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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report
Old 01-17-2007, 08:31 PM   #21
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cute 'n Fuzzy Bunny
Then I guess I missed the entire point of this thread!
Or we could agree that this thread is pointless.
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report
Old 01-17-2007, 09:21 PM   #22
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report

So as I continue to think about inflation and its effects, it looks like inflation effects us all in different ways. We can look at the overall CPI, but my actual inflation rate is different from yours, which is different from the next person, etc. As was mentioned, if gas is up, but I drive less, then the amount I spend on gas probably decreases. If the cost of eating out is up, but I decide to start eating at home more often, then I've had a dramatic effect on my overall food costs.

I'm in the process of transfering my home and auto insurance to another company (after 25 years) and will save nearly 30% on my overall insurance costs with the same coverage. Is this just wise shopping or is it something that will directly effect my "personal inflation rate?" Probably both. I guess I still just look at all of this as simply "budget management."

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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report
Old 01-17-2007, 09:33 PM   #23
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report

I like CFB's notion of simply calculating your own spending each year and seeing how much it goes up (or down) and using that as your inflation gauge. That incorporates all the nuances, belt tightening, splurges, tradeoffs, local conditions, housing costs whether renter or buyer etc into one number. Sort of like the equivalent of studying Cash Flow instead of looking at income statements.

But I know that people following the 'set a spending level at the beginning of ER and adjust it up for inflation each year' method need a number. Another reason I like the 'Take 4% of portfolio and live on it' approach -- simple and never needs a government number (or your own personal inflation rate, for that matter) to make it work or know if you're on track.
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report
Old 01-17-2007, 11:50 PM   #24
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report

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Originally Posted by wab
Or we could agree that this thread is pointless.
Ah but is it?

You would propose that its pointless for the intrepid early retiree to analyze and comprehend the effects of their actual experienced inflation rate on their attempts to remain gainfully unemployed? With Al's stated intention to get together and determine if ones overall lifestyle might influence the MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT OF THEIR FINANCIAL PICTURE, HOPEFULLY RIGHT BEHIND THEIR INVESTMENTS RATE OF RETURN?

Or were you proposing that we as a group bite off what some agency spits out as a composite nationwide number appropriate for urban workers as "good enough...just dont worry about it"?

Someone once said about me that I didnt like being portrayed in a negative light. But then I suppose, who would?

The reality of it was that I was disappointed in myself for allowing lesser men to draw me into discussions where I might be perceived in such a light.

While I could speculate on the motivations for such endeavors, perhaps its enough to say that they arent particularly worthy of my engagement?

Hmmm...this looks like one of those times!

As a successful early retiree, I would highly recommend that anyone thinking of or engaged in the activity of 'making their money without working' pay careful attention to determining the actual influence of inflation (that being the actual increased cost of living over time) on their lifestyle, location and any and all other pertinent details.

Factor that in, act suspicious when people talk about "real" returns (real for whom?) and make sure you're making enough money over the long haul to counteract the effects of inflation on your personal lifestyle.
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report
Old 01-18-2007, 12:17 AM   #25
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report

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Originally Posted by Cute 'n Fuzzy Bunny
While I could speculate on the motivations for such endeavors, perhaps its enough to say that they arent particularly worthy of my engagement?
Honorable Mr. Bunny, I relish your insults. Really, I do. I enjoy reading your posts almost as much as I enjoy reading my own.

Let us agree on a couple things. 1) We would both like to know the future. 2) We can't.

We both understand the underlying assumptions of the 4% SWR and the CPI-U, right? Can we improve these metrics? Maybe, but isn't that sort of using a micrometer to measure and an axe to cut?

The future is unknown. If you can calculate a personal inflation rate and successfully extrapolate that to your SWR, I think that's great. If you can further generalize those results to others here, I think that is FANTASTIC. Really. How to do so is beyond my meager abilities, so I'll yield the thread to you, and I'll continue to swing away with my 4%+CPI axe.
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report
Old 01-18-2007, 12:35 AM   #26
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report

I'm sorry, did I insult you? Purely an error on my behalf or a case of mistaken identity, to be sure.

Let me give you a great example of what I maintain a very good level of concern about.

An ER'ed guy who based on where he lives and his lifestyle has a personal rate of inflation running in the 6% range when CPI-U shows about 3%. Reads a bunch of stuff on this here ER forum and decides that, at the age of 52, the advice to buy investments that give him a "real" return of 2% and would help his portfolio run extend to 40 years or more...that thats good enough.

Except dang it, the "real" return was 3%+2%, not his 6%+2%. He then enjoys his 80's and 90's scavenging scraps of pizza cheese from discarded boxes out of dumpsters from behind the building where he used to work.

Not everybody reading this crap is an expert. Nor are they loaded up enough with cash to be able to afford sub standard returns from asset classes that might not be paying enough for someone just cutting along the fine edge and perhaps living in an area that costs too much or enjoying a lifestyle that their "real" investments might not be keeping up with.

So I think while spinning our yarns it pays to give all of the good advice that applies to everyone.

Seems that your advice, several times repeated, is to take the number you're fed and just run with it. Given that my personal rate of inflation is a good bit higher than the CPI-U, that wouldnt be my advice.

So what exactly are you doing with all your free time that a little introspection regarding lifestyles, locale and cost of living is prohibitive and not worth the expenditure? Seems we find plenty of time to pick on specific investments, extra quarter percent deals on CD's and money markets, how to slice and dice our portfolio's to smooth out volatility and improve returns by a percent or two by cutting expenses.

But **** that stuff about your cost of living being over or understated by a few percentage points or more?

We need an emoticon that fully expressed the thought "BWAAAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAA".
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report
Old 01-18-2007, 12:44 AM   #27
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cute 'n Fuzzy Bunny
Hows it for the last ten years running?
I have detailed data back to 1997. Based on a straight line fit to my 1997 to 2006 data, my personal rate of inflation (based on your definition) is -0.6%. My worst case year-to-year inflation would be 38.6% and my best case year-to-year inflation would be -28.1%.

I can't speak for other posters, but a personal rate of inflation is impossible to calculate for me. Some years I decide to travel to France for several weeks. Other years I spend much more time camping in National Forests. Some years I spend a lot on my house and cars. Other years I don't. Some years I end up eating out fairly often. Other years I perpare almost all my own meals. . .

I can't imagine anyone so boring and predictable that they could actually make a meaningful person inflation rate calculation. If you can, you are definately ahead in the retirement planning game. How about someone else presenting their personal data based on CFB's definition? Am I the only one who has large fluctuations from year to year?
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report
Old 01-18-2007, 01:13 AM   #28
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cute 'n Fuzzy Bunny
Seems that your advice, several times repeated, is to take the number you're fed and just run with it. Given that my personal rate of inflation is a good bit higher than the CPI-U, that wouldnt be my advice.
My oft-repeated advice is this: 4% is a SWAG. Everybody should make an effort to understand what it means, including the underlying assumptions. One of the implicit assumptions is that there is a mysterious correlation between investment returns and CPI. There is no such correlation for your personal rate of inflation.

If somebody could prove to themselves that their PRI is consistently higher than the CPI, then I agree with you. Not only should they *not* consider a CPI-indexed investment (unless the "real" rate exceeds their PRI delta), but they have to either reduce their SWR or find investments that will give them higher returns.

Also, nominal bonds are out, since the market watches CPI and not your PRI.

I agree with those who say that this PRI stuff is tricky business. Maybe it would be easier to leverage the work of the BLS and change the weights of the CPI components to match the weights of our own expense pie, creating a personalized CPI. Of course, those weights probably change with time, so I'm still unclear about how this personalized index would be used.

My alternative is pretty simple. Think about retiring when your nest egg gets to something like 25X expenses. The bigger, the better. Try to minimize expenses. Try to maximize returns within your risk tolerance. Enjoy life.

If ER doesn't seem to be working, look at your numbers and adapt. Have a plan-B.
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report
Old 01-18-2007, 08:28 AM   #29
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report

Quote:
Originally Posted by wab

My alternative is pretty simple. Think about retiring when your nest egg gets to something like 25X expenses. The bigger, the better. Try to minimize expenses. Try to maximize returns within your risk tolerance. Enjoy life.

If ER doesn't seem to be working, look at your numbers and adapt. Have a plan-B.
Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report
Old 01-18-2007, 08:44 AM   #30
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report

In general, I have been finding that my annual living expenses have been trending down, not up in absolute dollar terms.

This has been due to getting smarter about expenses (especially travel expenses), perhaps some tastes simplifying, having already purchased most of our desired "toys", simplifying lifestyle somewhat, etc., etc. Various factors have come into play, but there was never a concerted effort to reduce expenses, it just kind of happened naturally.....

So, even though I know in the very long run I'll see inflation, it's been pretty non-existent in the 7.5 years of retirement so far.

Audrey

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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report
Old 01-18-2007, 10:05 AM   #31
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report

Lowering expenses, simplifying your life and exchanging time for lower cost of living are all good exercises.

However, shall we pay heed to Joe Dominguez' efforts and take note that at some point that rubber band will have been wound as much as possible. Maybe make sure our plan keeps us from having to live in a group home and rinse off and reuse plastic wrap and tin foil?

I'm well aware that some of you feel CPI is just the best, and some of you feel you cant measure a rate of inflation. Thats fine, you should do what works for you.

I'm a little curious about this correlation between investment returns and CPI, what exactly is that and why is it suspected to exist? Are we marking the simple notion that when the economy is hot, returns are high, the fed raises rates to cool the economy, and during this set of functions, inflation also rises? Because we've had plenty of substantial periods of positive, negative and neutral correlation between investment returns and inflation as measured by the CPI.
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report
Old 01-18-2007, 10:21 AM   #32
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report

OK, hold on. Let me clarify my idea.

Some of us use the system of starting with a 4% withdrawal, and adjusting for inflation for each year. Thus the correct amount of inflation is very important.

Now, many agree that the government's rate isn't appropriate, so we have to calculate one that is more appropriate.

There's a major problem if each person calculates it for him/herself: honesty. Human nature is going to have people fudging the result to get what they want ("Sure, I bought a car this year, but that doesn't really count.").

So, the idea is that we have some august body, in this case the ER Forum members (chuckle), come up with an official number every January. Perhaps three numbers -- one for high rollers (Lexus, remodel basement, restore motorcycles), one for medium rollers, and one for super-frugals baggie-washers.

As for the concept of inflation being just the change in how much you spent, that only works if you buy the same stuff each year. You want to find out the change in the cost of stuff you buy, not the change in how much stuff you buy. That's good to know, but you need to know the change in the value of your dollars.

OK, you can get back to the argument now.
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report
Old 01-18-2007, 10:43 AM   #33
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report

It wasnt much of an argument...

Wouldnt the change in spending still be valid if you amortized the capital expenses made during the year over the period of their useful service life as part of the calculation, as I do?

Then you're just looking at annual expenses and the change thereof. Its a "prairie dog" approach, but it seems to me more useful than diving into the weeds.

CPI presumes a basket of goods and then tries to measure the change in the prices of the basket of goods while changing the basket, using basket items an ER might not buy and ignoring items we do buy that arent in the basket, changing items in the basket, and employing questionable processes to re-weight the price based on some presumption of product 'quality'.

What we buy over the course of the year, with multiyear use items amortized for their lifespan...that IS our bucket. And we'll change its contents periodically but thats ok.

If your spending doesnt go up over a period of time then your adjusted personal rate of inflation is zero.

Folks who track their expenses carefully should be able to whap this out in a spreadsheet in about an hour, then plug in the numbers for as many years as they have data.

Or the "use an axe" types can just measure their in and outflows of their checking acct, deduct and amortize their large bucket capital expenditures and get a number in about 15 minutes.

As mentioned, the thing to eyeball is the "invisible inflation". We're all capable of changing things to keep our costs low and as long as you're not going to hit a wall and are okay with the lifestyle change, thats okay. Swapping burger for steak gives you relief of rising inflationary prices to beef, but thats not going to be persistent.

Like Cut-Throat, we use warehouse clubs to cut our costs while maintaining a higher style of living for the dollar. However, thats one of those one-time readjustments where you stop paying retail and start paying a wholesale+ price point. You're stuck with that wholesale+ price point and any price inflation occurring to that from then on. You could drop to the "grocery outlet" dented cans type places and get another drop, but theres an obvious limit to that.

The rest of the "invisible inflation" overall seems to me to be winding down to a close. Coffee went from a 16oz pound to a 12oz "pound" and i've started seeing 8 and 10oz bags at the same price as the old 16 oz ones. My favorite fish place used to give you free drink refills...a couple of years ago a "refills 25c" sign went up and a few weeks ago that was replaced by a 50c sign. A few brands of beer I buy now come in 11oz bottles instead of 12. Tech and customer support are worse than worthless for many products and services due to company cost cutting.

Theres an end to this tightening of the cost side of the equation: when the product size has reached its minimum, the product quality is recognized as inferior, and when the support is no longer worth paying for as the customer satisfaction has reached a level where zero offered support is a reasonably equivalent option.

I'm of the opinion that we're reaching the end of this rubber band. Between that, an uptick in minimum wage, having outsourced everything that can be outsourced and some other factors...we might be seeing a drastic increase in inflation and COL coming up.
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report
Old 01-18-2007, 11:09 AM   #34
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report

Yes, I see your point. But what about this example:

At retirement, guy looks at his last year's spending and it is only 25K. He realizes that 4% of his egg would be 60K. So, he goes on an around the world trip, has lots of $500 lobster dinners in France, and buys a fleet of inflatable kayaks. He succeeds and spends exactly 60K that year. After amortizing the kayaks, his figure comes to 50K. So, his inflation rate is 100%. "Awright," he says, "next year I'm spending $100K!"
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report
Old 01-18-2007, 12:40 PM   #35
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report

I have to admit, TH, Wab, SG, it's great to see you guys slinging it together again...
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report
Old 01-18-2007, 12:46 PM   #36
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
I have to admit, TH, Wab, SG, it's great to see you guys slinging it together again...
Highly recommended, cheap entertainment. I give it two thumbs up.

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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report
Old 01-18-2007, 01:15 PM   #37
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report

That you guys are all warmed up...............how about discussing paying off the mortgage early or keeping it again....that was entertainment!
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report
Old 01-18-2007, 02:04 PM   #38
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report

Quote:
Originally Posted by TromboneAl
Yes, I see your point. But what about this example:

At retirement, guy looks at his last year's spending and it is only 25K. He realizes that 4% of his egg would be 60K. So, he goes on an around the world trip, has lots of $500 lobster dinners in France, and buys a fleet of inflatable kayaks. He succeeds and spends exactly 60K that year. After amortizing the kayaks, his figure comes to 50K. So, his inflation rate is 100%. "Awright," he says, "next year I'm spending $100K!"
Oh come on now Al, you know the answer to that. Inflation is clearly a year on year phenomenon, not a standalone number. In its purest form, inflations INTENT is to measure the effect of changing prices on ones cost of living.

But i'll spell it out.

That guy should look at his spending as a function of change vs the year prior. While he can certainly change his lifestyle and increase his spending, he's experiencing both changing costs of items he always bought, and adding lifestyle inflation to that.

Should this be the lifestyle he's expecting in ER, he'd presumably maintain that lifestyle and be able to measure the changes in its cost, year on year.

So that first year change of lifestyle, which I believe is well covered under the discussions of "change in spending after retirement" is your baseline, your inflation measurement delta years follow that.

As far as mortgages, it seems to me that the discussion is already made by most people and the calculations just support their existing decision. Everyone should run the numbers and take into consideration the effects of debt loading on their total financial picture. Or pull a few numbers, stuff them in a fishbowl and proceed until they get the answer they want.
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report
Old 01-18-2007, 03:18 PM   #39
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report

This very entertaining and oh so practical thread has terrified me. It is impossible to calculate a useful PIR and T-Al's ER forum consensus rate won't help because Dory would have to find a way to apply it retroactively against the last 120 years and figure the changes into Firecalc so we could continue to use that august engine. But I do see an out for me. I have a CPI COLA'd pension. So I am going to find that illusive average town (I may need some help from the forum here) and rent an average sized apartment in it. I will then starting eating foods from the market basket of goods and build my ER life around whatever else is in the basket. Better make sure I go to the right state gas-price wise. I would also like to know what changes BLS is making year to year so I can make sure my basket matches. Sounds like another thread here could help with that.

Whew, this is going to be complicated but it will sure answer the question "whadda you do all day."
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report
Old 01-18-2007, 03:42 PM   #40
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Re: Official ER Forum January Inflation Report

Quote:
Originally Posted by sgeeeee

I can't imagine anyone so boring and predictable that they could actually make a meaningful person inflation rate calculation. If you can, you are definately ahead in the retirement planning game. How about someone else presenting their personal data based on CFB's definition? Am I the only one who has large fluctuations from year to year?
SG -- now I am worried. I actually do fit your definition, as our expenses are so predictable, year after year-- they are always a couple percent more than the past (for 6 years now), which I guess means we are squeezing ourselves by about 1% a year in real terms. In fairness, I do commit the trick of not counting the car purchases -- since I keep them 9 or 10 years and add an amortization factor into our budget I give myself the fig leaf of saying I don't spend any more for a car in the year I buy it than I do any other year I own it. Same with the year we painted the house.

My hat is off to you though for having a much more interesting life! Several weeks in France sounds like my idea of a heckuvalot better summer than I'm used to. Hopefully when the kids are grown things will get more flexible. Then again, maybe I just like routine.. still plodding along even though I don't have an office to plod into? Hmmm....

Hey, good luck with the new book-- bet you're glad it's over!
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