK holdings they do invest a significant amount of money into dividend paying stocks even though they do not themselves pay a dividend.

This really summarizes a lot of the for/against arguments around dividend stocks, at least as raised by the many reader comments to my earlier posts, so I thought I should run my readers through it:

1. Yes, this blog is specifically aimed at those who want to make what I call a Large Number / Soon Date (eg $7m7y or $2m5y, etc.); however, in this case, I don’t think it makes any difference: investing in stocks just because they happen to produce dividends is dumb.

In my businesses, I am free to create a dividend whether the business is performing well or otherwise. So can the boards of public companies. If that simple point doesn’t win the pro-dividend lobby over, nothing will.

2. It seems like Deek’s grandfather did an amazing job! Investing in a bunch of “dividend stocks” – and, holding for long periods – is certainly a lot better than many other strategies, certainly for non-$7m7y’ers.

But, he may – probably (certainly!) – have done even better by following a Value Investing approach (e.g. such as that proposed by Rule # 1 Investing author, Phil Town). Buying and holding great stocks – ones that produce a steadily growing profit stream – is an even better way to make long-term money than buying and holding stocks just because they happen to pay a steady dividend stream. The two should be synonymous, sadly that’s not always the case.

3. I’m not suggesting that you (or Deek’s grandfather) should invest in business or real-estate etc. Although, I strongly argue that in retirement RE, in particular, provides a much more secure retirement, again for $7m7y’ers.

4. Deek’s point about Warren Buffett (“BRK holdings they do invest a significant amount of money into dividend paying stocks even though they do not themselves pay a dividend”) neatly summarizes my key point:

Like Warren Buffett, I am not against investing in stocks that pay a dividend; I am simply for investing in great businesses – or, the stocks of great businesses – regardless of whether or not they pay a dividend.

Get it?

Copying the magician …

Have you seen those acts where the magician calls a volunteer up from the floor, hands them a rope then says to “do exactly as I do”.

The magician walks the volunteer, step by step, through the process of knotting his rope, while the volunteer tries to copy him exactly.

Of course, at the end, the magician’s rope is neatly knotted and the volunteer has rope all over the place and looks a little foolish.

You see, the magician has some extra steps that the volunteer doesn’t pick up, or performs in mirror image, so the trick is doomed to failure for him.

Of course, it’s all good-natured fun …

… but, it’s not so much fun when it happens in real life 🙁

For example, in my last post, I outlined some steps that retirees can take to create a “zero withdrawal rate” strategy for their retirement to virtually guarantee that their money will last as long as they do:

Now, 0% does not mean withdrawal nothing, but it does mean having a sustainable, self-regenerating supply of income; this is not as hard to achieve as you might think.

For example, you can create an ongoing stream of income from:

1. Inflation protected annuities (albeit expensive)

2. TIPS (albeit a low return)

3. 100% owned real-estate (albeit, needs management)

4. Dividend stocks (my least preferred as they are sometimes a sub-par investment that tends to rise-fall with the markets).

Remember, when you retire, you want not only ZERO chance that your money runs out, but you don’t even want to get anywhere near to zero by a wide margin.

A great feat … if you can pull it off.

But, you have to copy my strategies exactly … and, to do that you need to use your powers of observation to do exactly as I do. No deviation.

So, let’s take a ‘volunteer’ from the audience, Evan, who commented:

My goal is to have a little bit of all those buckets…right now I am trying to build the dividend portfolio.

Right strategy, but it seems that Evan missed the magician’s “secret step”:

You only implement these steps AFTER you have retired (at least, after you have reached Your Number).

Your goal should be to:

1. Have a large enough nest-egg (i.e. Your Number) to provide enough to retire with, and

2. To then ensure that it (i) keeps up with inflation and (ii) never runs out.

These strategies (dividend stocks, TIPS, 100%-owned real-estate, etc.) only work for Step 2.

They typically don’t provide enough return (including growth of capital and income) to build up the nest-egg that you need, in the first place!

So, if you implement them too early, your nest-egg will be too small to begin with …

Instead, you need to find a class of investment where both your capital and your income grow (at least) with inflation.

Here’s an example using real-estate:

a) BEFORE retirement, build up a large real-estate portfolio with 20% down, and refinancing at regular intervals to build up a large portfolio over time. Reinvest all excess profits into buying more real-estate. Use a mixture of residential and commercial to provide higher growth. Add value by building, rehabbing, etc. etc.

b) AFTER retirement (or, as retirement approaches) sell down your portfolio (particularly the lower-return residential component) until you have sufficient cash to pay out the prime commercial properties in your portfolio. Your aim is to own the best rental properties 100%, with a buffer for vacancies, repairs and maintenance, etc.

c) WHEN you get too old or ill to manage the portfolio (even with the help of qualified Realtors and property managers), sell out (or, leave instructions to your attorneys to sell out) and purchase TIPS (or bonds, if TIPS aren’t available).

Three radically different investment approaches … one for each critical stage of your life.

The 0% ‘safe’ withdrawal rate …

What % of your retirement ‘nest egg’ can you safely withdraw each year, to make sure that you money lasts as long as you do?

Many would say that this is a question best answered by highly educated practitioners of the highly specialized field of Retirement Economics, who will give you an answer – or, more likely, a range of answers – accurate to many decimal places.

But, I can give you a single answer …

… one that is accurate to at least 17 decimal places, yet I am not an economist of any kind.

You see, Retirement Economics is an oxymoron.


First, let me give you an excellent example of what retirement economics is …

In his blog dedicated to pensions, retirement plans, and economics, Wade Pfau provides the following chart:

It superimposes two charts:

– one shows descending survival rates for men, women and couples who retire at age 65.

For example, if you retire at 65, there’s only a roughly 18% chance that at least one of you will live past the age of 95. Reduce that to 90, and there’s a 40% chance that one of you will survive.

– The other is an increasing probability that your money will run out before you do the larger the % you withdraw from your retirement portfolio.

For example, if you only withdraw 3% from your portfolio (if invested in the exact 40%/60% mix of stocks and bonds assumed by Wade) then there’s almost 0% chance that you’ll run out of money by the time you reach 95 (and a small chance thereafter).

But, there’s a 30% chance that you’ll run out of money by age 95 if you increase that ‘safe’ withdrawal rate to just 5%.

You’re supposed to use these ‘retirement economics’ to make decisions like:

“Well it’s very likely that either my wife or I will live to 95 and we don’t want our money to run out, so we’ll invest all of our savings in a 40% stocks / 60% bonds portfolio, and we’ll only withdraw 3% of it each year just to be sure that our money won’t run out.”

That seems like sound economical judgement for the average person …

… BUT, you are not average!

For better or worse, you are … well … you.

Besides the obvious [AJC: who says you want to wait until you’re 65 to retire?!], when YOU are 95 (albeit in the 10th percentile), how happy will you be if your money has either either already run out or there’s a reasonable chance that you will soon be out of money, hence out of care?

I would argue that only a 100% chance of your money outliving you is acceptable.

Even then, only with a LARGE buffer, so you never need to worry about even the possibility of your money running out!

In my opinion:

Only a 0.00000000000000000% withdrawal rate is acceptable.

Now, 0% does not mean withdrawal nothing, but it does mean having a sustainable, self-regenerating supply of income; this is not as hard to achieve as you might think.

For example, you can create an ongoing stream of income from:

1. Inflation protected annuities (albeit expensive)

2. TIPS (albeit a low return)

3. 100% owned real-estate (albeit, needs management)

4. Dividend stocks (my least preferred as they are sometimes a sub-par investment that tends to rise-fall with the markets).

Remember, when you retire, you want not only ZERO chance that your money runs out, but you don’t even want to get anywhere near to zero by a wide margin.

Don’t you?

Fitting another square peg into a round hole …

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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:

Square Peg

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 …

Round Hole

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?

Avoid wiggly-line investments!

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CNNMoney fields a question from a reader who’s scared that her money will run out before she does:

Question: I recently had to take early retirement at age 57 because of back problems. I’m now looking for a safe place to invest my retirement money where I’ll have no risk losing it. Any suggestions? — Donald H., Morris, Alabama

Yes, I have a suggestion: don’t post your questions to a financial ‘expert’ who still works for a living!

If you do, you’ll get answers like:

Answer: If the threat of losing principal were the only financial risk you had to protect yourself against in retirement, then finding a safe haven for your money would be pretty simple. You could plow your entire nest egg into Treasury bills or spread it among FDIC-insured savings accounts and CDs (taking care to stay within the FDIC coverage limits).

But while doing this would insure that you would never lose a cent of your money, it would also insure that your retirement stash earned a pretty measly return.

Good, so far … so, no cash. Got it!

What should she do instead (?):

If you want to have a decent shot at your retirement savings lasting as long as you do, you also want to invest in a way that has at least some potential for long-term growth.

[Keep some in cash and the] rest of your savings you want to keep in a diversified portfolio of stock and bond funds. Again, there’s no single correct mix. Typically, though, someone just entering retirement might have 50% or so of his or her portfolio in stocks and the rest in bonds.


Question: If you are aiming to retire, why do you want long-term growth?!

Answer: Because, you expect to lose some significant proportion of your capital to:

– Spending too much,

– Inflation,

– Market downturns.

In other words, the expert recommends to invest in a ‘wiggly line’ investment, hoping that the upswings outweigh all the downswings + spending after inflation is taken into account.

How well has that been working out for the past, oh, 20 years?

So, can you think of an investment that tends to grow with inflation, and provides income that also tends to grow with inflation?

Well those treasury-protected bonds certainly have principal that keeps up with inflation, but the returns are so low that income will become a real problem.

But, what about real-estate?

It’s where ‘the rich’ have kept the bulk of their retirement savings since time immemorial … I wonder why? 😉

Happiness = $75,000 a year!

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Finally, there is a study that equates money to happiness!

The Wall Street Journal reports a study by “the Princeton economist Angus Deaton and famed psychologist Daniel Kahneman”, which states:

As people earn more money, their day-to-day happiness rises. Until you hit $75,000. After that, it is just more stuff, with no gain in happiness.

Let’s assume you want to retire in 20 years on the equivalent of $75k p.a. – after adjusting for inflation (roughly double your required income every 20 years) and applying the Rule of 20 (equates to a 5% p.a. drawdown on your money), this means:

Your Optimal Happiness Number = $3,000,000

None of my readers are chasing less – otherwise, why would you be reading a blog called How To Make $7 Million In 7 Years (?) – but, the point of the study has been taken by the press and the pf blogging community to mean that it’s pointless to chase more than $3 million … seemingly making my uniquely positioned blog redundant by half 🙁

Well, it’s quite interesting because there’s a second part to the study that the media and most other bloggers are conveniently ignoring:

That doesn’t mean wealthy and ultrawealthy are equally happy. More money does boost people’s life assessment, all the way up the income ladder. People who earned $160,000 a year, for instance, reported more overall satisfaction than people earning $120,000, and so on.

“Giving people more income beyond 75K is not going to do much for their daily mood … but it is going to make them feel they have a better life,” Mr. Deaton told the Associated Press.

I don’t know about you, but I like to be happy ($75k p.a. happy) and have a better life ($250k p.a. better life)!

How about you?

The False War On Debt …

There’s a war raging out there: it’s being fought by authors and bloggers everywhere.

But, is it the right war? Is it a just war? Or, are we just throwing ourselves, by the millions, into a hail of fire: exploding spending, rampant inflation, the death of social security?

Sure, as we sit in the relative safety of our trenches (at least, that’s what we tell ourselves, until a random mortar shell of job loss or unexpected expenses chooses to lob our way) this is not OUR future … it’s somebody else’s, or it’s too far away, or it just can’t happen …

The sad truth is that legions have jumped the wall before us and have been brutally cut down for lack of an adequate nest-egg; it’s sad to see them go over the dreaded wall of retirement (be it their time, or forced on them early) without an adequate safety net … when they do, it’s as though their grim fate had already been sealed.

Broke – or ‘just’ financially crippled – and unable (for financial reasons) to live life as they had hoped, they are a sad, sad lot.

You see, the war that they fought wasn’t – isn’t – a just war. It’s not even a war … well, it shouldn’t even be more than a skirmish.

It’s the War Against Debt!

When it comes to that war, I’m strictly a pacifist; isn’t it better to simply avoid BAD debt?

Of course, that doesn’t mean that we can’t … shouldn’t … defend ourselves.

Far from it: if we find that BAD debt has snuck through our defences, let’s keep an eye on it. And, if we find that it’s also EXPENSIVE debt, then let’s whip out the Big Guns and wipe it out. Quickly, surgically …

… but, let’s not commit Debt Genocide.

You see, unlike the well-intentioned, but largely Debt-McArthyist “ALL Debt Is Bad, So Let’s Wipe It Out” rabble out there, let’s first ask The Missing Question:

What will you do after your debt is paid off?

“Well, start investing of course!”

But, does that REALLY happen? Who better to ask than Money Reasons:

This past February 2010, I became totally debt free, but now what!

I thought that there would be a period where I would break even for a while, and then start to plow about $1,000 extra each month into investments!  So now that it’s seven months later and how much extra did I save or invest?  Not a single cent!

Hang on, the whole purpose of suiting up for battle – for going to war against debt – was so that you could start investing, right? What’s up with that, Money Reasons:

Well it’s been a matter of bad luck with equipment breaking down and needing replaced and spending too much for our past vacation to Hilton Head Island!

But it’s also been a subtle form of LifeStyle Inflation!  Thinking back now, I realize that when wants would arise, I would just go ahead and buy it.  Yeah, I thought about it a bit, but I knew that I had the cash.  Then when your car and lawn mower broke down, I had the cash too…

Money Reasons should have started investing well before all of his debt was paid off … he should have started investing as soon as his expensive debt was paid off and left his cheap debt on a regimen of minimum payments.

The problem with this war is that it’s an unjust war; as TraineeInvestor said: “Debt is a tool. Paying it off is simply choosing not to use the tool.”

Yes, becoming debt free is simply a tactic

If you have to go and fight a war, don’t fight a war against debt …

… go and fight a war for investment 😉

A great retirement plan executed badly …

I have a good friend who had a successful business; while not exactly a retirement plan (as he still had the business), it would work as one:

He would buy a commercial property (e.g. office or warehouse) in a good near-downtown area, refurbish as necessary and put in place good tenants.

The next year he would buy another.

And, for the next three years after that he would buy another … until he had 5 such quality properties (purchase price around $1 million each).

Then he would do something pretty neat: he would sell the first (i.e. 5 year old property), taking about $1 million out to buy another property worth $1 million, and use the excess capital appreciation to fund his lifestyle.

Nice … except it didn’t make sense.

Because he was simply trading down one property (bought for $1 million 5 years ago so, hopefully, worth a little more now) for another (worth $1 million today), incurring all sorts of changeover costs and possibly even capital gains (unless he could qualify for a tax-free exchange).

He did this until I pointed out the obvious; I said: “Instead of selling one to buy another, why don’t you simply refinance the oldest property each year to release the capital appreciation, tax free?”


And, that’s what he did from then on …

People often come up with great, innovative ways to do things … but, it doesn’t mean that they’re the right way.

For example, in our former family finance company, my Dad used to give our clients a check for the full face value of their loan, and ask for a check back to cover our up-front commission.

His reasoning was that we would have the commission money in our hand and earn extra interest on it. Neat, until I pointed out that it was exactly the same as giving the client the net amount (i.e. face value of loan MINUS our commission): One check. Sensible.

Needless to say, that’s exactly what we did from then on.

Always evaluate what you are doing and how you are doing it, even if you are successful … you may be leaving (a lot) of money on the table.

BTW: I’m wondering if you picked it? There seems to be another flaw in the retirement plan executed by my friend and promoted my many a financial spruiker that I have listened to …

These real-estate investment ‘gurus’ say: “Buy lots of real-estate and when you retire you will have a LOT of equity available to fund your own retirement … simply take out a loan against this property every time that you need more money. Because it’s a loan and not income, you pay NO INCOME TAX on it, so it’s worth more to you than taking the money as rent; and, the excess rents will cover the mortgage payments. Of course, because it’s an investment loan, it’s tax deductible.”

Now, there’s so  many things wrong with this strategy that I wouldn’t even know where to start (how about vacancies, as one example?), yet I have been to at least half a dozen seminars where this exact strategy and tax-effectiveness argument was put forth.

However, I take issue with the last statement:

Just because a loan is taken out on an investment property, does NOT necessarily make it tax deductible.

In many countries, the real test is “what’s the PURPOSE of the money that you are borrowing?”

If it’s to refurbish the property to increase rents (hence, so that you can pay the IRS more tax … you win, they win!), more power to you!

But, in this case, it’s not to derive more investment income … it’s so that you can go out and have a good time!

Q: Why would a government want to subsidize your personal spending habits?

A: They probably wouldn’t!

Find a good tax advisor before implementing this strategy … oh, and take what you hear from financial spruikers with a kilo-grain of salt 😉

Staring down as the ground rushes up to meet you!

[click here to see movie]

I’m not a great fan of roller-coasters and thrill-rides, although I have ridden my fair share.

The most recent was at Disney World in Orlando, FL where I rode the The Disney World Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, mainly because I heard that it accelerated from a standing start as fast a Formula 1 race car, or something along those lines.

But, the one that scared me the most was one that I rode at our local Luna Park in my late teens … it was called The Zipper: more a thrill-ride than a coaster [AJC: I was ‘thrilled’ to find the image/movie above … imagine it at high speed and the whole arm on which the cages are moving around ALSO orbits around a central hub with the effect of ‘throwing’ each cage towards the concrete ground!], as it consisted of a number of cages spinning on an orbital arm; the effect – at certain stages of the ride – was rushing face down towards the pavement … a nice way to pick up your heart and shove it firmly into your mouth!

This effect is also one of the main reasons that I’m not enamored with most of the so-called Safe Withdrawal Rate retirement strategies that abound.

Whereas the main differentiator of these plans is usually in the % that you can ‘safely’ withdraw each year from your retirement ‘nest egg’ (usually in the 3.5% – 5% range), they are usually based on some sort of mathematical calculation that takes into account:

1. Your current age

2. The Number of years you expect to live (usually 30 or 40 years post-retirement)

3. The amount that you retired with

4. The mix of cash, stocks, and bonds that you would be most comfortable with

5. The probability that you would be most comfortable with that your money will last as long as you do (usually 75%+)

The mathematical models used then try and take these various factors into account, along with the historical performance of the cash/bond/stock markets and calculate what % of your nest-egg that you can withdraw that will – within the % accuracy that you chose – ensure that you have at least $1 left to your name on the day that you predicted that you will die.

Now, if that doesn’t sound totally idiotic to you, let’s just imagine for a moment that you CAN predict that you will die pretty close to the date that you selected for the model to work AND that you are comfortable with something less than 100% certainty that your money will last as long a you do …

… I still can’t help thinking that for the latter years – when you are pretty old and absolutely powerless to do anything other than ‘hang on for the ride’ – you will have to endure the REALITY of your bank account rapidly depleting towards that ‘perfect’ $1 remainder (or, whatever remainder you selected).

And, I can’t help but picture myself – eyes ever widening in financial terror – wondering: “will I hit Ground Zero ($)?”

I still hate thrill rides 🙁

PS I’m glad that I didn’t read about the safety issues with the earlier version of the Zipper ride – likely the same model as the one that I rode – otherwise my ‘face rushing to meet the pavement” may have turned out to be real (!):

On September 7, 1977, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a public warning, urging carnival-goers not to ride the Zipper after four deaths occurred due to compartment doors opening mid-ride … the same scenario was repeated in July 2006 in Hinckley, Minnesota when two teenage girls were ejected from their compartment as the door swung open.