Category Archives: Retirement Planning

Ideas to help preserve and grow your money

The 3 Stages of Retirement

retirementMy Comments: I recently wrote about where we are now in the overall market cycle and the likely chance of a major disruption that will effect your financial future. My post was titled “Are We There Yet?

Most of us have visions of a successful retirement. Of course, “success” is dependent on your life today, your health, and countless other variables. My role is to help anyone and everyone achieve a level of financial freedom that allows you to live your life free from financial fear. (a lot of efs there!)

Not matter how successful you are or were during the accumulation of money phase of your life, you are now, or at some time will be, in the distribution of money phase. For most of us, this requires a different mind set. That in turn requires a different set of financial tools to get you where you want to go.

What you choose to do with your life in retirement falls into what I think of as three distinct phases. How long they last is completely unknown, but they are likely to follow this sequence.

The first I call the Go-Go years. This is when you are newly retired and you have a bucket list of things you want to do, can probably afford to do, but may be afraid to do. You hold back to keep from jeopardizing your future years if history repeats itself and the markets go haywire for a while. (does anyone know the origin of the expression “haywire”?)

The second phase I call the Slow-Go years. This is when the mind and body starts to slow you down, whether you want it to or not. Hopefully by then you’ll have spent some time in the Go-Go years and are OK and recognize your limitations.

The last phase is the No-Go years. This is when you find going slow is too much and you need the help of others to get from one day to the next. It’s not a pleasant prospect. But I’ve never met an active 90 year old in the Slow-Go phase who was ready to call it quits. Quite the opposite.

But bad things happen to good people from time to time. How you manage the distribution of money phase of life will have a telling effect on the quality of your life in the Go-Go phase, the Slow-Go phase and the No-Go phase.

No matter how successful you were in the accumulation of money phase, you have to focus time and energy if you want a successful distribution of money phase. Some of this involves the recognition of what I call existential risk.

Existential risk, in my world, is a phrase to describe things that might or might not happen. No one expects our house to burn down or be destroyed by a hurricane, but we buy homeowners insurance. We might have a wreck and damage or total our car, so we buy auto insurance. Some of us buy life insurance so that if we die unexpectedly, there is cash to help our family get on with their lives. All along, we determine how much of a threat such an event will have on our lives and we allocate resources to protect ourselves.

Some of the existential risks of retirement are catastrophic illness, like a stroke, or chronic illness like dementia. As life expectancy increases, a newly talked about risk is longevity risk, which is running out of money. None of hope these things will happen, but it makes sense to at least recognize the possibility and perhaps reposition our money to offset some of the risk.

How fast you withdraw funds on a monthly basis from your accumulated funds is a largely arbitrary decision. It matters less if you have already dealt with the existential risks you might face. The financial planning community is arguing constantly about what annual rate of withdrawal is appropriate.

It depends on you. If you are willing to experience the pain of dramatic declines in value, then the rate at which you withdraw money will have to be less. That’s largely because if your accounts go down hard, you have less time to recover. Meantime, you might be sweating bullets, and that’s not usually a good thing.

If you take appropriate steps to protect yourself, then a larger withdrawal rate may be appropriate. That translates to a more satisfying experience during the Go-Go years, knowing you have taken steps to allow a smoother and later transition into the Slow-Go and No-Go years.

It’s up to you what you do. But I encourage you to believe acting sooner rather than later will be in your best interest.

Smart Retirement Income Strategies

retirement-exit-2My Comments: This comes from the staff at Financial Planning, a well known magazine that appears monthly and is subscribed to by financial professionals. It contains valuable information for anyone soon to be retired or even already retired. These are summaries and if you want to read the full article, reach out to me and I’ll help.

Financial Planning Staff / SEP 17, 2014

Clients worried about longevity, unknown health care costs and a persistent low-yield environment are increasingly turning to their advisors for solutions. As they near retirement, many are eager to address their future cash-flow needs. Based on our reporting, here are some of the best ways advisors can help clients generate income in retirement.

Delaying Benefits to Avoid ‘Tax Torpedo’ on Social Security

Many people who need retirement income in their 60s claim Social Security then, supplementing those benefits with IRA withdrawals if necessary, according to Mark Lumia, CEO of True Wealth Group in Lady Lake, Fla.

A double tax on Social Security benefits and IRA withdrawals has been called the tax torpedo; to reverse the process, seniors can delay Social Security until age 70 while using IRA funds for spending money until then. The later a client starts Social Security the larger the benefit will be, so smaller IRA withdrawals can generate the total required for retirement income.

“The formula for determining the tax on Social Security benefits includes IRA distributions in full but only half of Social Security benefits,” says Lumia. Thus, increasing Social Security by waiting until age 70 and consequently reducing the desired IRA withdrawals can dramatically lower the tax on Social Security benefits.

Lumia calculates that a retired couple with $97,000 of income ($70,411 in Social Security after delaying benefits to age 70 plus $26,589 from their IRA) would owe $6,492 less in federal income tax than a retired couple with the same $97,000 income receiving $40,006 in Social Security benefits after starting early plus $56,994 in IRA distributions. Over an extended retirement, such tax savings can be substantial.

When It Pays to Recharacterize a Roth Conversion

Tax-free Roth IRA distributions can be a valued source of retirement income; withdrawals are completely untaxed after age 59-1/2, assuming the account is at least five years old. However, building up a Roth IRA recently hit a snag thanks to the Affordable Care Act. “For some clients, dealing with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges adds another dimension to Roth IRA conversions,” says Marty James, a CPA/PFS who heads an investment and tax management firm in Mooresville, Ind. “Lost health insurance tax credits can increase the effective cost of the conversion.”

A Roth IRA conversion creates more taxable income. Higher income, in turn, might cost certain clients health insurance discounts, adding sharply to the premiums they’ll have to pay. One possibility is recharacterizing the Roth IRA conversion back to a traditional IRA which will wipe out the associated increase in health insurance costs.

“We’ll also look at investing in an oil and gas program that provides first-year deductions, to offset some of the increased income,” says James. In any case, it’s likely that this couple will postpone or sharply reduce Roth IRA conversions until they reach age 65 and become eligible for Medicare.

Rethinking the 4% Rule
By now, most advisors have gotten the memo: the long-held conventional wisdom about 4% annual withdrawals from retirement accounts no longer reigns supreme in the face of longevity projections and predicted long-term stock market returns.

“I have got 25 years of experience” and “my average client is nearly 60 years old,” says Roger Kruse, who owns FFP Wealth Management, a Minneapolis-based firm. With that kind of time helping clients, many of whom who have lived out most of their retirement years, he has come to recognize that –and “this is incredibly obvious,” Kruse says, “People spend less money as they age.” Why? “You travel less, you drive less and your out-of-pocket spending decreases,” Kruse says.

Looking to Dividend Stocks
When trying to help clients generate income in retirement, advisors may want to shift their focus from domestic stocks.

“We believe that that the lion’s share of a client’s equity holdings should be in large, cash-rich multinational companies,” says Greg Sarian of the Sarian Group at HighTower Advisors, a wealth management firm in Wayne, Pa. “We are in the mature stage of the economic cycle, so large-cap stocks may have better prospects now than small- or mid-caps.”

The tax tail shouldn’t wag the investment dog, as the saying goes, and Sarian sees much more than low tax taxes to like about dividend-paying stocks these days. “Dividends are increasing at many companies,” he says, and that may continue to be the case.

Writing Covered Calls
Does implementing a covered call strategy make sense as a way to provide some income for retired clients?

“Absolutely,” says Nick Defenthaler, a planner at the Southfield, Mich.-based Center for Financial Planning, “But it’s important to point out that although writing covered calls for income is certainly one of the most conservative option strategies, it still contains risk. The premiums received are guaranteed upon writing the call but the underlying stock could plummet and lose substantial value during the contract period.”

Defenthaler favors writing calls on a stock that has appreciated in value and the client is willing to sell. “Why not write some options for additional income?” he asks. “If the stock gets called away, profit was still realized and income was also generated. The client, however, must be aware of and comfortable with the possibility of the underlying stock losing value during the option’s contract period.”

Combating Inflation
Partly because of continued growth in the U.S. economy coupled with the winding down of the Federal Reserve’s bond-buying program, the risks of continued low inflation are diminishing.

Widely followed Rick Kahler, president of the Kahler Financial Group in Rapid City, S.D., is telling clients it’s necessary to maintain exposure to asset classes that can outpace inflation in the long-term when interest rates rise –including equities.

“Retirement isn’t a time to pull back and load up on fixed-income investments and immediate annuities,” says Kahler. “Our clients’ investment portfolios need to recognize that inflation is built into our flat monetary system.”

Boosting Revenue With Real Estate Income?
Warning signs flash in most advisors’ eyes when retired clients enter their office with visions of creating extra income streams from real estate ventures.However, not all advisors feel that way.

Rich Arzaga, the founder and CEO of Cornerstone Wealth Management in San Ramon, Calif., embraces real estate investments for his retired clients.

“I think there is real opportunity to help these people out,” says Arzaga who teaches a course in real estate and financial planning at University of California, Santa Cruz. Other advisors say “no” to clients’ proposed real estate investments because the advisors “don’t know that asset class.” But, he says, “It’s a real disservice to clients.”

He does warn his retired clients to treat real estate investments, “like a business.” What does that mean? “Don’t fall in love with the property or the tenant,” he says.

Seeking Alternatives to Energy MLPs
For retirees, distributions from master limited partnerships have obvious appeal.
Thanks to rules set by Congress intending to attract long-term investors — rather than speculators — to pay for finding new sources of energy exploration and production, MLPs have the advantage that they don’t pay corporate income tax. As such, they act as “pass-through” entities, passing profits to investors in quarterly distributions.

But Judith McGee, who serves as chairwoman and chief executive of McGee Wealth Management, in Portland, Ore., an affiliate of Raymond James Financial Services, and other financial advisors dislike energy MLPs because of their illiquidity. “I’ve seen people really get stuck with these,” says McGee.

To have the investments perform at their highest rate of possible return and tax advantages, clients typically have to commit to keeping their stake in the MLPs for decades.
If her clients want a piece of the booming gas and oil discovery market, McGee prefers other energy investments, if those don’t pay the quarterly dividends. “There is a better way to play this. There are so many other options,” McGee says. She suggests some of the mutual funds that focus on natural gas pipeline investments or publicly traded energy companies. “Anytime one of my retired clients gets into something they can’t get out of quickly, I get worried,” she says.

Refining Bucket Strategies
If there’s a common denominator among bucket strategies in retirement planning, it’s the use of a sizable cash bucket. “We like to see retired clients with at least a year’s worth of needed funds in cash equivalents such as money market funds,” says Eric Meermann, client service manager with Palisades Hudson Financial Group in Scarsdale, N.Y.

Often, this mode of retirement planning groups a client’s other assets into fixed income and equity buckets. As the cash bucket is depleted, it might be replenished from the fixed income bucket, which in turn will be refilled from the equities bucket.

Other tactics could include using bond redemptions, interest income, stock dividends, or proceeds from capital losses to keep the cash bucket topped up. In any case, a bucket strategy for drawing down retirees’ investment assets needs a plan for refilling the cash bucket.

“In the drawdown phase, we use a client’s asset allocation to determine how to move money into cash,” says Meerman. “In 2008-2009,” he says, “when stocks fell sharply, our allocations became tilted towards fixed income. At that point, we wouldn’t use money from equities to restore a retiree’s cash position.” Instead, the firm rebalanced clients’ allocations, moving money from fixed income into equities, and retirees’ cash positions were refilled from fixed income rather than from equities.

And while clients’ asset allocations don’t typically vary as they go through retirement, there is still “some flexibility with these plans,” Meerman says. “If there’s a significant decline in a client’s wealth, perhaps in a bear market, we might suggest spending less, which would mean taking less from the portfolio.”

Shoeshine Boys and Thinking At The Margin

My Comments: When the last crunch time came in 2008 and 2009, I vowed to find a better solution for my clients. The idea of losing 30% or more of the value of your retirement holdings over the course of a few months is devastating. For many, it’s taken years to get back to where they were.

What I found was an investment manager in Tacoma, Washington, that takes what is called a tactical approach to managing money rather than a strategic approach. The strategic approach still works for pension funds, insurance companies and foundations. They know they are in for the long haul, and that if they own good companies and safe bonds, if they are down today they will be up tomorrow. Only their tomorrow can be several years down the road.

For many of us, tomorrow is just that. Or perhaps next month or maybe next year. In the meantime we have to be able to sleep at night. This requires an approach to investing that allows us to be in cash overnight, with a possibility of going short if the signals tell us that a downward trend is upon us.

The dilemma I face as an advisor is that taking this approach means that you don’t capture all the upside, and clients are critical as they feel they are missing out on some of the historic upswing. I try to tell them it won’t last, but some of them don’t believe me. But I’ve been posting articles lately that suggest a reversal is soon to come. These comments by Joseph Calhoun bear me out. If you are worried about your circumstances, give me a call, and I’ll try and share with you what I think is likely to work in your favor.

Joseph Calhoun / Sep. 29, 2014

It is said that Joe Kennedy got out of the stock market in 1929 because he started to hear stock tips from his shoeshine boy. Bernard Baruch had similar feelings: When beggars and shoeshine boys, barbers and beauticians can tell you how to get rich it is time to remind yourself that there is no more dangerous illusion than the belief that one can get something for nothing.

What Baruch was pointing out was that the marginal buyer of stocks – the shoeshine boy – really didn’t know much about the markets and was most likely buying for reasons that had little to do with the underlying fundamentals. The shoeshine boy was buying because the market was going up and he saw it as an opportunity to get rich and stop shining the shoes of Bernard Baruch and Joe Kennedy. He was buying not because he believed the economy would perform well in the future or because he had some deep understanding of the fundamentals of the companies in which he was buying stock. He was buying because everyone else was doing it and getting rich and he wanted to claim his piece of the profits.

I have said many times that the economy is not the market and the market is not the economy. What I mean by that is that current stock prices are not just a reflection of the current economic data but also incorporate a view of the future economy. It is only in the future that you will find out whether that view of the future as captured in stock prices is correct. But whose view of the future economy? In 1929, for Bernard Baruch and Joe Kennedy, it was the marginal buyer, the shoeshine boy’s view of the future that was moving prices. And they were uncomfortable staking their fortunes on the views of the shoeshine boy or the barber or the beautician. So when I look at markets – any market – I always try to think through who the marginal buyer is, who is moving prices.

You don’t see shoeshine boys much anymore so we can’t just go down for a shine and ask him about his views on the market or the economy. But it is still possible, to some degree, to suss out who the marginal buyer is and judge whether you want to risk your capital on their opinion of the world. I remember reading an article in the Miami Herald in about 2006 that showed pictures of people camping out in a tropical storm for the chance to purchase a pre-construction condo.

Those were the people driving up the price of housing and that’s when I knew there was something seriously wrong with the housing market and that it probably wouldn’t end well. Normally rational people had seemingly lost their minds in pursuit of riches in the condo market.
They were the shoeshine boys.

I had similar feelings about stock buyers in the late ’90s when there were numerous articles about people quitting their day jobs to day trade full time. For me that brought back memories of an old trader who told me early in my career that one “shouldn’t bet the milk money on the markets.” Of course, just because the shoeshine boy is buying stocks that doesn’t mean that they are due for a fall. There may be a supply of shoeshine boys or day traders who have yet to commit their milk money to the market. It isn’t until the market runs out of shoeshine boys or to put it in the modern lexicon greater fools that the market will shift.

All markets are about the tug of war between bulls and bears and it is the marginal participant that makes the difference. If the market is in equilibrium and the bulls on one end of the rope can coax a bear to come over to their side, the market will rise. If a bull pulls a muscle, the market rope may move toward the bears. It doesn’t take all the bears or bulls to go to one side, only a sufficient number – enough at the margin – to tip the scales. And the rope will continue to move in the direction it is going until a sufficient number of rope pullers, bears or bulls, switch sides and a new equilibrium is reached at a new price.

I don’t think we are at the shoeshine boy level in the stock market just yet, but we do seem to be moving in that direction. The group on the sellers end of the rope over the last 18 months are private equity firms, venture capital firms and corporate insiders. The buyers end of the rope is populated by individuals, companies buying back their own stock and that of other companies (takeovers). The question you have to ask yourself is which team you want to be on; who do you want your teammates to be? The buyers have a poor long-term track record while the sellers are a pretty savvy group overall. Do you trust the companies buying back their own stock with company money or the insiders exchanging their own stock for cash? Whose view of the future is likely to be correct? The venture capital firms shoveling out IPOs at a pace second only to the peak of the dot com mania? Or the people scrambling to get in on the latest hot IPO with dreams of Alibaba riches in their heads?

We should also consider the divergent views of the bond and stock markets. The bond market shows high yield spreads widening, inflation and growth expectations falling and the long end of the yield curve flattening to levels last seen in the early months of 2009. That is a fairly bleak view of the future. The stock market would seem to be predicting the opposite, an acceleration in growth and profits that justifies paying above average multiples for stocks. It seems unlikely that both markets can be right but we don’t know yet which one has the correct view of the future. It may be that as the biggest marginal buyer of bonds – the Fed – stops buying that the bond market will shift to mirror the view of the stock market. But with the Fed reducing bond purchases all year and the bond market rising anyway, it appears there are still sufficient buyers at the margin to replace the demand of the Fed.

One warning sign for both stock and bond investors is the recent rise in volatility. It started first in the currency markets and is now starting to move to stocks and bonds. Volatility is essentially the opposite of liquidity so the rise in volatility is a warning that liquidity is drying up as the Fed ends QE. That is consistent with what we saw at the end of previous periods of QE and the view that tapering is indeed tightening and those trying to time the first rate hike are concentrating on the wrong thing. We won’t have to wait long to find out as the Fed will end their bond and mortgage purchasing next month.

Who will win the tug of war in the bond and stock markets? I don’t know of course since I can’t see the future. But like Bernard Baruch and Joe Kennedy, the marginal buyer of stocks right now makes me uncomfortable. Greed is the dominant theme of these buyers with FOMO (fear of missing out) driving their purchases. It may be that the bulls can continue to coax more bears to the bull side of the tug of war but the bear side of the rope is getting pretty thin. Did you ever see what happens when one side in a tug of war gives up?

Exactly Where We Are In This Cycle

retirementMy Comments: This is a major question for investors. Whether you are accumulating money for the future or are already retired and focused on making sure you have enough money to last, knowing what is likely to happen in the near future leads to peace of mind and financial freedom.

This is one opinion. Watch for another opinion in the next few days called “Are We There Yet?”.

Steve Sjuggerud, / Sep. 9, 2014

I was on stage at The California Club in Los Angeles… being put on the spot. And I didn’t have a good answer… It was a private meeting, so it was a small crowd of less than 50 people. At the end of my speech, I answered a few questions.

I like to give good answers when I can. But this time, I didn’t have a good answer. I fumbled around, sharing some facts. But I knew I could give a more accurate answer once I had run some numbers. I promised that I would respond more accurately in DailyWealth. So here goes…

“Steve, you did some great work on cycles years ago,” an attendee said. “So exactly where are we in this cycle, based on the last 100 years?”

He was asking for the BIG picture. I like that. Most people focus on today, and forget about the big picture. I could answer this question in a variety of ways. But the chart below is the simplest way to answer it…

The big idea is, the stock market goes in big cycles, from being loved to being hated. For example:
• Stocks were loved in the decade of the “Roaring Twenties.” Then they crashed in the Great Depression, and then World War II came along.
• Stocks were loved in the 1990s, then spent much of the 2000s going nowhere, delivering no return at all, really (when you adjust for inflation).

The question is ultimately getting at this: After soaring since 2009, are stocks overly loved right now? For your answer, take a look at this chart. It shows the 10-year annualized return on stocks (after inflation).

You can see the peaks were around the Roaring Twenties, and the dot-com boom. You can see the busts around the Great Depression and the inflationary 1970s. The important thing to look at is where we are today…

Take a look:
10YR REAL RETURN
So, where are we in this cycle? Are stocks overly loved, like they were in 1929 or 1999? Or are they overly hated, like they were in the Great Depression or the 1970s?

Based on this simple chart, we are somewhere in the middle… Stocks aren’t overly hated, or overly loved. Based on history, we are somewhere in the middle of this cycle.

I will admit, this is not the most statistically robust way to look at things… After all, there are only three of these major cycles to look at over the past 100 years. How can we say for sure that stocks will peak in the same place they peaked the last three times? We can’t.

This is simply a rough look at history. I believe it’s about right, though…

I think we’re not at the bottom, and we’re not at the top either.

I think we have a couple more innings left in this great bull market. And based on history, the last inning often delivers some of the biggest gains.

So, in short, yes, stocks have moved up a lot since 2009. But based on the last three cycles over the past 100 years, there’s still plenty of room to run…

Good investing.

4 Reasons Why Not To Go Long The S&P

global investingMy Comments: Some of my responsibility as an investment advisor is to provide warning if I think there are pending changes in market direction. But since I have no idea what I may eat for lunch today, telling folks about the next crash will happen is pure speculation. But…

I compensate for this inability by having as much of their money as possible in accounts that have historically moved away from the markets and into cash and short positions when the signals are strong that a downturn is happening.

I’ve included only one chart from the article here. To the extent you want to see the rest, this link should take you to my source article: http://seekingalpha.com/article/2466765-4-reasons-why-not-to-go-long-the-s-and-p

Jack Foley, Sep. 3, 2014 2:43

Summary
• Many large cap stocks are not making new highs like the SPY. This is a worrying sign.
• Interest rates have to rise in the future which will put downward pressure on the stock market. Veteran trader Steve Jakobsen believes we could drop 30% from here.
• Oil seems to have bottomed and oil has the potential to make the whole commodity sector rally along with it.

The S&P 500 (NYSEARCA:SPY) has broken through the physiological number of 2000, and commentators and speculators alike are predicting higher highs from here. I am ultra short on this market but it is becoming increasingly hard to predict when this market will roll over in earnest. Investors who are short the market are really hurting right now, and it takes a brave investor to stay short in this environment. Nevertheless, the risk is all to the downside so an investor must stay extremely nimble if profits are to be made. Let’s explain why.

First of all, even though the market is making new highs, there are many large cap stocks that are not participating in this move. Look at the General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) to see how far it is below its all-time highs.
14-9-16 General ElectricAlso because we have extremely low interest rates, corporate earnings are inflated. Bonds and stocks have rallied hard for the last few years as these markets have been the benefactors of the US’s low interest rate environment.

Nevertheless, interest rates one day will have to rise. When they do, investors will start shifting their money back into fixed term savings accounts. Bonds trade inversely to interest rates so when rates rise, bonds will come under pressure. The problem with low interest rate environments is that they can create asset bubbles. I believe we have one forming in stocks, in bonds and in certain real estate markets globally. In London, for example, property prices may rise by 30% this year which is unprecedented in a struggling global economy we have nowadays.

Veteran trader Steve Jakobsen believes that we could see a 30% drop in the S&P 500 from these levels. Jakobsen believes that equities is the only asset class that hasn’t been really affected from this ongoing global financial crisis.

Therefore, he believes one day the S&P 500 will revert to the mean which could be as much as 30% lower than where we are now.

Finally, I like the movement oil is making at the moment and I think we have finally found a bottom. Tthe spot price of light crude oil has gone from $108 in June to a rising $95 at the moment. The bottom seems to be in and if oil can rally from here, I believe it will put pressure on the stock market as funds will start to leak into the commodity markets. Oil has the potential to take the whole commodity complex with it when it’s in bull mode, so depressed agricultural commodities such as Corn and Sugar should also benefit. As you can see from the chart below, commodities have struggled as a whole in the last few years as equities have rallied hard.

Yes, equities and oil can rally together and have done so up to January 2013 since 2008 (practically everything rallied once the Fed ran their printing presses) but since January 2013 oil has not participated in the move. Once the Federal Reserve eventually ends all stimulus programs (either voluntarily or by demand), I have no doubt capital will start leaking into the commodity markets and oil. Also if geopolitical tensions in Iraq and the Ukraine escalate, oil will spike and the world stock markets will decline sharply.

To sum up, there are enough warning signals to warrant not being long here in the US stock market. If you still think the rally is not finished, I would advise scaling down your position size.

For Retirement Portfolios, a Smarter Glidepath

retirement-exit-2My Comments: I’ve talked in earlier blog posts about the rate used to withdraw money from your retirement accounts. There is a prevailing sentiment that it should be 4% or less. I think that’s too low. On the other hand if I’m wrong, and 30 years later you discover you have run out of money, it’s unlikely I’ll be here to take your blame.

Having said that, I think a 6% extraction rate is more realistic. Only how much more money that actually gives you is hard to imagine. That’s because it’s a function of how fast the money left in your accounts actually grows.

My experience, though thick and thin, meaning good years and bad years, is that you should be able to grow your money at 7 to 8% per year. I’m now using programs that when backtested over the past dozen years, which includes the crash of 2008-09, have grown at 10%.

The argument against that is that as we all know, past performance is no guarantee of future performance. But it is a clue, and with advances in technology and tactical approaches to investing, a higher number is far more realistic, in my opinion.

by Michael Kitces / AUG 25, 2014

One of the core functions of financial planning is setting up clients’ portfolios in retirement so that resources are adequate to sustain the journey — no small feat, given the uncertainties involved and the need to balance stability and safety against the risk of inflation, as well as the need for growth over the potentially long time horizon.

Conventional wisdom suggests that retirees should manage this challenge by having a moderate exposure to stocks at the start of retirement — to help their portfolio grow and be able to keep up with inflation over the long run — and then reduce equity exposure slowly over time as they age and their time horizon shrinks.

But recent research has suggested that the optimal approach might actually be the opposite — start with less equity exposure early in retirement, when the portfolio is largest and most vulnerable to a significant market decline, and then slightly increase the equity exposure each year throughout retirement.

And as it turns out, an even better approach may be to accelerate the pace of equity increases a bit further in the earlier years (from an initially conservative base). After all, a slight equity increase in the last year of retirement isn’t really likely to matter.

For instance, a glidepath might aim to increase equities in just the first half of retirement, until the target threshold is reached, and then level off. Instead of gliding to 60% equities from 30% over 30 years, glide up to 60% over 15 years — then maintain that 60% equity exposure for the rest of retirement (assuming the 60% target is consistent with client risk tolerance in the first place).

Accelerating the glidepath reduces the time when the portfolio is bond heavy — a particular concern in today’s low interest-rate environment. And it may be even more effective to simply take interest-rate risk off the table altogether by owning short-term bonds instead. Such an approach leads to less wealth on average, but in low-return environments, rising-equity glidepaths that use stocks and Treasury bills can actually be superior to traditional portfolios using stocks and longer-duration bonds (say, 10-year Treasuries) — even though Treasury bills provide lower yields.

FASTER GLIDEPATH

In the original research that American College professor Wade Pfau and I collaborated on, showing the benefits of a rising-equity glidepath, we simply assumed that any retiree using a glidepath would make adjustments in a straight line throughout retirement. For instance, gliding equities to 45% from 30% during a 30-year retirement time horizon would require a shift of 0.5% per year.

Gliding to 60% from 30% in the same time horizon would involve shifting 1% per year.
Yet the reality in such situations is that, for someone who is spending down assets, the last 1% change in equity exposure (to 60% from 59%) in the 30th year is not going to impact the outcome. At that point, the retiree has either made it or not.

So we launched a follow-up study, testing the impact of an accelerated glidepath. In this case, instead of moving to 60% equities from 30% over 30 years, the retiree moves there in only 15 years (at 2% per year), and then plateaus.

To test the alternatives, we looked at how they would have performed historically compared with each other with a 4% initial withdrawal rate over rolling 30-year periods in the U.S., starting each year since 1871, assuming a combination of large-cap U.S. stocks and 10-year Treasury bonds that are annually rebalanced.

The results, shown in the “How Fast a Glidepath?” chart below, reveal that the accelerated glidepath over 15 years is superior to the 30-year glidepath. In most years, the difference is fairly small — an improvement of the safe withdrawal rate of 0.1 to 0.2 percentage points — but in the best years, the improvement was as much as roughly half a percentage point.

The accelerated glidepath is ultimately better in all historical scenarios and improves outcomes in both high-return and low-return eras. It’s only a question of how much.

INTEREST-RATE RISK

A commonly voiced concern about our original rising-equity glidepath research was the fact that being more conservative with equities in the early years also means owning more in bonds. That’s not necessarily appealing in light of today’s low interest rates and the fear that rates will rise at some point in the coming years.

Accordingly, in our follow-up research we also tested the impact of taking interest-rate risk off the table, by using portfolios of stocks and Treasury bills, instead of stocks and 10-year Treasury bonds. The benefit of using Treasury bills is that, because they mature in a year or less, they are reinvested annually, avoiding any risk that the retiree will need to liquidate bonds at a loss because of rising rates. The downside, of course, is that shorter-term Treasury bills generally have lower yields over time (at least in any normal, upward-sloping yield curve environment).

As shown in the “Bills vs. Bonds” chart below, there are times when Treasury bills help, and times when they hurt. The difference in outcomes between using Treasury bills and bonds is as much as a half-percentage point improvement in safe withdrawal rate, and as bad as a 2-point decrease. ( No chart here. Please continue reading by clicking HERE )

New Longevity Annuity Rules: 5 Things to Know

retirement-exit-2My Comments: Earlier this week I introduced the idea of a QLAC. If you didn’t see it, click on the link and check it out.

Some of you are going to want to use this contract as soon as it becomes available this fall. Others are going to think about how your investment mix will change today so that money in a QLAC is maximized by the time you are 85 years old.

Another reason for consideration is that while annuities are a contentious topic, they have their advantages. Some advisors swear by them; others say the fees will kill you. In my opinion, they have their uses when clients are fearful of how life might play out and the insurance element built into annuities provides a peace of mind dividend that can be found in no other product or investment.

What these new rules do not appear to include are 403(b) accounts, which are very common here in Gainesville. That’s because a 403(b) is a generic equivalent of a 401(k), but for the non-profit world only, such as the University of Florida or Santa Fe College. The answer may be to transfer money out of your 403(b) into an IRA at retirement, with up to 25% going into a QLAC.

By Nick Thornton July 15, 2014

Retirement account holders can now put 25% of their money in QLACs.

In recognition of the reality that many Americans will live well into their 80s, the Department of Treasury recently issued final rules making Deferred Income Annuities more accessible to those with good genes and perhaps inadequate savings.

The rules could be a game changer for how boomers, and their advisors, allocate 401(k) and IRA assets going forward.

Here is a breakdown of the core provisions to the new regulations governing DIAs.

1. Defined contribution participants and IRA owners are now allowed to invest up to 25% of their account balances, or up to $125,000, in qualifying longevity annuity contracts, or QLACs. That money will not be subject to the annual minimum distribution requirements governing 401(k) and individual retirement accounts that begin at age 70 1/2.

2. Longevity annuities will distribute cash at a set age, typically by 80 or 85. If the owner of the annuity happens to die before they begin to receive benefits from the annuities, all is not lost. The principal and premiums paid on the contract will be returned to the retirement account, where the money is subject to the same laws governing the inheritance of retirement accounts.

3. In the event that investors, and or their advisors, inadvertently distribute more than the 25 percent limit to a deferred annuity, the IRS will allow the mistake to be corrected without disqualifying the annuity contract.

4. Lump-sum investments can be made into QLACs, or, salary deferrals can be incrementally made into the contracts, much as they are with a 401(k) plan.

5. Ultimately, the cash value of QLACs is subtracted from the rest of a retiree’s assets in a 401(k) or IRA when determining the required minimum distributions when they take effect.