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Old 04-17-2008, 08:08 PM   #41
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So far I've never seen anyone with a different idea, backed up by actual data, be called a troll or told to "have a nice life".

Once again I'm forced to ask how the "vocal majority" manages this task of having a collective opinion on any topic when we all invest differently, withdraw differently, spend our money differently, have different political/social opinions and live in different parts of the country. Jeez louise...about the only thing a lot of us have in common is that we dont take "get rich quick" bait easily and we all show up here on a regular basis.

Heck Ha, you're about as different from the alleged "norm" as anyone, yet we somehow dont give you any more crap than you fully deserve, eh?
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Old 04-17-2008, 08:33 PM   #42
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I like the 'Modified 4% Rule' -- take 4% of your portfolio value every year and live on that. That way you'll be making annual adjustments -- both up and down. Almost like saying "Every Year is Year 1". If you operate that way, you're guaranteed to never run out of money (As some wags have noted, 4% of your last dollar still leaves you with 96 cents...)

Seriously, the data on this method suggest that compared to the original 4% Rule, you'll take out as much or more withdrawals over the long run, with a far higher portfolio survival record -- survival being defined as keeping up the real value of the portfolio over time, which also means your inflation-adjusted level of income stays up, and you'll still have your money. The only hard part is during down years when you need to tighten your belt. But since everyone else will be also, it might not feel so hard.
Thanks, Bob. Are you no longer advising the 95% floor rule? I'm surprised you didn't include it in the above.
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Old 04-17-2008, 08:43 PM   #43
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Heck Ha, you're about as different from the alleged "norm" as anyone, yet we somehow dont give you any more crap than you fully deserve, eh?
Maybe even less than I deserve?

Ha
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Old 04-17-2008, 09:06 PM   #44
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I like the 'Modified 4% Rule' -- take 4% of your portfolio value every year and live on that. That way you'll be making annual adjustments -- both up and down. Almost like saying "Every Year is Year 1". If you operate that way, you're guaranteed to never run out of money (As some wags have noted, 4% of your last dollar still leaves you with 96 cents...)

Seriously, the data on this method suggest that compared to the original 4% Rule, you'll take out as much or more withdrawals over the long run, with a far higher portfolio survival record -- survival being defined as keeping up the real value of the portfolio over time, which also means your inflation-adjusted level of income stays up, and you'll still have your money. The only hard part is during down years when you need to tighten your belt. But since everyone else will be also, it might not feel so hard.
Yep, that's what I plan to do. If the income volatility is too much for some people, the slight modifications proposed in "Work Less, Live More" (taking no less than 95% of the prior year's allotment, etc) can help buffer things. But I'd rather let my portfolio's performance dictate a cap on my spending rather than increasing spending for an inflation adjustment that is totally disconnected from my portfolio's value. That observation of the article (that there is considerable risk in using a fixed withdrawal strategy fed by a highly variable portfolio) seems important and worthwhile--even if it's already been said many times.
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Old 04-17-2008, 09:07 PM   #45
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Thanks, Bob. Are you no longer advising the 95% floor rule? I'm surprised you didn't include it in the above.
I fully stand behind it. Just didn't want to overload the post. (I think the thread is probably more interested in troll etiquette at this late stage).

For those not familiar with it, I did extensive historical research on a '95% Rule' which says that even in years when the market value of your portfolio falls more than 5%, you can still take your withdrawal as if the market had only fallen 5%, that is to say, you can take 95% of the withdrawal you had the year before, so you don't have to fully adjust to steeper market declines. The 'cost' in terms of portfolio survival to this strategy over the historical periods studied (1926 to present) was de minimus.

Thus the Modified 4% Rule combined with the 95% Rule gives a high degree of financial safety over the very long term and a sensible withdrawal -- managable in bad times and allowing for lifestyle improvements if times are good.

The thing I never liked about the Traditional 4% Rule aside from the obvious tendency to leave people broke after 30 years is that if times are good, you're still plugging away on the same inflation-adjusted income you had, while your cash is piling up. That would bug me -- I like to spend money if it's coming in. I want something that is safe, but not Puritanical.

Not for everybody, but it works well for me and a growing number of others. It's actually based on the way foundations operate -- not something I invented, just picked up and adapted. Foundations have to operate in perpetuity, and strike a fair balance of what they call inter-generational equity -- the needs of todays grant recipients vs the needs of the future's grant recipients, given uncertain market returns in the foundation's portfolio. Long term retirees are kind of the same -- balancing out today's withdrawals against the future's withdrawals in the face of uncertain market returns.
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Old 04-17-2008, 10:27 PM   #46
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I did some simple calculations using the PMT function- yes, at a 2% real return, in 30 years, you'd be left with nothing at the 4.46% withdrawal.
I plugged the numbers into a SS and got the same thing - out of money at year 30.

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But he lost me after that. What do we do about it? Also his example of a single 30 year period left me cold - that's our most important and least controllable variable - our lifespan!
I just skimmed, but I don't think the author ever mentions *early* retirement. I saw 65 YO a few times, so 30 years puts you in the poor house at 95 YO. For a couple, each 65, the male has a 6% chance of making that age, the female a 13% chance, and one of them an 18% chance. That's a form of risk that I think he does not address.

https://personal.vanguard.com/us/pla...ireContent.jsp

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Old 04-17-2008, 11:40 PM   #47
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Maybe even less than I deserve?
MUCH less. Cuz we LOVE YOU MAN!

Now lighten up, Francis.
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Old 04-18-2008, 12:05 AM   #48
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Originally Posted by ESRBob View Post
I like the 'Modified 4% Rule' -- take 4% of your portfolio value every year and live on that. That way you'll be making annual adjustments -- both up and down. Almost like saying "Every Year is Year 1". If you operate that way, you're guaranteed to never run out of money (As some wags have noted, 4% of your last dollar still leaves you with 96 cents...)

Seriously, the data on this method suggest that compared to the original 4% Rule, you'll take out as much or more withdrawals over the long run, with a far higher portfolio survival record -- survival being defined as keeping up the real value of the portfolio over time, which also means your inflation-adjusted level of income stays up, and you'll still have your money. The only hard part is during down years when you need to tighten your belt. But since everyone else will be also, it might not feel so hard.
Bob, with this guideline, how would I determine how big my portfolio needs to be for me to RE? Say I'm anxious to RE for reasons important to me and I determine I can get by on $30k/yr (real), but that is a tight budget with no extras. Would 25X that ($750K) be enough? Or would I need to work longer and save more so that in years when the portfolio is down I still had the needed $30K?
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Old 04-18-2008, 12:29 AM   #49
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Ditto, because with their model, 60/40 split they are taking money out
in down market, because you some money in cash, you don't have to do
that
That's not really true TJ. You can manage your portfolio in the equity %/fixed%/cash% format and carry several years worth of cash just as easily as managing your portfolio in a bucket 1/bucket2/bucket 3 format and carry several years of cash. Just different jargon. Cash is cash whether you keep it in the cash line of a spreadsheet or a "bucket."
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Old 04-18-2008, 05:24 AM   #50
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For those not familiar with it, I did extensive historical research on a '95% Rule' which says that even in years when the market value of your portfolio falls more than 5%, you can still take your withdrawal as if the market had only fallen 5%, that is to say, you can take 95% of the withdrawal you had the year before, so you don't have to fully adjust to steeper market declines. The 'cost' in terms of portfolio survival to this strategy over the historical periods studied (1926 to present) was de minimus.
Did your study include just the U.S. stock market or all of the world stock markets?

The reason I'm asking is I just read Wealth, War and Wisdom by Barton Biggs. While the book is controversial, one of the author's points is that at least once in every century, there has been an episode where the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse (pestilence, war, famine, and death) cause massive wealth destruction somewhere on the planet. The author uses World War II as a case study, which has been the greatest destroyer of wealth to date, and this event affected Europe and Asia much more than it affected the United States.

But it could be our turn next time and the it may not be war. I realize all bets are off if it's a full apocalyptic event (although SARS didn't happen in 2006, for example, it could still happen at some point in the future). But maybe whatever happens will be a relatively minor event as apocalypses go. My point is that what has happened in the U.S. stock market since 1926 may not be representative of what happens in the future (a similar concept of "a once in 500 years event" is discussed in The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb). The U.S. stock market was closed for a few days after 9/11/2001 and for a few months during World War I, for example, but other stock markets have been closed for several years while a major war was happening.

I'm not sure how one can really prepare for black swans (or events that take on apocalyptic proportions), but I believe it makes sense to think through the possibilities. I've lived within 20 miles of some of the most dangerous earthquake faults in California for the past 35 years and although I don't know when or how big the next one will be, there are certain things I can do ahead of time to be somewhat prepared for The Big One when it occurs. These preparations don't guarantee I will emerge whole, but they will likely mitigate much of the damage I might suffer. I believe a similar analysis would be useful when trying to calculate the size of an investment portfolio to be used for FIRE, and knowing how some of the non-U.S. stock markets have performed in the past might be helpful in this analysis.
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Old 04-18-2008, 06:48 AM   #51
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I share this view. I think investing solely in a balanced fund and withdrawing at the 4% SWR is both inefficient and riskier. I had proposed my personal view that a better plan would be to combine an annuities portfolio with a balanced fund. One major reason why an annuity should be included is it protects you against the uncertainties in the financial markets. 4% might be sustainable historically, but history may not repeat, especiall now that the financial market is flooded with derivatives that add to the instability. The recent subprime crisis highlighted the depth of the problem. But I am afraid that still more crises may occur with more people going online, more speculators, more pressure on the fund managers to deliver returns that are no longer sustainable. An annuity gives us more certainty. A few annuities spread across different highly-rated insurers and denominated in different currencies smooth out the carrier risks and currency risks. This annuities portfolo should provide a survival income. And, they should provide more income than the 4% SWR for most who are older, because annuities take into consideration the mortality factors when determining the pay-out. The balanced portfolio, on the other hand, should be used to serve the needs of liquidity, potential capital growth and legacy to heir. The 4% from this balanced fund could be withdrawn to pay for discretionary expenses above the survival costs, which is paid for with annuity pay-outs.
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Old 04-18-2008, 07:36 AM   #52
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Did your study include just the U.S. stock market or all of the world stock markets?
Because not everyone knows Bob and because of his respect for our board rules against self-promotion, let me jump in on his behalf to mention that he has authored one of the more highly respected books on early (semi-)retirement. For those seeking further explanation of his suggestions, I recommend that you read Bob Clyatt's Work Less, Live More: The Way to Semi-Retirement.

That said, I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.
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Old 04-18-2008, 08:05 AM   #53
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I share this view. I think investing solely in a balanced fund and withdrawing at the 4% SWR is both inefficient and riskier. I had proposed my personal view that a better plan would be to combine an annuities portfolio with a balanced fund. One major reason why an annuity should be included is it protects you against the uncertainties in the financial markets. 4% might be sustainable historically, but history may not repeat, especiall now that the financial market is flooded with derivatives that add to the instability. The recent subprime crisis highlighted the depth of the problem. But I am afraid that still more crises may occur with more people going online, more speculators, more pressure on the fund managers to deliver returns that are no longer sustainable. An annuity gives us more certainty. A few annuities spread across different highly-rated insurers and denominated in different currencies smooth out the carrier risks and currency risks. This annuities portfolo should provide a survival income. And, they should provide more income than the 4% SWR for most who are older, because annuities take into consideration the mortality factors when determining the pay-out. The balanced portfolio, on the other hand, should be used to serve the needs of liquidity, potential capital growth and legacy to heir. The 4% from this balanced fund could be withdrawn to pay for discretionary expenses above the survival costs, which is paid for with annuity pay-outs.
While I totally agree with you (assuming you are speaking of an SPIA), be aware that you are "treading water" with this group. Few (if any) have an annuity (again, an Single Payment Immediate Annuity) in their forecast (or as in my case, actual) retirement income plan.

I won't argue the point. All I know is for me (and my DW) it works. As far as your indivudial plan goes, well, it's your plan (and your life). No need to "convert/ convince" you.

However, if you want further info how it works for me, just ask ...

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Old 04-18-2008, 08:52 AM   #54
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Few (if any) have an annuity (again, an Single Payment Immediate Annuity) in their forecast (or as in my case, actual) retirement income plan.
Another fallacy. Many members here have SPIA's as part of their financial plan and as far as I know, there are only one or two people who dont like annuities of any kind.

What doesnt fly here are annuity salesmen with funny math and questionable approaches, or annuities with excessive costs and weak payouts.

I look at them from the same perspective I look at all investments: whats the risk, whats the benefit, is there enough benefit to offset the risk.

As ESRBob's research has shown, even a small reliable income stream can drastically improve portfolio survivability, especially if you can squeak by on that income alone. The feed from an SPIA can provide that stream. Or a pension. Or a dozen other things.

Diversification is also a benefit with annuities...I'd put them as the sixth or seventh asset class I'd put money into. Thing is I'm only down to #4.
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Old 04-18-2008, 09:10 AM   #55
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The general rule is that you can take 4% for that year. That's the whole point of the 4% rule. Over time, the 4% compensates for up and down markets, based on historical worst-of-time scenarios.

Also, the general rule is that taxes are included in the 4%.
Well, that is the broad-based assumption that we are attempting to decry,no?? So, if your portfolio is down 10% the FIRST year your retire, you're still ok to take 4%? Moshe Milevsky has research that suggests otherwise.........
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Old 04-18-2008, 09:53 AM   #56
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I did some simple calculations using the PMT function- yes, at a 2% real return, in 30 years, you'd be left with nothing at the 4.46% withdrawal. That would equate to worst case for the 4% SWR using Bengen's calculations.

But, this is an ER forum so you need to take more than 30 years into account. I calculated for 40 years - 3.655%, for 50 years - 3.182%. And then there are the practical issues as others have pointed out.

Through his example, I understand his points that the 4% SWR method causes you to leave money on the table (he refers to it as paying a surplus), can be replicated for less (how?), and if the preferences of the retiree are known, can probably be done for even less (again how?).

But he lost me after that. What do we do about it? Also his example of a single 30 year period left me cold - that's our most important and least controllable variable - our lifespan!

Are there some mathematicians here who could simplify his math for us?
Here is a data point one can consider in any way one wants: A 65 year old investor can go to the SPIA quote screen at Vanguard and learn that an inflation indexed SPIA funded with $100,000 has an annual payout of $6780 initial increased by inflation, guaranteed for the life of the individual. That is a lifetime withdrawal rate of COLA'd 6.8% with an endpoint of zero wealth at death. The reason this tool is not sensitive to individual lifetime is the insurance principle of pooling longevity risk over a large population.
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Old 04-18-2008, 10:06 AM   #57
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Many members here have SPIA's as part of their financial plan and as far as I know, there are only one or two people who dont like annuities of any kind.
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As ESRBob's research has shown, even a small reliable income stream can drastically improve portfolio survivability, especially if you can squeak by on that income alone. The feed from an SPIA can provide that stream. Or a pension. Or a dozen other things.

Diversification is also a benefit with annuities...I'd put them as the sixth or seventh asset class I'd put money into. Thing is I'm only down to #4.
That's an interesting way to look at annuities! I had never thought of them as an asset class, so much as essentially a reduction in living expenses. They do provide an income stream from an entirely different source, so they also provide diversification in that sense.

Although I don't really have anything against annuities in certain specific circumstances, and would consider one, the ever-lower interest rates upon which the lifetime immediate fixed annuity payments are calculated seem to have made that decision for me. If we were living in the higher interest rate environment of 20 years ago, I would buy one in a heartbeat and my monthly income from it could be half again as much.
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Old 04-18-2008, 10:21 AM   #58
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I like the 'Modified 4% Rule' -- take 4% of your portfolio value every year and live on that. That way you'll be making annual adjustments -- both up and down. Almost like saying "Every Year is Year 1". If you operate that way, you're guaranteed to never run out of money (As some wags have noted, 4% of your last dollar still leaves you with 96 cents...)

Seriously, the data on this method suggest that compared to the original 4% Rule, you'll take out as much or more withdrawals over the long run, with a far higher portfolio survival record -- survival being defined as keeping up the real value of the portfolio over time, which also means your inflation-adjusted level of income stays up, and you'll still have your money. The only hard part is during down years when you need to tighten your belt. But since everyone else will be also, it might not feel so hard.
That's what I follow with the additional tweak of having a "short-term" - i.e. 2 to 3 year cash account for living expenses. This latter just helps smooth out the year-to-year variations as well as being there for the occasional large-item purchase/expense. It also helps keep the focus on market fluctuations over a longer (2 year) time frame rather than what is happening in the current year.

I never could accept the idea of some fixed initial percentage plus annual inflation adjustment. I felt the need to respond to fluctuations in my portfolio - down or up.

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Old 04-18-2008, 10:56 AM   #59
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I didn't read the whole thing, just the excerpts provided above, but I interpret this to mean....

that at the end of 30 years of a 'guranteed' 4.46% SWR, you are also 'guaranteed' to have zero dollars left.

Is that correct? That is how I interpret 'never has a surplus'. If you assume a fixed % return (I don't know how he predicts future returns, or does he just buy 30 year bonds?), you can simply self-annuitize that over 30 years. Is that what the article is saying?

Fine approach - at the same time I can call and have my gravestone carved at today's wages with the year '2038' on it.

edit/add:

OK, I can go plug that into a SS, but 4.46% sounds right if you self-annuitize and assume a 2% real return.

-ERD50
Right. This is another article that purports to be very "sophisticated" in terms of investment risk, but completely ignores the mortality risk.

It's like someone living in Mississippi who will tell you all about his hurricane insurance, but is entirely blind to the possibility of a tornado.
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Old 04-18-2008, 11:10 AM   #60
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so much of this i don't understand. but at least i have the most important half the problem solved. i only worry about running out of money. if "the price paid for funding... unspent surpluses" is the cost of a good night's sleep, that is a luxury that having solved the important half of the problem allows me to afford.

if i wanted to spend more money i'd still be working for it. i'm reminded of my cousin telling me about selling his father's house years ago on star island in miami. "if i'd kept the house, i'd be rich today," he said with a smile on our way from the restaurant to his privately owned new york city office tower.
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