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Firecalc Cycles / Spreadsheets
Old 05-16-2018, 07:14 AM   #1
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Firecalc Cycles / Spreadsheets

I've been a regular (obsessive) Firecalc user for several years, but I've justed started looking under the hood since it is giving me 100% readings if my wife and I retire today. I'm trying to figure out what historical data firecalc uses and what cycles. I'll start by saying that I think it is a great tool and I appreciate the time and effort that users have put into it. I've provided donations over the years to show my support.

1) I am 48 and modelling a 42 year period. Firecalc says it is looking at 37 cycles. To me, this does not seem like a good sample size. Elsewhere, the support materials say Firecalc has data from the 1870s, so there should be about 100 42 year cycles. Why so few sample cycles?

2) How recent is Firecalc data? The "multiyear" spreadsheet for my model ends at 1963, which means it only has data through 2005 (1963-2005 being the last 42 year cycle it displays on the spreadsheet).

3) Are the spreadsheet's indicative of the actual firecalc analysis? The single year spreadsheet keeps inflated a pension for which I am not checking the "inflation adjusted" box.

Thanks for any insight! I have looked through old threads and the support materials and can't find answers to these questions.
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Old 05-16-2018, 07:57 AM   #2
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1. FIREcalc has data going back to the 1870s, but only for certain investment classes. I believe if you have set an asset allocation on one of the tabs that uses one or more investment classes for which FIREcalc has more limited data, then you will only get the cycles that include the full history for that/those asset classes.

2. I don't know for sure, but it's a manual process and I don't know who does the updating. It would not surprise me if they were a year or two behind, but 2005 seems too long ago.

3. From a user experience point of view, it should be, but I don't know if it is. If you've picked a future year to retire, I could see FIREcalc inflating the pension between now and your future retirement year and then not inflating it afterwards. Or it could be a bug.
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Old 05-16-2018, 08:03 AM   #3
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2. I don't know for sure, but it's a manual process and I don't know who does the updating. It would not surprise me if they were a year or two behind, but 2005 seems too long ago.
FIRECalc has data through 2016. As a matter of fact, it is due for its 2017 update - last year it was updated on May 28. Unfortunately the last few years' updates have only been data with no work on the engine/model. For example, the "poverty levels" in the variable spending results are from 2006.
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Old 05-16-2018, 08:07 AM   #4
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Thanks SecondCor521. I switched my portfolio to the total market and it pulled 100+ cycles. I appreciate the assistance.
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Old 05-16-2018, 08:08 AM   #5
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Hmmm. It's working for me.

I just popped a 42 into the third field on the first screen and hit submit. The results screen says "FIRECalc looked at the 105 possible 42 year periods in the available data, starting with a portfolio of $750,000 and spending your specified amounts each year thereafter."

Opening the "multi-year" spreadsheet gives me starting years from 1870 to 1975, which agrees with the 105 cycles and the red legend at the top of each page that says "(Data updated May 28, 2017)".

I wonder if some entry on one of the other screens is changing the number of cycles that FIRECalc is able to use in your situation.
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Old 05-16-2018, 08:33 AM   #6
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Hmmm. It's working for me.

I just popped a 42 into the third field on the first screen and hit submit. The results screen says "FIRECalc looked at the 105 possible 42 year periods in the available data, starting with a portfolio of $750,000 and spending your specified amounts each year thereafter."

Opening the "multi-year" spreadsheet gives me starting years from 1870 to 1975, which agrees with the 105 cycles and the red legend at the top of each page that says "(Data updated May 28, 2017)".

I wonder if some entry on one of the other screens is changing the number of cycles that FIRECalc is able to use in your situation.
SecondCor521's advice explained it for me. Since I was using the "Mixed Portfolio" option, it limited the number of cycles because Firecalc does not have data for all asset classes for the same number of years. If you use "Total Market" you get many more cycles, with the trade off of less granularity on the asset allocation.
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Old 05-16-2018, 09:22 AM   #7
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I do remember the Pension question being raised here in this subforum, but unfortunately don't recall the response.
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Old 05-16-2018, 09:30 AM   #8
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I do remember the Pension question being raised here in this subforum, but unfortunately don't recall the response.
Yes, this has been the topic of discussion in the past:

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The spreadsheet numbers are incorrect - FIRECalc is handling the calculation correctly but the spreadsheet info doesn't indicate the inflation adjustment has been unchecked. See here: Inflation adjusted checkbox seemingly ingnored
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Old 05-16-2018, 09:46 AM   #9
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FIRECalc is a very useful tool. I'm not sure, though, that there is any tool or modeling framework that can look that far ahead and give reasonable certainty to the outcome. So many non-financial factors are likely to have an impact and they cannot be quantified, and many are not even known.

I'm not suggesting the desire for a longer period or greater precision is not worth pursuing, only that it's one part of a long term retirement plan, and as the plan covers longer retirement periods, other factors become more important.
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