Category Archives: Economic Analysis

Summer Doldrums

Seems we have been stuck in something like the Summer Doldrums the past several weeks. Whether that is suboptimal weather, the ongoing mayhem in DC, or the occasional heat wave, I cannot say for certain. Nonetheless, life moves on and so does the need for diligence in your retirement planning regimen. So, we return to the primary topic at hand today with a vengeance: your retirement.

Summer Doldrums: The eye-opener section
Having taken a hiatus of nearly a month, it seems appropriate to start by jerking everyone back to reality. Yes, markets have managed to stay buoyant, but still ….
You should probably consider things that may conspire to trip up your retirement. The first – we’ve called sequence risk here before – is one you must take to heart. 27 Ugly Truths About Retirement
Then there is the matter of the never-ending bull market. Are you still ‘all in?’ Have you taken defensive measures to lock in some of your gains? This lengthy tome may help you put things into perspective. There They Go Again … Again from Howard Marks at Oaktree Capital Management

Summer Doldrums: How about some actionable ideas to consider for your retirement?
We often emphasize risk adjusted total returns when thinking about investing for retirement. That frequently turns into dividend aristocrats as an option. They drive current income and, hopefully, capital appreciation. Combined they are often a winning element of your strategy. Undervalued Aristocrats: Exclusive Dividend Aristocrat Buy and Sell Recommendations From Sure Dividend Ignore the Price, Remember the Dividends: Why Dividends are the Key to Building Wealth
At the same time, it often pays to capitalize on macroeconomic trends. In this case the convergence of a demographic trend and a political reality. A Private Pay Healthcare REIT That Yields 10%

Summer Doldrums: How can you bring about behavioral change?
Since we just missed a month of posting, how do you change behavior? A Stanford University Psychologist’s elegant three-step method for creating new habits

Your Distribution Phase

We often speak of your distribution phase here as the income phase of your retirement planning. It is the time after the accumulation phase ends … once you retire. When you begin to draw down on your retirement savings your mindset must change and your decision making, too. Everyone … even financial advisors … focus their time, energy and attention on the accumulation phase. That makes sense because it used to be the bigger timeframe (and more lucrative for financial advisors). Now though, with longevity increasing, you may actually be in the distribution phase for a longer time. So, how do you most efficiently draw down your assets to deliver the comfortable, secure retirement you want?

Your Distribution Phase: Changing strategies to create lasting income.
The most important component of your distribution phase strategy is to generate enough income for as long as you need it. Without entering into the longevity risk discussion today we can focus on ways to optimize your retirement savings. This is an outstanding article based upon the Stanford Center on Longevity and Society of Actuaries work on the topic. Here’s an ‘income menu’ that could help retirees make their savings last
In a similar vein, while this seems like a sales pitch I think you can extract some value gratis. It may help you in the accumulation phase to adjust your saving strategy. It may help you in your distribution phase to optimize your withdrawal pattern. One online tool helps you turn many retirement factors into money magic
We speak often of dividend stocks (good ones) as a means of generating income and preserving principal. This article takes a look at the multi-generational potential for a solid dividend investing approach. Never Run Out of Money: The Gift That Keeps on Giving
To be fair we always temper our dividend discussions with the need to remain vigilant. Here the Motley Fool helps illustrate that point. 3 Most Wildly Overvalued Dividend Stocks

Your Distribution Phase: Remain vigilant, understand market conditions, and history.
Clearly there is some luck involved in retirement planning success. Far more is dependent upon hard work, by you or someone helping you. Whether it is the accumulation phase or your distribution phase you need to have a strategy. The 3 Characteristics of a Good Investing Framework
If you believe that a downturn is inevitable and coming soon, then understand what works. Here is an interesting look at Beta vs Volatility over time. Low Volatility and High Beta Stocks Prior to Last Downturn
Finally, in the vein of history as a guide, don’t be fooled by seemingly compelling charts. This author picks apart a classic chart to make you think hard about market timing. The World’s Most Deceptive Chart

Luck of the Irish

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, a day when the Luck of the Irish becomes topic for barroom discussion. One thing we all know is that a successful retirement has very little to do with luck. Beyond the possible sequence of return risk luck – good or bad – your retirement hinges far more on the effort you put into planning.

Luck of the Irish: Understand the environment in which you are investing.
Even the best plans need course correction, and understanding the environment is always a good place to start. Yes, retirement saving is long horizon, still there is room for prudence in where you invest new money. How is the economy doing? Do markets match up with macroeconomic reality? Is the Economy Doing Well?

Luck of the Irish: Leverage a combination of savings tools.
The foremost saving tool to leverage: compounding. That’s right, you do not need a government program to effectively save for retirement. You need to start early and be consistent in your saving habit. The power of compounding will repay you in spades. The Power of Compounding: A Patience Game (note that he points out the need to stay aware of the environment here)
While this comes at it from a different angle, the employer’s, it illustrates the power of the HSA. This tool is the Swiss Army Knife of saving, looking to become more powerful in Republican circles. What Clients Need to Tell Employees About HSAs

Luck of the Irish: Remain calm.
Understanding compounding, being diligent and consistent in investing you will accumulate a nice sum of money. Markets do have downturns and the key is not to panic. This article helps put this into better perspective for you. Early in the Accumulation Stage, Price Risk Can Look a Lot Different

Luck of the Irish: Focus on income in the distribution phase.
Once you retire the key is to transition your thinking to distribution of money from your savings. The distribution phase is largely about income, yet preserving principal is not a bad thing. You have the difficult balancing act of greater longevity and theoretically capped principal. That’s why we often highlight good dividend approaches and annuities as tools. Here’s an ‘income menu’ that could help retirees make their savings last Dividends Pile Up with This High-Yield Dividend ETF With Rising Rates Ahead, Stick with High-Quality Dividend Growers The right way to get the retirement income you need 4 Overlooked Tax Breaks for Retirees

Financial Wisdom

With each installment, we try to impart financial wisdom on our readers. It generally comes by way of general rules and valuable pointers. This time we turn the focus to distilled financial wisdom. First from the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett in his annual letter to shareholders. It is a lengthy read, but always worthwhile. You can find that here: Warren Buffett’s letter to Berkshire Hathaway investors explains how to use fear to your benefit. The second piece comes from Jim Gallagher, a personal finance columnist, it is here: 23 years of personal finance wisdom distilled into one final column. Before this one gets too dated I figure why not share Jeff Gundlach’s mid-January opinion piece. Here’s Jeff Gundlach’s full presentation on expensive stocks, the economy under Trump, and the Federal Reserve

Financial Wisdom: Always optimize the incentives Government provides.
I will start by saying Social Security is not given to you by Government, you fund and earn it. Still, there is an art to extracting the most value. This is the surefire way to maximize your Social Security benefits

Another really popular topic here is Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). We will not rest on this one until you fully appreciate the value of these. How Health Savings Accounts Work

Financial Wisdom: You need to be very, very attentive to your longevity risk.
You saw it above in the piece on Social Security and this article, too, deals squarely with longevity risk. Many find fault with annuities as a solution, but the guarantees have value and should not be dismissed. The biggest problem with traditional retirement planning

Financial Wisdom: Invest as wisely as you possibly can.
One thing vital to your planning is to understand that it is never a ‘set it and forget it’ process. This article helps drive that point home. Investor’s Alpha: Proper Asset Allocation
Then again, things are subject to change … what impact will Artificial Intelligence have on individual retirement investing? This article may give you some insight and hope. Artificial Intelligence Hedge Funds Outperforming Humans
Investing wisely also means being aware of your environment. This article, just published this morning, shares a Monte Carlo simulation for market performance in March. As with all prognostications, take it for what it is worth, but it is fascinating. I recommend reading it through. A Monte Carlo Simulation of the S&P 500 for March 2017

Optimizing Trump

We have turned our focus back to your retirement and plenty of disgruntled people out there will be well served by Optimizing Trump. What that means is identifying the potential implications of a Trump presidency for your retirement and addressing them now.

Optimizing Trump: Locking in things as best you can before it gets any crazier.
One of our common themes is income generation in retirement. Whether using tools like longevity annuities or investing in the finest dividend stocks, securing income streams matters.
Plenty of dividend stocks and funds, and plenty of tips on them, too. This one is intriguing, though. One of the Best Dividend Growth Stocks Around Regardless of the State of the Economy
This is way, way in the weeds for most, but it portends something worth understanding. The bottom line is that the Fed bought up lots of stuff in propping up the economy. Now, they are thinking about exiting some, specifically mortgage backed securities. It is good to be aware, at least. Everyone is suddenly worried about this U.S. mortgage-bond whale

Optimizing Trump: Finding weaknesses before they overwhelm.
Safe to say whether you like Trump or not, you probably expect there will be turmoil at some point. Turmoil equals uncertainty, and uncertainty drives volatility. If Trump Flares Up Uncertainty, Profit from These ETFs

Optimizing Trump: always focus on the fundamentals … fees, longevity, etc.
It has been some time since we have harped on the fact that you will live longer and that means you will need more savings. Perhaps the oracle of The USA Today will lend some credence to the argument. How much do you need to fund retirement? More than you think.
Now a somewhat different angle on the same topic…your spouse is likely not the same age. That matters. Retirement Planning? Couples, Mind the Age Gap

Thanksgiving Respite

The election is behind us, the rancor is dying down, and we are coming off the turkey high … time for a Thanksgiving Respite. That means nothing too heavy this week, mostly light reading.

Thanksgiving Respite: One heavy one – do yourself a favor, read it.
There was plenty to dislike about the election which just past. One thing that particularly irks me, though, is the lack of focus on the Federal Debt.  This Looming Crisis Could Ruin Many

Thanksgiving Respite: Miscellany to lighten up your long weekend.
Most of you likely listen to classical, if not, you should. Why Our Brains Respond Differently to Classical Music
If you are like me, you run your iPhone storage to the limit. Here’s a trick worth knowing. Instantly Free Up Storage on an iPhone by Downloading (then deleting) a Huge App
If you enjoy traveling and our National Parks, you will love this site. Browse & Download 1,198 Free High Resolution Maps of US National Parks
Speaking of traveling, I always advocate saving money on tickets. 4 Apps Airlines Don’t Want You to Know About
If you like completely useless information (perhaps even depressing), or fast food, this site is for you. These maps show how 15 fast food chains dominate in America
If you are a closet geek, or just like to prove things now and again, you will love this one. Microsoft co-founder’s academic search engine adds neuroscience

Thanksgiving Respite: One truly valuable tip for your weekend.
It is not all dumb stuff, here’s something you might need. iPhone update adds a hidden way to call police in an emergency

Folksy Investing

I am always looking for the finest analysis to share, this week I turn to Folksy Investing. This article Getting Asset Allocation Right for Retirement struck me with how simple and folksy it was. No doubt Henry is a retired aeronautical engineer … or line worker … from Boeing, still his advice is simple. Sometimes I think it pays to go with what feels right.
Folksy Investing: Henry uses 105 as a baseline, how long will your retirement go?
It is a common refrain here, longevity is a giant variable in your retirement planning. Annuities can often help moderate that longevity risk.  Are You Missing Out on Guaranteed Income Because of These 5 Misconceptions?

We often talk about healthcare costs in retirement and inflation is a concern, too. In this low return world even low inflation can make a difference. Inflation is Coming Back – What Does That Mean for You?
Speaking of healthcare cost in retirement, here’s another good primer on that. Retirement health care estimates vs. reality
Finally, here is a nice summation of the risks you face, including the three we are focusing in on today. Navigating 5 critical retirement risks
 

Folksy Investing: Some more good tools and tips for your retirement.
We often highlight dividend stocks as a means of generating income. How will they fare in any downturn, though? You certainly don’t want to lose a whole lot of principal. 3 Reliable Dividend Stocks Yielding 7% or More
So how do you handle the ups and downs of markets? Your nest egg will vary in value over time, is there a way to account for that? Here is one idea. Ratcheting Up Retirement Spending
So what are the odds markets will correct? Who knows? Some say the election will do it, if Trump wins. Others say it is all ‘baked in’ already. Perhaps ask yourself are things as good as markets would indicate? Unemployment rate is 4.9%, but a more realistic rate is higher than that and The Story of Durable Goods is the Story of the (Global) Economy
This may be too little, too late, given the proximity of the election, but … The philosophy of Marcus Aurelius is supposed to make you be more resilient and at peace – here’s how to master it in 7 days
Speaking of the election, you may want these tips, too. A new travel app is offering the lowest flight prices we’ve ever seen and Surprise! This Cruise is Actually on a Luxury Yacht, and It’s Everything Anti-Cruisers Could Hope For

Retirement: How Long, How Much?

We often highlight the impacts of longevity on retirement. This week we look at Retirement: How Long, How Much? What are the practical implications of a longer life? What is a safe withdrawal rate? Save as much as you can when working, that is the first step. Knowing how much you can take and how long you need to take it is vital.

Retirement: How Long, How Much?
So, just how long will you live in retirement? No one knows for certain, but it is wise to know the odds and the outside shot.  Retirement Planning for a 115-Year Life Expectancy
Once you have a sense for how long you will be in retirement you can start on how much you need in retirement.  Use the FI Formula to Find Out How Much You Need to Be Financially Independent
That FI Formula still leaves the open question about the 4% rule. Just how much is a safe withdrawal rate? Look at the actual study to fill in some of the gaps in that story. Safe withdrawal rates
Not surprisingly Vanguard has an opinion on withdrawal rates. It makes sense, but is it right for you? Vanguard’s New Model for Retirement Spending in Low-Yield Market

Retirement: How Long, How Much? – Perhaps there are other ways to think about it.
Some of you may be thinking about running away from the US after November 8. We have covered the topic before, but here are some reminders on what to consider. How to Manage Your Finances When You Retire Overseas
If you don’t want to bite the bullet and move overseas, this option still gets you offshore? 6 Reasons a Cruise Ship is the Best Retirement Option
Keeping with the overseas perspective, are we doing everything right here? Australia and New Zealand certainly are better positioned and here’s why. Our legislators should take note. What U.S. Retirees Can Learn from New Zealand and Australia
Regardless your view of longevity and even safe withdrawal rate, generate as much income as you can. Dividends are one approach worth considering. There are always new options to consider. This Dividend ETF Does Your Investing For You
Is dividend investing right for you or as part of your investment strategy? This article might help you consider just that. Why do Some People Like Dividends So Much?

Retirement: How Long, How Much? – What comes after November 8.
So, will there be an implication on the economy? Here’s an interesting viewpoint. Could Hillary Clinton be the Next Herbert Hoover?
Maybe it will happen, maybe it is already priced in already. Is there a smart answer to hedge your bets? How to Hedge the S&P 500 with a Minimum Return of 7%
Maybe you are better off reading a book. Top 10 Books that Will Change Your Life in 2016

Your Retirement Health

Each week we consider ways to improve your retirement health. This week we look at the right things for each phase to maximize your savings and optimize your retirement.

Your Retirement Health – use the tools they give you during the accumulation phase.
We will harp on HSAs (Health Savings Accounts) until you have one…it will improve your retirement health, both ways. 4 Things You Should Know About Health Savings Accounts
Don’t miss an opportunity, either, especially those given to you. 3 Valuable Incentives to Save for Retirement
Plus, of course, maximize all those tools you are given. 3 Questions That Can Help You Get the Most from Your 401(k)

Your Retirement Health – the transition from wealth accumulation to distribution.
Not everyone has it made, especially when it comes to retirement savings. So, what can you do if you really are not prepared? A retirement plan for the working 99%
Even if you think you have enough, can you weather an extended period of low returns? Retiring Early in a World of Low Returns
One thing to be sure of is avoiding missteps anywhere in the process. Derailing the Plan: How Retirees Shoot Themselves in the Foot How Couples Screw Up Retirement Planning

Your Retirement Health – be creative when you do retire.
For the real adventurer … or simply someone who has not saved enough … explore your options beyond the borders. After this election, you may thank yourself as it improves your retirement health. 8 Countries Where $200K in Retirement Savings will Last 30 Years The World’s 10 Most Livable Cities A Breakdown of Costs for Those Who Want to Retire Overseas
If you are not that daring, there are always these great spots right here at home. 10 of the Prettiest U.S. Towns to Retire

Your Retirement Health – be aware of the investing/retirement environment.
These gems are exquisitely crafted, quick condensations of 50 years investment experience. These are data driven, data laden even, yet they are easy to grasp and worth remembering. Bob Farrell’s (Illustrated) 10 Investment Rules
Everyone knows how great the bull market has been since the bottom in 2009. You also know that central banks around the world have been stoking the fire constantly since 2008, or before. How do the two relate? Are they doing your retirement health any favors? Deutsche Bank Calculates How Much of the S&Ps Value is Due to Central Banks

Secure Retirement

The election continues to provide plenty of action, strange, but action, but you still need a secure retirement. The best way to get a secure retirement is by maintaining focus on the important things: saving enough, achieving the lowest possible cost, leveraging tax incentives, and building a reliable income stream in retirement.

Enjoy a secure retirement by ensuring you are saving enough for retirement.
Should you have an IRA? Look at this amazing chart anyway because it gets to the impact of time on your savings. The Most Important IRA Chart You’ll Ever See
If you really want to be diligent in preparing for your retirement, doing some or all of these things will likely pay off in the long run. Is your 401(k) helping or hurting your retirement savings?
As you can see from the comments on this one, it stirred some controversy. Still, it is a valid point and worth your consideration. Estimate Your Retirement Income Needs Based on Your Spending, not Your Income

Maintain a secure retirement by focusing on building an income stream during retirement.
This one helps you fine-tune your Social Security strategy and gives you some savings tips, too: fits in both categories! How the Average Retiree Can Gain $5,000 Per Year in Retirement
One thing is certain in retirement, you want as much control as possible. That especially applies to RMDs. Here are some good ideas for managing them. 6 Tax-Smart Ways to Lower Your RMDs in Retirement
More good, short information on the brave new world of retirement income. Most notably, more commentary on the 4% rule. Navigating the New World of Retirement Income

Be sure of a secure retirement by keeping an eye on the economy, too.
With continuing anemic growth in the US, just how good is the economy? Have we ever recovered from the 2008 downturn, except for financial markets? “Policymakers Have Been Calling a ‘Depression’ a ‘Recovery’ for Nearly a Decade”
Not to overdose on Zero Hedge, as they tend to have a negative bent, but here citing Goldman’s analysis of the markets it may be worth a look. Goldman: The Last Two times P/E Multiples Expanded This Much, The Result Was A Historic Crash
We have touched on this before, but a focused reminder of the very real implications of Washington’s never ending drunken binge: the national debt will mean you must save more for retirement. Doesn’t seem fair, does it? How Government Debt Affects Your Retirement