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Old 02-20-2018, 07:40 PM   #21
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Am I the only one that thinks that the probability of SS being "means tested" in a non-trivial way is fairly high (e.g. one in three, one in two)?....
Probably not alone, but clearly in a small minority.
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Old 02-20-2018, 09:11 PM   #22
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Am I the only one that thinks that the probability of SS being "means tested" in a non-trivial way is fairly high (e.g. one in three, one in two)? I know that is discussed in item 3) , but I would be reluctant to have a plan that doesn't take at least a bit of that risk factor into account.
we already have means testing...with Medicare premiums, based on income.

so any future means-testing is likely to be income-based because the government is set up to track income, not assets.
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Old 02-20-2018, 09:18 PM   #23
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Am I the only one that thinks that the probability of SS being "means tested" ...
I think there's a good chance that future SS benefits will be reduced in some manner. I have no idea if, how and when SS reductions will be made. So I focus on what I can control and plan for. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I use a 50% SS benefit in Firecalc, and we will be ok if we receive 0 SS benefit. DH and I are 50, RE'd with a 2.6% WR. I'd like to avoid a nasty surprise in the event that SS is less than we were promised.
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Old 02-20-2018, 10:31 PM   #24
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Pondering a portfolio spend strategy

First, SS Risk scares me, too. But reducing SS is not the same as eliminating SS. SS is not called the Third Rail of American Politics for nothing.

Those here who are not factoring in SS, are you factoring in Tax Risk to your wealth? To me, Tax Risk is at least as high as SS Risk.

Second, It seems reasonable to assume that we’d see any SS changes coming from a distance and have time to adapt. The last (failed, adamantly) proposals to put SS savings into stocks and such would have applied to those 55 and younger, not folks nearing or in SS.

Third, my suggested plan above projects $2M at age 70, which is probably a darn sight better than most everyone I know in real life. That gives us a decent chance to muddle through whatever.

I’m not trying to start an unwinnable argument about the future of SS, but to examine how I think about it since several above have asked for my plan, which I guess is, I’d adapt if and when I know what’s changed and by how much. Y’all are right, the risk to SS reducing is there but it seems irrational to plan for it to disappear. I’m trying find ways to load the dice in my favor while not being so fearful that I have to work until I croak, not that such a fate is rare out there. Also, for the record, I was more of a Ginger admirer growing up but YMMV.
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Old 02-20-2018, 10:45 PM   #25
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Old 02-20-2018, 10:47 PM   #26
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Let me see if I understand your strategy.

1) $2M stash divided into two parts: $800K in TIPS, and $1.2M in stocks.

2) TIPS portion depleted in 12 years with WR of $67K/yr, which is then replaced with SS.

3) Stock portion has WR of 4% of value. Will not be depleted in 12 years.


It is true that you will not run out of money. The potential problem is that in the past, after 12 years a $1.2M stock stash with that WR could have an ending value as low as $528K, or as high as $3.9M.

In the best case, at year 12, you will be spending $67K + $3.9M x 0.04 = $223K.

If you run into a bad sequence of returns, will you be able to live on $67K + $528K x 0.04 = $88K?
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Old 02-20-2018, 11:02 PM   #27
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For what it's worth:

I run FIRECalc with $2M with a 60/40 AA rebalanced each year in the conventional way, and with $70K of SS at year 13. I get $104K of constant spending with the worst case balance of $0 in 30 years.

If the spending is cut to $100K (constant), then the worst-case ending balance is $340K at year 30 (but it could be as high as $9.5M in the best case).
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Old 02-20-2018, 11:02 PM   #28
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Pondering a portfolio spend strategy

Thanks. Yes, I could live on it. I don’t want to, though.

Pb4uski’s twist on my plan is to instead put the non-TIPS portion into a 60/40 AA and spend at a SWR with extremely high FIRECalc success rate. That has me thinking, because it would reduce the large variability in outcomes that you noted in my spend plan.

FIREcalc is showing 95.7% success rate on my ability to spend $48,000/year, with inflation adjustment, on a 60/40 portfolio of $1.2M to start.

$68K plus $48K = $115K/year. That seems pretty appealing for our needs.
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Old 02-21-2018, 09:34 AM   #29
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I wonder what others think about the following as a way to FIRE with a fairly high withdrawal rate while attempting to manage Sequence of Returns risk, and Inflation risk. Full credit to Michael Kitches’ “increasing equities glide path” concept to get me thinking about adjusting it to my own situation.

Assumptions:
- FIRE at 58 with 12 years to go before maximum SS;
- Max SS projections at 70 currently show $70K/year combined for DW and me;
- $2M portfolio or > at FIRE with a 60/40 AA.
- No kids and no interest in dying with a lot of $ left.

Proposed Spend Strategy: Fixed Income allocation is $800,000 and 100% in TIPS.
1). Spend 1/12th of fixed income assets per year ($67,000) as a bridge to maximum SS.
2) Basically, at 70 we trade the dependability of bonds, which are mostly depleted, for the dependability of SS.
3). Biggest risk is probably that current SS projections won’t be messed with by Congress just as we start it, though it’s a risk that is a matter of opinion and I can’t calculate whether AARP will have a stronger lobby than the Military contractors when SS finally goes wobbly in about 2030. If it all goes to heck, Hello Central America?
4). Sequence of Returns Risk management: Safely spending down a fixed % of bonds to get to a safe maximum SS check.
5). Inflation Risk management: 100% TIPS, although Total Bond Market seems a good choice, too. I could see allocating 50% to each.

Proposed Spend Strategy: Equities = $1.2M in 100% Total Stock Market Index:
1). Spend a FIXED 4%/year with no inflation adjustment. Year One spend is $48,000.
2). Assuming 8% growth in equities over those 12 years and a 4% spend rate, the stock index would compound at 4%/year (right?) to become $1.9M in 12 years at age 70.
3). During years with a >$48,000 spend possible: Park the excess cash in treasuries
4). Years with < $48,000 spend possible: make up the loss from the parked cash.
5). Sequence Risk management: The risk is still there but hopefully not catastrophic because, theoretically, one could not deplete a stock portfolio with a fixed 4% spend rate. I checked this on FIREcalc, which showed 100% success.
6). Inflation Risk management: Growth in stock valuations over time. Year One spend @ 4% is $48,000 but Year 12 spend is $76,000.

I Realize:
1). $115,000 year spending off a $2M portfolio in Year One is a high 5.75% withdrawal rate and not considered a “safe withdrawal rate.” But aren’t the usual risks managed pretty well above?
2). I’ve proposed a 12 year portfolio survival vs. the usual 30 year. But isn’t reaching SS securely with a dependable $70K/year for life that is inflation indexed, plus $1.9M in stocks “pretty good”? At that point, I could put the $1.9M in TIPS and spend 1/17th per year going forward ($111,764/year) plus max SS of $70K to get to a 30 year portfolio.

This is not traditional thinking, so tell me why it is whacked. Go on, I assume it has flaws I can’t see yet and I know you won’t be shy pointing them out, so please do
Is your $2M in pre or post tax dollars? I have been working on my own strategy and nearly all my money is in pre-tax accounts. I'm 57 but I will be able to use the age of 55 rule to handle the penalty problem but I have to figure the tax portion into it too.
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Old 02-21-2018, 02:33 PM   #30
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Right off hand I am concerned with your equity spend. I don't know what state you are in but I ran your numbers on Banksite.com "retirement shortfall" calculator which I suggest you look at as you can set the variables. I plugged in 2.9% inflation, a spend of $48 k in a tax bracket of 22%, state tax of 6%, 4% ROIC, 12 year term. To spend $48 k you will need to withdraw $68k. My parameters may not apply but that's what I plugged in. This gives you a portfolio of $630k at 12 years. IMHO 8% is too high to assume. Most folks on the street are talking about 4-7% returns for the next decade. I assume 4%.

(BTW I am 58 and looking at the same thing). With respect to SS, I almost completely ignore it. SS is like having a 401k that can decrease in size based on what congress decides to do. I realize I am being conservative here but I would cut the projected SS income by 1/3. Like I say, I ignore it.

I like your asset allocation and your instruments, although I prefer total bond market funds because I think it is a better income vehicle. You will likely see a modest loss over the next three years. Read the Vanguard website article on investing in total bond market funds. My approach is to give equities a haircut as long as it is a positive year, reducing the amt I take out of bonds. To me, bonds are what you live on when the market tanks to avoid selling equities at a discount. If you can live at least five years on your bonds you can weather most corrections/recessions then rebalance as the market recovers.

As for the amount to withdraw, that is always a personal issue. I believe in the three principles of retirement: 1) One house 2) One car 3) One wife. Be conservative with the spending assuming you have no debt etc.My plan is to w/d $85 k per year in spending. 20% total bond market index 80% total stock market index, and I am not sure how much I will take out of either one but mostly bonds in a down year, mostly stocks in an up year. This is what Warren Buffett recommends.

Check out Banksite and their "retirement shortfall" calc. You have more control over the variables. j
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Old 02-21-2018, 04:01 PM   #31
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.....I plugged in 2.9% inflation, a spend of $48 k in a tax bracket of 22%, state tax of 6%, 4% ROIC, 12 year term. To spend $48 k you will need to withdraw $68k. ....
$20k in taxes is way too high. Probably less than half of that.

See Income Tax Calculator - Tax-Rates.org

If you put in $55k of ordinary income and MFJ, the federal tax is only $3,339 because of $24k of standard deduction and a blend of the 10% and 12% ordinary tax rates. Don't forget to uncheck payroll and employment taxes on the first page.

I dunno what state the OP is in but I put in Colorado and the state tax was $2,547.

So total taxes are only $6k... not $20k.... with $55k of ordinary income you would have $49k to spend after taxes.
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Seems just a bit high for spending
Old 02-21-2018, 04:08 PM   #32
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Seems just a bit high for spending

OP

I do have some concerns:

the assumption of 8% returns is optimistic, I would have gone (at best) with 4% returns for more conservative assumption. better to have too much than try to find a j@b at 70+

I might suggest that you temper your SS by giving it a 20% haircut (50% is probably too extreme but 20% is within the forecast “cuts “ spelled out by SS)

at 58, the 4% withdrawal is probably too high— more like 3.25-3.5% for 35-40 year retirement. (I retired at 59 but had pension plus over two large...and still used a 3.5% WR as top end and haven’t even got to 2.5% in retirement yet)

also, to really use Kitses method you might want to reduce your allocation to 40/60 rather than 60/40 and then, once you start SS ramp back up to 60/40 or 50/50 over time. the 40/60 is still within the limits of growth, better protect against sequence of returns issues, and only slightly reduce the overall value at 70. We have our retirement plan at 45% equities until SS ( which one might take at FRA with the other (ever so slightly higher) take at 70. this maintains as much assets under our control as we can, especially in the event one of us passes early. the period between retirement and SS is used to tax gain harvest and then do Roth conversions. )

while the above probably drops your withdrawal by 12k+ it’s probably more sustainable and less subject to sequence of returns issues. If you get lucky at 70, you can revisit your withdrawal level- - but if you don’t, the haircut in spending shouldn’t be problematic. if it is you were cutting it too close anyway.
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Old 02-21-2018, 05:31 PM   #33
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This is essentially how I am 'figuring' SS. My FIRE ready assessment was done without SS. If I get it/some, all the better.
Many people do depend on SS payments to some degree for living expenses. So many people in this forum view that SS payment cannot be trusted and therefore should not be included as part of the calculation to determine whether to RE. If SS payment may disappear (or reduce), how about pension payments? Will they go away as well? How about the stock and bond markets? Could we relay on their return to fund our retirement? We have to make some kind of assumptions that they will be around and to be able to fund our future living expenses.
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Old 02-21-2018, 08:45 PM   #34
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Many people do depend on SS payments to some degree for living expenses. So many people in this forum view that SS payment cannot be trusted and therefore should not be included as part of the calculation to determine whether to RE. If SS payment may disappear (or reduce), how about pension payments? Will they go away as well? How about the stock and bond markets? Could we relay on their return to fund our retirement? We have to make some kind of assumptions that they will be around and to be able to fund our future living expenses.
Good perspective. We all need to make reasonable assumptions in our planning. But as you point out, to zero out one source of retirement income yet count on other sources makes no sense. If you think one should be zeroed, why not all of them?

I think it is reasonable to assume a 20-25% "haircut" on SS, but to ignore it means you are just delaying ER. Kind of in opposition to the whole point of E-r.org!
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Old 02-21-2018, 09:21 PM   #35
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Good perspective. We all need to make reasonable assumptions in our planning. But as you point out, to zero out one source of retirement income yet count on other sources makes no sense. If you think one should be zeroed, why not all of them?

I think it is reasonable to assume a 20-25% "haircut" on SS, but to ignore it means you are just delaying ER. Kind of in opposition to the whole point of E-r.org!

....Which is another way of saying, DIVERSIFY your risks. To me, that not only means owning indexed securities from around the entire globe but also remembering the diverse assets and actions I could take someday if I have to:
- Assume some, maybe all, of SS. To think that American voters would stand for paying taxes into a system their entire careers only to have it cut substantially when they need it, while other programs are not cut or other taxes are not raised first, defies logic to me. The richest country in the history of the world can figure his out, imho. Pardon my rant but I agree with the last two posters above a lot.
- Rent my house out long term
- Rent my house out short term
- Rent part of my house out
- Sell my house
- Sell my house and buy a duplex
- Take a reverse mortgage
- Move to a LCOL area
- Move to a LCOL country
- W*rk a little. There’s an Ace Hardware down the street that looks kind of fun. Or REI. Or Whole Foods.
- W*rk longer before FIREing to build up a safety margin
- Buy stuff and sell it on Ebay or other online biz
- Continue budgeting
- Buy an annuity for part of our income
- Live in an RV for a while
- Live on a boat for a while
- Live in a smaller house or apt for a while
- Create a plan and run it through ER Forum debate of smart people and also multiple calculators. Call it pretty good when it shows 90%+ success and go live the life I want to.
- Remind myself that NO PLAN IS PERFECT. Everyone’s plan faces risks. Ask Bernie Madoff’s investors or those whose failing pensions were turned over to the federal government due to no fault of their own.
- See bad things forming on the horizon and take some action to be resilient in the face of it, whatever it is
- Have insurances in place to manage bad things you don’t see coming, which is what the plan I proposed at the top tries to do.
- Plan for the worst but remember that, despite the headlines, the world is mostly improving and that good things and upside will mostly happen.

Anyway, I can put a lot of stuff between me and Total Plan Failure.
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Old 02-21-2018, 09:33 PM   #36
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Pondering a portfolio spend strategy

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$20k in taxes is way too high. Probably less than half of that.

See Income Tax Calculator - Tax-Rates.org

If you put in $55k of ordinary income and MFJ, the federal tax is only $3,339 because of $24k of standard deduction and a blend of the 10% and 12% ordinary tax rates. Don't forget to uncheck payroll and employment taxes on the first page.

I dunno what state the OP is in but I put in Colorado and the state tax was $2,547.

So total taxes are only $6k... not $20k.... with $55k of ordinary income you would have $49k to spend after taxes.


Nearly all of our stash is in tax advantaged accounts, so we’d pay tax as regular income in FIRE.IMG_0062.JPG
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Old 02-21-2018, 09:38 PM   #37
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Still... 16% is a lot less than 29% suggested in post #30.
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Old 02-22-2018, 07:29 AM   #38
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Yes. I played with this Tax-Rates.org calculator some and it makes less difference than one might think whether I live in high tax Minnesota or no tax Florida, which is a possibility for us. I suspect that has to do with deductibility of state and local taxes (which change in 2018). We also have a nice lifestyle in Minnesota with lots of public amenities, so there is that. Yes, it is cold, so there is that, too.
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Taxes
Old 02-22-2018, 09:32 AM   #39
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Taxes

I stand corrected on the w/d rate for a $48k spend as I calculated that with marginal tax rates only. The portfolio value at 12 years given the assumption of a $48k/yr spend and all the other variables is still $630 k.

I also agree that totally ignoring SS is not entirely rational, but I am of the mindset that SS is not fiscally sound, will likely be means tested, and is not to be counted on at current projection levels. It's like mana from heaven...if it happens that would be great. This perspective comes from my 25 years as an anesthesiologist where medicare payments for my services are now 32% lower in inflation adjusted dollars than 25 years ago! We all have our biases I guess. While I ignore it because I can, if I really needed the money I would cut the projection by 1/3.
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Old 02-24-2018, 11:50 AM   #40
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I really appreciate everyone’s good ideas above, even if I didn’t comment on all of them. I am kind of enamored of this plan, which I think I think incorporates SS appropriately to allow for a much higher than 4% SWR to my stock/bond portfolio, while managing inflation risk and sequence risk. Thanks to this discussion, it’s even more resilient to the usual, known risks. To recap some good improvements, insights and considerations from the above:

- Instead of my proposal for the non-TIPS allocation, which was 100% equities, look at a 60/40 allocation for that part, and spend the 4% but with an inflation adjustment.

- This would have the effect of beginning with a 34/66 allocation, which would increase equities to 60/40 + SS at age 70, which seems prudent and manages sequence risk and inflation risk better, I think, than the Target Date Funds leave people exposed to.

- A conservative move would be to plan for smaller SS than is projected now. Those projections above range from 0% to 100%, which is to say, no one knows so we’re all wagering. I’ll probably adjust my plan to assume 20% less SS at 70.

- Or maybe I should look at taking SS at FRA rather than 70. Some good points were made above about protecting more SS if one of us dies. Further, I need to calculate the trade off of FRA vs. 70 in light of reduced time needed to build a bridge of TIPS/bonds to SS. Hmmm....These are two good reasons to explore FRA vs 70.

- Thinking of SS as a kind of deferred, adjustable annuity and factoring it into my plan as a $1.75M additional asset. Also, when SS comes online someday, it will make our SWR much lower. That allows for our initial SWR at FIRE to be higher. I need to think of the overall SWR for our life expectancies. This thinking helps me address the 4% SWR rule of thumb, which seems too conservative. Instead, I should think about a SWR from a $2M + $1.75M = $3.75M Portfolio at FIRE. That’s both more accurate and more fun!

- I just can’t calculate what would happen if one of us dies, because it looks so different if it happens tomorrow, while we have term and work life insurance, vs. at age 69, etc. The survivor would probably want to eventually move from our paid off house to “something else”, which changes all calculations, as would the survivor remarrying. Plus, expenses would go down, though no one knows by how much, somewhere between 0 and 1.3X. Folks above urged me to factor in the possibility but the variables are too many to make selecting a FIRE date based upon that concern meaningful. I do need to understand the SS rules about a deceased spouse better than I do now, however.

- Similarly, I can’t calculate future taxes. Sure, federal taxes just got cut but a good assumption is that those cuts will likely be offset by higher state and local taxes where I live. Also, and I’m trying hard to remain apolitical here but, objectively, the Fed is moving to raise rates, which will neutralize a lot of the promised fizz - and tax receipts- from the recent cuts. Meanwhile, no one in DC has cut expenses. One way or another, state, federal or both, I assume higher taxes on us fewer, wealthier people before the country would impose harmful cuts to SS on growing masses of older and poorer voters, so my bet is on higher future taxes as a meaningful and persistent risk to my rosy plan here in 2018.

To me, there remains no free lunch, but we do have pretty good tools at our disposal to manage risks. I also take seriously the long list above of levers to pull if things start going sideways for my proposed risk managed plan.

Cheers, thanks and good luck with your own plans!
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