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Thinking of SS as a fixed income portion of portfolio
Old 09-11-2013, 09:50 AM   #1
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Thinking of SS as a fixed income portion of portfolio

Here is a snippet from an article on FIDO:


Some financial advisers say retirement investors should consider the value of their Social Security benefits as a piece of their fixed-income investments.

Generally, adopting that strategy would mean shifting a big portion of your investible assets out of bonds and into stocks.

For example, if you’ve got $300,000 worth of Social Security benefits and a $700,000 investment portfolio, then your total portfolio is worth $1 million. If you wanted 50% of that portfolio, or $500,000, allocated to fixed-income investments, then just $200,000 of your investment portfolio would be in bonds, while $500,000 would be in equities.




I think this is quite valid. I also view my military retirement pay as part of my fixed-income investments. Doing this makes my portfolio about 50/50. But I have had to argue with some of my investment advisors about this in that they feel I am too heavily weighted in securities (75/25 just looking at the portfolio)


Curious as to how others might look at this.




full story here: https://news.fidelity.com/news/artic...-in-retirement
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Old 09-11-2013, 10:01 AM   #2
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The original article appeared on Market Watch. Paul Merriman had a rebuttal the next week. Here's the link (if favored by the ER Forum gods). I do not include my future SS and pensions in my asset allocation.

Social Security is not an asset - MarketWatch
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Old 09-11-2013, 10:02 AM   #3
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I look at it as a reduction of my withdrawals in calculating my withdrawal rate.

I'm somewhat surprised that Wall Street hasn't promoted the idea of imputing the value as a fixed income instrument more heavily to get more people to buy stocks.
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Old 09-11-2013, 10:31 AM   #4
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I agree with pb4uski. SS & pensions area reduction in the amount you need to withdraw from your portfolio.

Your portfolio should be constructed to give you the withdrawals you need (after pensions and SS) for your estimated lifetime. That's the important consideration.
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Old 09-11-2013, 10:40 AM   #5
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Recent related discussion from the Bogleheads:
Bogleheads • View topic - "Social Security is not an asset"
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Old 09-11-2013, 10:53 AM   #6
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I have three sources of retirement income: SS (when I hit 70), pension, and personal investments. My goal is to be able to survive on any two of them. I think I have succeeded in that, though my life style would take a hit if I had to do so. IMHO, putting SS in to the investment mix would put the the investment leg of my retirement stool at greater risk than necessary. Far better to protect it, since I don't have the time to earn it back.
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Old 09-11-2013, 11:23 AM   #7
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Can't rebalance SS. Can't sell only SS while stocks take a few years to recover. That screws up any optimum withdrawal strategy you might create in FIRECalc assuming SS was part of the bond allocation. So for determining SWR the present value of SS is fairly irrelevant.
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Old 09-11-2013, 11:27 AM   #8
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I used to consider Social Security as part of a person's overall asset allocation because it does represent a fixed income equivalent. However, I've changed my tune mostly because what really matters to me (and I think most investors) is the potential decline in value of the portfolio in a market downturn. If I'm 90% in stocks because my Social Security benefits are significant, I'm not going to be very happy in another 2008 scenario. I prefer to maintain an asset allocation that I can live with in good times and bad.
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Old 09-11-2013, 11:31 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Piper View Post
Recent related discussion from the Bogleheads:
Bogleheads • View topic - "Social Security is not an asset"
Interesting discussion. In many ways, SS dances on the edge of being an asset since it is a right to a cash flow as a result of past SS withholding, but IMO, it is not an asset.

To my knowledge under the professional accounting standards for personal financial statements, SS would NOT be an asset. Ditto for pensions.

Theoretically SS is a contingent asset, since you need to be living on the first of the month in order to receive that month's benefit. It would become an asset when you are entitled to receive it (a receivable) and the other side is a gain (income).
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Old 09-11-2013, 11:36 AM   #10
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I have heard pensions and SS referred to as 'phantom' assets. It's hard to quantify them unless one has the ability to see phantoms. Alas, I do not.
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Old 09-11-2013, 12:07 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pb4uski View Post
I look at it as a reduction of my withdrawals in calculating my withdrawal rate.

I'm somewhat surprised that Wall Street hasn't promoted the idea of imputing the value as a fixed income instrument more heavily to get more people to buy stocks.
After reviewing the comments, I tend to agree that SS is not a "real" asset, just an income stream until you die. I can see it to allow a bit more aggressiveness in a portfolio but not very much.
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Old 09-11-2013, 12:14 PM   #12
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I invest based on the time horizon when I need the money.
Any $ I won't need for 10+ years I invest in stocks, everything else is either in balance funds or bond funds, so when SS becomes a factor, it will probably mean less money for the balance/bond funds, but until I start receiving it, I ignore it.
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Old 09-11-2013, 12:30 PM   #13
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SS is an entitlement, in some ways better than an asset, in some worse. But it is not an asset. It cannot be used as collateral, it cannot be traded-I don't even think that the late night buyers of annuities can monetize it for you. When the equity market falls, you cannot peel off a little SS and rebalance into equities. But by far the biggest reason to not capitalize it into your fixed allocation is that it is insurance against panic. If you have the SS stream coming in, and you have a normal fixed allocation, when equities fall out of bed, you tend to get less frightened. Times like today, when nothing scary is happening, most of us are not frightened. But the fear will come again, count on it.

We are all supersavers, and to some extent portfolio balance fixated. So if we have all stocks and we lose 50% in our retirement portfolio, few of us are cool. But if we are 50:50-it's no fun to lose 25%, but it sure beats 50%.

Caveat- at todays rates and curve, I believe what I have said above is only valid if you use high quality fixed assets, and keep maturities and durations pretty short. Some FA writings seem to assume that bond prices and equity prices are negatively correlated. Sometimes they are, sometimes they are not. Nothing to rely on. This makes the hypothetical long bonds: equities teeter-totter very risky, as it may break in the middle anddjump both ends to the ground.

Ha
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Old 09-11-2013, 12:44 PM   #14
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Subtract SS, pensions, and work from the income I need for the next 10 years. Put this into cash and bonds. Remainder is 100% stocks.

If desired the AA is just a calculation from there (but it is not an input to the strategy).
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Old 09-11-2013, 12:56 PM   #15
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SS is most of my after-w*rking income stream for several years after retirement. (I am a grasshopper, not an ant. ) For me, SS is an annuity. I categorize it as fixed income of a sort. It will allow me to keep most of my assets [for the immediate future] 100% in equities. (I plan to take SS at 70 or 71, depending on other things.)

I hold Paul Merriman in high regard, by the way. My equities are 50/50 US/international in part due to his research.
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Old 09-11-2013, 01:21 PM   #16
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Of course it is an asset. While it is not a traditional financial asset, in that it can't be pledged or sold, it has value and should be considered in reviewing your financial situation.
I'd think that figuring out how much you'd need to invest in a fixed income asset to generate that amount of income, and counting that as fixed income, makes the most sense.
Compare two people, one with a pension (similar to SS-btw, anyone know what percent of non union or governmental employees actually have a pension nowadays?), one without. If they have equal FINANCIAL assets, would you argue that they should invest with the same allocation, or that they could spend the same amount?
In like vein, you could even count your home, if you own it, as fixed income asset, in that it eliminates the need to generate income to cover rent or mortgage expense.
Just goes to show that financial management is as much art as science, and that attempts to get black box simple answers aren't always that easy.
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Old 09-11-2013, 01:24 PM   #17
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If you adjust your AA based upon SS as FI you are making a big mistake. This is money you get monthly it is not in your control. You can't rebalance or reallocate those dollars. You will have a much more risky AA if you treat SS as FI cuz you'll be allocating more of your actual assets you do control in equities to create your AA. I don't treat my pension or SS as anything more than income I get once a month and the pension could disappear. SS could be reduced by congress. Neither are part of your AA but they may determine how you adjust your AA based upon your need for more or less income in retirement.
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Old 09-11-2013, 01:47 PM   #18
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To me it makes more sense to just lower my expenses by the amount of SS and pension. If one thinks of SS as a portfolio increase, though, then I suppose thinking of regular mortgage payments as a portfolio decrease would be required (if one has a mortgage). And then, what about other expenses? After all, I spend about the same every year overall. What a headache. For me it is so much easier to just lower projected expenses by the amount of SS and/or pension.
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Old 09-11-2013, 02:09 PM   #19
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Assuming your goal is inflation adjusted spending, a true fixed pension should be included in your allocation since part of your portfolio growth will be used to offset inflation losses. It's nominal income.

SS is not fixed income, it's COLA'd. SS ( or any COLA'd pension) provides inflation protection without resorting to your portfolio growth. It's real income.

Real income you can just spend off the top, nominal income you adjust for inflation expectations before spending. The attributes of pensions define how they are treated.
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Old 09-11-2013, 06:55 PM   #20
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Isn't this a matter of words?
We're retired. Receiving $25,00/yr equiv. in SS since 1998 = Income
We count our house as an asset, since we'll sell when we go to CCRC. Value divided by life expectancy = Income
Ibonds total divided by life expectancy = Income
Other stocks, annuities and convertible assets total divided by life expectancy = Income

I know this is aggravating to most, but this is the way we figure how much we can spend...
The number of years it will last is our guide to spending. So far, so good.
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