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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?
Old 03-29-2005, 01:45 PM   #21
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?

We have an excellent supply of clean, cool water in Canada.

Maybe if you'd stop screwing us around on beef and softwood lumber, we'd sell you some.

.......and there is an awful lot of oil in the tarsands.
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?
Old 03-29-2005, 07:24 PM   #22
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?

Quote:
Thanks Hyperborea. As a newbie I am trying to reduce this problem down
to its main elements so that I can intuitively understand what all of you
are talking about. In other words, what are the dominant factors that
influence the SWR?

Hi Zorba,

It is a combination of factors.

It is the likely return from each asset class and how the mix of different assets work together. If they all move down together and you have to sell 4% when they have all lost 80%, then your capital is in trouble. If all the assets sit 80% underwater from where you retired at, you'll eat through the remainder of your capital in no time. To use actual numbers, if you needed $4 to live each year, you started with $100 capital and it fell to $20, you would still need to sell $4 each year (plus inflation) to live and you would eat thru your remaining capital in less than five years.

There are some mitigating factors.

Your portfolio has a cash dividend yield. Depending on your mix of assets, this reduces the impact on capital in bad years because you have to sell less. So if your portfolio had $2 a year in cash dividends, you lived off $4, you need only sell $2. In the above example, this would double how long your money could last. So considerably better.

What some investors have done in the past is add between 40-60% on standard treasury bonds to provide a cash income stream of 4%-7%. The real returns pre-tax on the bonds varied enormously but were around 2%-3% in the US. Bonds didn't make a great investment for returns but they provided a yield which reduced the damage when stocks fell. You could partially live off the dividends and sell some bonds instead of selling your stocks. Adding 20% in bonds rather than holding 100% in stocks quite often offered better survival rates and higher withdrawal rates even though you're adding a lower returning asset class (bonds). Kinda of counterintuitive. The reason was partly the income which avoid selling stocks when they were underwater and partly because sometimes bonds rose when stocks fell.

Today, investors thankfully have more options than merely stocks and bonds. Global REITs now provide the ability to link capital returns to inflation and provide higher yields than bonds too. These are becoming increasingly attractive as a real alternative.

Timber provides cash from the timber harvests each year 4%-5% and inflation increases in the value of standing timber (plum creek & rayonier are US REITs).

TIPS & I-Bonds provide direct linkage to inflation which beats the old form of treasury bonds that lost out with inflation. They don't provide much in the way of yields unless you plan to spend the capital down over 40 years in which case the returns are around 3.4% for TIPS today. Over 40 years you sell 2.5% of capital and use part of your interest. This may be suitable to someone risk averse for a small part of their portfolio. A 60-year old retiree who has a max life expectancy of 100 might find this appealing. Your other assets are not structured to spend the capital down leaving you with plenty if you do get past 100.

Besides these, the ability to balance a stock allocation with small cap, value stocks, int'l and emerging market stocks provides additional diversification within the global equities asset class itself. As the last five years showed, US small cap did well, US large cap did not. Emerging did well, Asia large cap did not. And so on.

Taken together, these assets can be used to reduce the overall portfolio volatility, increase the cash dividends (depending on how much you put into high cash yielding investments) and greatly smooth out results. This in turn reduces the loss on returns caused by needing to live every year regardless of whether the stock market did well that year. Hopefully you can tell from this run-thru that investing in higher returning asset classes is only half the battle when living off investments. The other half is getting the mix of assets right, balancing the goal of higher long-run returns (assets like ScV) with other assets that pay higher dividends and give more assurance of having enough to live off. Going for broke can actually make you broke, whereas some caution serves you better. The goal is different from the accumulation phase where you want do build assets not provide income, year-to-year consistent returns or any of that. Different lifecycle, different needs.

Let me know if that is helpful for you or if you have any questions. Happy to help.

Petey

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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?
Old 03-29-2005, 07:38 PM   #23
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?

Quote:
TIPS & I-Bonds provide direct linkage to inflation
Small correction: TIPS and I-Bonds provide direct linkage to the CPI. CPI <> inflation, depending on where you live and what your lifestyle is. Many experts claim actual inflation is 1-1.5% more than CPI for the average person. CPI comes nowhere near covering inflation for me in Northern CA with my lifestyle. In the last 2 years, beef has gone up more than 35%, gas has gone from ~1.65 to 2.45, milk and other dairy products are up 25%, and housing has doubled in the last 6 years.

If the 'experts' are right and CPI understates inflation by 1%, your life 25 years from now on an all-tips diet wouldnt be so tiperific.
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?
Old 03-29-2005, 07:56 PM   #24
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?

Quote:
Q1: How important is the variance of the real return (inflation
adjusted) to the value of the SWR? (This is the rms variation in
rainfall in my lame analogy.)

Q2: If variance is important to SWR are there accepted strategies to
reduce the variance? I suspect you'll just tell me to go read
Bernstein but when people talk about asset allocation they rarely talk
about what their mix does in terms of return *and* risk.

Q3: How important is the age of the person to the SWR? Instead of a
fixed portfolio lifetime, FIRECalc could use mortality tables to give
some confidence interval. Doesn't someone in their mid-40's have a
different SWR than someone in their mid-60's?

Thanks.
Hopefully I've covered question 2 from my POV.

With variance of returns, it depends on how it affects your withdrawals. A lot of times variances just mean you sell the thing that hasn't gone down. Sometimes you use cash or bonds instead of selling stocks if they all went down. You have a spread of assets so you have more options. The wider the asset allocation, the more choices available each year.

In terms of different SWR for a 40 year old vs a 60 year old, yes quite likely. It depends on how long an asset will last out. You could plan to take 5% from an asset and it will work in some scenarios and not others.

The S&P 500 broke between 1966-95 when you withdrew more than 4%, mixed with 80% or more of bonds. 1966-82 was a bear market and you got killed if you retired right at the start of it in 1966. If however one had owning large cap value, small cap value, oil & gas, int'l value, emerging markets, real estate securities - a broader mix of assets - the volatility would have been less and the returns higher not only because those assets perform better over long periods but because they do not correlate together (move to the same degree or even in the same direction sometimes).

At a certain point, a specific asset allocation will last long enough for most retirees with the right blend of assets. That certainly won't be 80% US total market, 20% US bonds. Investors are gradually seeing that a higher than 10% allocation to real estate and timber works better than bonds alone. Ibbotson has done studies that show that adding 20% for REITS with a lower allocation to stocks & bonds added to returns and reduced portfolio volatility, for instance.

Petey
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?
Old 03-29-2005, 08:00 PM   #25
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?

Quote:

Small correction: TIPS and I-Bonds provide direct linkage to the CPI. *CPI <> inflation, depending on where you live and what your lifestyle is. *Many experts claim actual inflation is 1-1.5% more than CPI for the average person. *CPI comes nowhere near covering inflation for me in Northern CA with my lifestyle. *In the last 2 years, beef has gone up more than 35%, gas has gone from ~1.65 to 2.45, milk and other dairy products are up 25%, and housing has doubled in the last 6 years.

If the 'experts' are right and CPI understates inflation by 1%, your life 25 years from now on an all-tips diet wouldnt be so tiperific.
Very true, TH.

I was talking more in the general idea sense of it. To convey the idea of what the products do because I was not sure of the original poster's level of investment knowledge. Also there are usually some lurkers who benefit from posts, build up knowledge reading over a period of time and only then feel able to join the discussion. Lot of it will go over people's heads - sure did me when I first joined some other boards.

I agree the US inflation numbers do not seem correct. They seem about right in the UK. Perhaps lagging 0.5% if anything but not too much out.

Petey

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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?
Old 03-29-2005, 08:04 PM   #26
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?

Thats because you Brits put up with less horsepuckey from your government

And Uncle Al thinks CPI *overstates* inflation by ~1%...you know what THAT means.
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?
Old 03-30-2005, 04:39 AM   #27
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?

Quote:
We have an excellent supply of clean, cool water in Canada.

Maybe if you'd stop screwing us around on beef and softwood lumber, we'd sell you some.

.......and there is an awful lot of oil in the tarsands.

Zipper, I am looking out my window at work right now on the big lake the US shares with you. No water issues here. Oh, and I own some of those tarsands, for what it is worth.

Martha
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?
Old 03-30-2005, 02:27 PM   #28
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?

Just curious Martha?

Which Lake?

I'm 30 minutes from Lake Erie, an hour from Lake Huron, and 90 minutes from Lake Ontario.
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?
Old 03-31-2005, 06:06 AM   #29
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?

The big one, Superior. One upside to my job is the great view out the window of the big lake.
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?
Old 03-31-2005, 06:13 AM   #30
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?

They don't call it "Superior" for nothing. Same with the
"Great" in Great Lakes. I have heard of people who had never seen nor been around the Great Lakes
who were awestruck when they finally got there.
They simply could not believe it.

JG
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?
Old 03-31-2005, 09:13 AM   #31
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?

Martha, and others, if you are up Superior way and want some outstanding kayaking try the Apostle Islands. Wonderful caves to play in. Also Michigan has the Painted Rocks waterfront area. If you get really brave then go to Isle Royal. All is the big lake. One note,if you are planning to paddle in water as cold as Superior (there was ice in the caves in the Apostles on Memorial day when I paddled there!) remember to be dressed for cold water immersion.

Wouldn't want to lose a good poster......be Safe in the Water
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?
Old 03-31-2005, 09:32 AM   #32
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?

In the middle of last summer, two kayakers died in lake superior from hypothermia. They were experienced, had lifejackets, but no dry suits.

Believe me, that lake is cold all year around.
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?
Old 04-01-2005, 04:04 PM   #33
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?

I've gone off and read the material on the Retire Early Homepage...

Wow. Obviously a lot of effort has gone into calculating the SWR
subject to a range of variables (inflation, lifetime, expenses, stock
allocation, etc). This confirms what I feared. You need to run many
simulations of historical data to get an intuitive understanding of
how each of these variable affects the SWR.

Is there another way? More precisely, is there a closed-form analytic
solution for the SWR problem? Going back to the reservoir analogy, the
SWR can be looked at as solving a linear differential equation from
freshman calculus. The main difficulty that I see is that the real
return (or rainfall) is a stochastic function and we only know its
expectation value and its variance. This is a problem outside of my
experience.

(Let me apologize to those who think this is all just "mental
masturbation". I'm interested, and I'd like to understand it
better. Thats all there is to it.)

P.S. Petey. Your reply was very helpful but I'll have to digest it for
a bit. Apparently its not just only about trying to have an asset mix
that maximizes return and minimizes risk. You seem to saying that
withdrawals complicate the strategy.
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?
Old 04-01-2005, 04:32 PM   #34
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?

Zorba, my take is you're way overthinking this. Calculating SWR is like calculating your future income/raises. Sure you can plug in some average and make some pretty excel worksheets, but all it will give you is a rough estimate. One promotion/layoff and your numbers are skewed. You make adjustments, and ride out the wave, and move on! Firecalc shows you what rate would have survived our bleakest hours, and you go from there! If you try to come up with a huge algorithm to garantee an exact withdrawal rate, you'll just go crazy, or blind, or both!
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?
Old 04-01-2005, 07:11 PM   #35
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?

I think he's going blind, but not from SWR calculations...
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?
Old 04-01-2005, 09:21 PM   #36
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?

I'm trying not to assume that every new member who immediately skips over the usual introductions to rush into the "great SWR debate" is a reincarnation....

My wife is going to bed, and unless I want to go blind myself, good night all!
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?
Old 04-02-2005, 12:24 PM   #37
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?

Probably a reasonable assumption. Not only because the behavior is unusual, but mostly because hardly anyone really gives a rats @#%$ about SWR, including the troll. I dont think anyone ever actually debated genuine SWR 'concerns' in any of those 'debates' anyhow.
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?
Old 04-02-2005, 02:32 PM   #38
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?

Quote:
* A mining town on the edge of the desert has built a dam to hold the
* water it needs to survive. Each year the rains come. In some years
* the rainfall is enough to replenish the reservoir, but in other
* years evaporation depletes the water level. How much water can
* the town draw from the reservoir each year to be reasonably certain
* of not running it dry?

Analogies can be useful. They help us identify the essential elements
in any problem. Would the SWR experts here have a look at this toy
model and tell me what what is common and what is missing?

Zorba
The town needs to start with the average rainfall less evaporation, and then reduce that by enough to allow for as many non-rainy days as are within reason. What's "within reason"? Look at past droughts and see how long they lasted.

That's exactly what the whole SWR thing does, using historical data. So I'm not sure why you like this analogy yet say historical backtesting doesn't do it for you.

In practice, with both water and dollars, you might make adjustments if your initial calculations proved too conservative. In SWR terms, this is the "POPR" approach. In water terms, you get to water your lawn every day, AND wash your car every day.

Dory36
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?
Old 04-02-2005, 07:45 PM   #39
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?

Quote:

Investors are gradually seeing that a higher than 10% allocation to real estate and timber works better than bonds alone. Ibbotson has done studies that show that adding 20% for REITS with a lower allocation to stocks & bonds added to returns and reduced portfolio volatility, for instance.

Petey
Petey, Zorba;
Not sure if you guys have ever looked at getting a mean variance optimizer and running lots of studies to find 'efficient frontier' for blends of assets you find in the range you could stomach, but it may be worthwhile. I did this with my DFA advisor a few years back, and we kept running different tweaks until we got a perfect soup.

Only other thing about any of these historical studies is they get skewed by history so the outstanding asset classes show up being overly big in explaining the success of recent portfolios, leading everyone to pile into possibly inflated asset classes. You could try to solve this by using really long historical series, but then you run into the problem that there are simply no long historical series for many of the more interesting (less correlated) asset classes. Sort of a pickle.

But Zorba ( I know you are not the troll) you are tight to be asking pointed questions about asset allocation, both for return, for volatility and for standing up to an SWR.

My intuition is that, if expected return is the same, lower volatility portfolios stand up to the steady withdrawals better than high-volatility ones (anybody know different please let me know). Got to also have an expected return of at least SWR + inflation + fees. This thing can't work with an all-bond portfolio yielding 5%.

Also, if it were possible to have an extra 1% of headway, it makes steering easier (in a boat, and I think in a long run SWR). In other words, don't plan to just land at stationary-in-real-terms targets, since the future is long, living standards rise, inflation could notch up, who knows what kind of bad stuff can happen. If you have an extra hpercent or so on your side, it can cover a lot of errors in the assumptions going forward.

My portfolio historically (20 years) returns 9.5% with Standard Deviaition around 7%. 60% SP500, 40% Treasuries returned 8.5% with S.D. of 9.2%, not a lot worse, and a heckuvalot easier to manage. For me, slicing it up (16 asset classes, fees under .4%) is fun and frankly makes me feel safer to have eggs more spread around, but you could probably do as well from the SWR survival p.o.v., at least within the limits of peering into the fog of the future, with a pretty simple diversification strategy..

Here is a portfolio and that comes pretty close to matching the asset allocation I use, all available out of Vanguard , 8 funds plus a money market:

30.0% VWELX Vanguard Wellington
4.0% VMMXX Vanguard Prime MM
5.0% VGSIX Vanguard REIT Index
20.0% VBIIX VG Intmdt. Bond Index
11.0% BEGBX Am Cent Foreign Bond
8.5% VTMSX Vanguard TM Small
5.5% VGTSX Vanguard Total Intl Index
10.0% VINEX Vanguard International Explorer
6.0% VEIEX Vanguard Emerging Markets Idx

Lacks just four other asset classes I own:
High Yield, Commodities, (easy to get with funds), private equity and market neutral hedge fund (harder to get without fees or legwork)

Haven't run all the numbers, but I think it would come in, in terms of yield and volatility, somewhere around 9% average return, and 8% standard deviation, with enough diversification to let you sleep well, low enough volatiliity to safely support a 4-4.5% swr, fees around .35%. Rebalance once a year, spend your time out fishing or figuring out what you like to do with your life and then doing it.


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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?
Old 04-03-2005, 03:48 AM   #40
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Re: The Safe Water Reservoir: (SWR): An analogy?

There is no "perfect soup" although Mom's clam chowder
is pretty darn good.

JG
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