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Five years to FIRE
Old 01-23-2006, 07:51 PM   #1
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Five years to FIRE

This is an introduction and a question. Should I be posting it here or over in ďFIRE and MoneyĒ?*

Hi, I am Dan, and have been poking around this forum for a couple days. Iíll be 50 in March. My wife and I are planning/hoping to ER in five years. Iíve worked with one company since í77. My 401k will be my main source of retirement income, although there will be a small pension, and some Roth dollars. My 401k & Roth investments are all in mutual funds, nicely balanced by style, type, sector, region, etc., but fairly aggressive. No bond funds, one blended fund, my total in stocks is about 93%.

Iím weighing the importance of staying largely in equities for my lifetime versus the two-pile approach, and am wondering your thoughts. I donít want to get to 55 and think I canít retire just because the markets happen to be low at the time. I am thinking I could maybe start putting my new deposits into bonds, and then in five years time Iíd at least have a yearís salary set aside. Then Iíd still have to figure out, over time, when to sell what funds, while still trying to keep the portfolio balanced.

Any thoughts on what a guy like me should be doing five years in advance? Or down the road to maximize return while keeping the risk down?*

Thanks,
Dan
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Re: Five years to FIRE
Old 01-23-2006, 08:40 PM   #2
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Re: Five years to FIRE

Quote:
Originally Posted by five2fire
This is an introduction and a question. Should I be posting it here or over in ďFIRE and MoneyĒ?*
Welcome, Dan, here is fine!

Quote:
Originally Posted by five2fire
My 401k will be my main source of retirement income, although there will be a small pension, and some Roth dollars. My 401k & Roth investments are all in mutual funds, nicely balanced by style, type, sector, region, etc., but fairly aggressive. No bond funds, one blended fund, my total in stocks is about 93%.

Iím weighing the importance of staying largely in equities for my lifetime versus the two-pile approach, and am wondering your thoughts. I donít want to get to 55 and think I canít retire just because the markets happen to be low at the time.
Presumably you've solved the biggest ER challenge-- health care and its expenses.

I'm assuming that you're familiar with asset allocation like Bernstein's "Four Pillars" book and that you're comfortable with the high volatility of a high-equity portfolio.* The good thing about a high-equity portfolio is that it's much more likely to achieve long-term returns in excess of inflation.* So if you're sleeping at night with a high-equity AA, great.* If you're not sleeping at night, then none of the subsequent math matters and you might want to reduce your equity % of your AA.* Or you might want to shift into dividend-paying stocks.* A couple ERs here live off their dividends and a 90-something poster at M* has a 100% equity portfolio, although admittedly he's not too worried about consuming principle anymore.

The next step is to plug your numbers (including your expenses & SS) into FIRECalc to see what your success rate is.* If your success rate is above 90% (some would even say above 80%) then you guys probably have enough to last for the rest of your lives.

Expenses should account for large lumps as well as the monthly stuff.* You'll eventually have to buy a new roof, perhaps pay for a kid's college or wedding, replace appliances & vehicles, or take a fantasy vacation.* Those are one-time expenses but, although you have some flexibility over when it's spent, they have to be included in the spending plan.*

Many of us have "regular" ER budgets with belt-tightening backups.* FIRECalc doesn't adjust your spending for down years but if you were living through 2002 all over again you'd probably find ways to spend less money, reduce that year's SWR, and give your portfolio some breathing room.* If your pension covers a large chunk of your basic belt-tightening budget, then you have a separate source of reliable cash flow that also helps reduce your SWR.

Some financial advisors would count a pension as the equivalent of a bond fund.* You could even torture the analogy by assuming a govt pension is the equivalent of T-bills, a corporate pension the equivalent of corporate bonds, and an auto/airline pension the equivalent of junk bonds.* You have to decide how reliable that pension will be and how much it'll drive your spending.* If you count your pension as a bond then you may decide that your current equity holdings are lower than 93% of the total.

Quote:
Originally Posted by five2fire
I donít want to get to 55 and think I canít retire just because the markets happen to be low at the time. I am thinking I could maybe start putting my new deposits into bonds, and then in five years time Iíd at least have a yearís salary set aside. Then Iíd still have to figure out, over time, when to sell what funds, while still trying to keep the portfolio balanced.
If you have the flexibility & desire to keep working after age 55 then you don't have to worry so much about the market.* The key is not to retire with a small bleeding-edge ER portfolio after a really socko year-- like January 2000.* I retired in June 2002 and the size of our portfolio has been rising ever since.

In FIRE your salary is irrelevant-- most think of their portfolios in terms of annual* spending.* We keep a year's spending in cash (in a money market) and a second year's expenses in a CD.* We replenish the stash after a good year and draw it down after a not-so-good year.*

If you're trying to keep your portfolio within 5-10% of your desired AA then you'll find yourself selling off bits of your winners and letting the losers recover.* That decision tends to handle itself unless you decide to change your AA.

Quote:
Originally Posted by five2fire
Any thoughts on what a guy like me should be doing five years in advance?
Yeah, track your spending and project those big expenses.* Some of the posters on the board have taken it to extremes and others just keep some slack in the budget for the unexpected expenses.*

Max out your healthcare & dental benefits before you retire.* If you can see the need for some significant work then get it done now.

If you haven't already then read "Four Pillars".* You'll also want to read Bob Clyatt's "Work Less, Live More".*

Quote:
Originally Posted by five2fire
Or down the road to maximize return while keeping the risk down?
Well, you have to decide what kind of risk matters most to you.* If you're trying to avoid the risk of losing to inflation then a high-equity portfolio should stay ahead.* If you're trying to minimize the risk of a high-volatility portfolio then you might need to reduce the equity portion.
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Re: Five years to FIRE
Old 01-24-2006, 07:39 PM   #3
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Re: Five years to FIRE

Thanks for the input. Now I'm off to the library.
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Re: Five years to FIRE
Old 01-26-2006, 07:09 PM   #4
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Re: Five years to FIRE

Hi Dan,

93% equity seems high when you are planning to retire in 5 years. I am planning to retire in similar timeframe. My equity/bond ratio is 65/35. If you can tolerate the volatility of holding near all equity, then continue to do so. Good luck.

Spanky
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Re: Five years to FIRE
Old 01-27-2006, 09:28 PM   #5
Confused about dryer sheets
 
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Re: Five years to FIRE

Quote:
Originally Posted by Spanky
93% equity seems high when you are planning to retire in 5 years. I am planning to retire in similar timeframe. My equity/bond ratio is 65/35. If you can tolerate the volatility of holding near all equity, then continue to do so. Good luck.
Thanks for the feedback Spanky. I believe I've got the nerves for it, and I want to have as much as possible in equities without having to sell anything when it is low. I'm still doing a lot of reading, and thinking. The trick has got to be in a balanced allocation, including some CDs and Money market (like Nords mentioned),* and a smart strategy for selling. I used DCA to my advantage when buying - can't use that same logic when selling.

Anyone using the Grangaard strategy? I've read his "Invest right during retirement", but not his "Plan Right for Retirement".

Speaking of books, thanks Nords for the tip:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
I'm assuming that you're familiar with asset allocation like Bernstein's "Four Pillars" book ... If you haven't already then read "Four Pillars".*
How would you all rate Bernstein's "Intelligent Asset Allocator" compared to his "Four Pillars"? I can get the former from the library, but would need to buy the latter, which I plan to do, but are they both "must reads"?

Thanks,
Dan
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Re: Five years to FIRE
Old 01-27-2006, 10:24 PM   #6
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Re: Five years to FIRE

No - not by any stretch of the imagination. I read Four Pillars.

Heh heh heh heh - I'm posting this to razz the slice and dice crowd - it's part of my curmudgeon training.

Check out Swedroe and Dreman authored books. There are others - but I'm not a big book fan. You don't need no stinking books.

Just stick with the Norwegian widow - buy some good durable dividend paying stocks and go fishing - 4 is at the low end and 32 is probably too many.

Of course - I violate all the above in my own portfolio with a dual strategy. But theory wise it can be made to work.

heh heh heh - P.S. There is NO Norwegian widow book to my knowledge - just pssst - a regulated electric ute, an oil/gas stock, a telephone and perhaps a REIT, a drug, a food, some bank/insurance type, a mfg you like with a 50-100 yr track record, and of course never mentioned by her - a water ute stock as a consesion to me for this sage advice.

More than one way to skin a cat. Common sense and reading this forum will expose you to more than one successfull style of investing - whether in the accumulation or distribution phase. Personally I'm really jealous of the real estate cats - NOT one of my success areas.
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Re: Five years to FIRE
Old 01-28-2006, 09:58 AM   #7
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Re: Five years to FIRE

Here is a link of books:
http://www.diehards.org/readbooks.htm
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Re: Five years to FIRE
Old 01-28-2006, 05:58 PM   #8
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Re: Five years to FIRE

Quote:
Originally Posted by five2fire
Speaking of books, thanks Nords for the tip: *How would you all rate Bernstein's "Intelligent Asset Allocator" compared to his "Four Pillars"? I can get the former from the library, but would need to buy the latter, which I plan to do, but are they both "must reads"?
They're both good books, but Bernstein goes into far more theory & detail in IAA. He says it's "For the Sophisticated Investor" whereas Four Pillars is "For the Liberal Arts Audience". It depends on what level of detail you're interested in-- we all know that 4% is generally regarded to be a safe withdrawal rate but few of us have actually read the Trinity study and checked out all its footnotes & references.

I'm a heavy library user and I buy darn few books but "Four Pillars" is worth the money-- you'll read it once and then consult parts of it several times. Most people do fine with "Four Pillars" and don't have any need/interest in pursuing the theoretical underpinnings. If you're the kind of person who reads their car's owner's manual cover-to-cover, buys all the shop manuals and a Chilton's, and then rips off the head cover to see how the crankshaft is aligned, well... perhaps you'd enjoy IAA.
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