Tag Archives: retire

‘Rolling Bear Market’ Will Paralyze Stocks for Years: Morgan Stanley

My Comments: It became accepted wisdom that a properly diversified stock portfolio can indefinitely absorb an annual 4% withdrawal rate to satisfy a need for retirement income.

That assumption is now disappearing. There is growing sentiment that over the next decade, if not longer, a 4% withdrawal rate will lead to the exhaustion of your reserves, leaving you with no money with which to pay your bills.

This story talks to this and suggests what we’ve recently seen as a solid return on investments is changing.

By Shoshanna Delventhal | September 14, 2018

U.S. stock investors should brace for a market that will be paralyzed for several years in a narrow trading range, according to one team of analysts on the Street, and as reported by CNBC. Investors are already in the midst of a “rolling bear market” that will push the S&P 500 down as much as 17% and no higher than 4% from today’s levels, Morgan Stanley’s chief equity strategist, Michael Wilson, told clients in a recent note.

“We think this ‘rolling bear market’ has already begun with peak valuations in December and peak sentiment in January,” stated Wilson.

What A Rolling Bear Market Looks Like

High: 3000, up 4%
Low: 2,400, down 17%

Earnings Deceleration Caused by Higher Input Prices

Unlike a typical bear market, where stocks fall simultaneously, Morgan Stanley says the “rolling bear market” will rotate from sector to sector and even from stock to stock, as the weakest are hit first and the hardest. As a result, the investment firm indicates that assets like bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, as well as emerging market debt equities, base metals and homebuilders could prove particularly risky.

He expects the rolling bear market to accelerate as the investors send shares down on weaker than expected earnings, driven by higher supply-side inputs like energy, transports, labor, funding, tariffs and material costs.

“We view the rate of change in earnings growth as one of the most important drivers of equity prices broadly; so our belief that earnings growth is likely to slow more in 2019 than the market anticipates is important for our less optimistic view on equities,” wrote Wilson, who is the most bearish strategist tracked in CNBC’s regular survey. His June 2019 S&P 500 target of 2,750 implies a 5.2% downside from current levels. At 2,901 as of Thursday morning, the S&P 500 reflects an 8.5% return year-to-date (YTD).

These Rolling Bear Market Sectors Are at Risk:
Tech
Bitcoin
Emerging Market Debt
Emerging Market Equities
Base Metals
Homebuilders

Information Technology Looks Risky

Wilson reiterated a pessimistic outlook for high-flying information technology stocks. “It makes sense to lower broad exposure in the near term as elevated valuations, lack of material earnings upside against expectations, extended positioning, technicals, and trade-related risks all add up to a poor risk reward for the sector in the near term,” he wrote.

In May, Morgan Stanley first forecasted the rolling bear market, which it says is now upon us, and recommended stocks that would thrive in this kind of environment. In the report titled, “30 for 2021: Quality stocks for a 3-year holding period,” analysts highlighted players such as video game maker Activision Blizzard Inc. (ATVI), financial firms The Charles Schwab Corp. (SCHW), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and BNY Mellon (BK), consumer brands leader Constellation Brands Inc. (STZ), and search giant Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL) as safe bets in the rolling bear market.

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Guess How Many Seniors Say Life Is Worse in Retirement

My Comments: After 40 plus years as a financial/retirement planner, I’ve lost count of the number of people who, as they approach retirement, ask whether they’ll have enough money. Or the corollary, when will they run out?

If you expect to have a successful retirement, ie one where you run out of life before you run out of money, you had better have your act together long before you reach retirement age. Here’s something to help you get your arms around this idea. https://goo.gl/b1fG39

Maurie Backman \ Feb 11, 2018

We all like to think of retirement as a carefree, fulfilling period of life. But those expectations may not actually jibe with reality. In fact, 28% of recent retirees say life is worse now that they’re stopped working, according to a new Nationwide survey. And the reasons for that dissatisfaction, not surprisingly, boil down to money — namely, inadequate income in the face of mounting bills.

Clearly, nobody wants a miserable retirement, so if you’re looking to avoid that fate, your best bet is to start ramping up your savings efforts now. Otherwise, you may come to miss your working years more than you’d think.

Retirement: It’s more expensive than we anticipate

Countless workers expect their living costs to shrink in retirement, particularly those who manage to pay off their homes before bringing their careers to a close. But while certain costs, like commuting, will go down or disappear in retirement, most will likely remain stagnant, and several will in fact go up. Take food, for example. We all need to eat, whether we’re working or not, and there’s no reason to think your grocery bills will magically go down just because you no longer have an office to report to. The same holds true for things like cable, cellphone service, and other such luxuries we’ve all come to enjoy.

Then there are those costs that are likely to climb in retirement, like healthcare. It’s estimated that the typical 65-year-old couple today with generally good health will spend $400,000 or more on medical costs in retirement, not including long-term care expenditures. Break that spending down over a 20-year period, and that’s a lot of money to shell out annually. But it also makes sense. Whereas folks with private insurance often get the bulk of their medical expenses covered during their working years, Medicare’s coverage is surprisingly limited. And since we tend to acquire new health issues as we age, it’s no wonder so many seniors wind up spending considerably more than expected on medical care, thus contributing to both their dissatisfaction and stress.

And speaking of aging, let’s not forget that homes age, too. Even if you manage to enter retirement mortgage-free, if you own property, you’ll still be responsible for its associated taxes, insurance, and maintenance, all of which are likely to increase year over year. The latter can be a true budget-buster, because sometimes, all it takes is one major age-related repair to put an undue strain on your limited finances.

All of this means one thing: If you want to be happy in retirement, then you’ll need to go into it with enough money to cover the bills, and then some. And that means saving as aggressively as possible while you have the opportunity.

Save now, enjoy later

The Economic Policy Institute reports that nearly half of U.S. households have no retirement savings to show for. If you’re behind on savings, or have yet to begin setting money aside for the future at all, then now’s the time to make up for it.

Now the good news is that the more working years you have left, the greater your opportunity to amass some wealth before you call it quits — and without putting too much of a strain on your current budget. Here’s the sort of savings level you stand to retire with, for example, if you begin setting aside just $400 a month at various ages:

You can retire with a decent sum of money if you consistently save $400 a month for 25 or 30 years. But if you’re in your 50s already, you’ll need to do better. This might involve maxing out a company 401(k), which, as per today’s limits, means setting aside $24,500 annually in savings. Will that wreak havoc on your present spending habits? Probably. But will it make a huge difference in retirement? Absolutely.

In fact, if you were to save $24,500 a year for just 10 years and invest that money at the aforementioned average annual 8% return, you’d be sitting on $355,000 to fund your golden years. And that, combined with a modest level of Social Security income, is most likely enough to help alleviate much of the financial anxiety and unhappiness so many of today’s seniors face.

Retirement is supposed to be a rewarding time in your life, and you have the power to make it one. The key is to save as much as you can today, and reap the benefits when you’re older.

The Retirement Savings Mistake That 68% of Baby Boomers Regret

My Comments: I have a client, age 58 and single. I’m unsure just how much money she has set aside for her future. I have every reason to think she’s healthy and given statistical probabilities, will live another 30 years or more.

She lives a very busy professional life and finds it hard to focus on her financial future. The language, the concept, the details are outside her comfort zone, so she ignores them until I make a lot of noise in her ear.

My challenge, as a financial professional, is to somehow influence her thinking so that she doesn’t find herself 20 years from now with not enough money to pay her bills. If she does live to 88, she’s still going to have core expenses to pay.

Things like groceries, cable TV, a phone, food, insurance, new clothes from time to time. Even with no car to worry about, you still need to call Uber if you need to get to a doctor’s office. And they aren’t free. Who knows if Social Security will still be there.

These words from Wendy Commick should make you think hard about the possibilities.

Wendy Connick Jan 13, 2018

As the baby boomers retire in large numbers, they’re finally getting the chance to see how well their retirement planning (or lack thereof) has paid off. Unfortunately, many boomers aren’t happy with the results: 68% wish they’d saved more, and only 24% are confident that they have enough money to last throughout their retirement, according to a study by the Insured Retirement Institute.

The good news is that you can learn from the average boomer’s mistakes. Here are some ways to make sure your savings will see you through retirement.

Setting your retirement savings goal

The best way to set a retirement savings goal is to come up with a list of all the expenses you’ll face during retirement, add 10% for unexpected expenses and fun stuff, and use the total for the basis of your retirement planning. For example, if you add up all your expected retirement expenses and reach a total of $3,000 per month, then add 10% ($300) and multiply the sum by 12 to get your minimum annual retirement income goal: $39,600.

Assuming you’ll be able to take 4% of your entire retirement savings account balance as a distribution each year, (though the “4% rule” has its problems), then you can turn your retirement income goal into a savings goal by dividing it by 4%. For example, divide the above goal of $39,600 by 0.04 to get a savings goal of $990,000.

If you don’t want to go through this process, or you’re unsure what your expenses will be in retirement, then there are number of shorthand ways to find your retirement savings goal that, though less precise, will at least get you in the ballpark.

Planning your contributions

Once you have a savings goal in mind, you can work backwards to figure out how much you need to contribute to reach that goal. The good news is that you don’t actually have to save $990,000 in order to accumulate that much money in your retirement savings accounts: Wisely investing the money you contribute will help you grow those funds by a significant percentage each year. The sooner you start contributing, the more time that money will have to grow.

You can use a savings calculator to figure out how much you’ll need to contribute to your retirement accounts each month in order to hit your savings goal. For example, let’s say your goal is to have $990,000 by the time you retire, you plan to retire 30 years from now, and you have nothing saved so far. Assuming you can earn an average of 8% per year on your investments, a savings calculator will tell you that you need to save $8,092 per year — approximately $674 per month — to hit your goal.

I can’t save that much!

If the contributions you’d need to make to reach your goal are way too high, you have a few options. The simplest option is to delay retirement by a few years. Returning to the above example, let’s say you decide to retire in 33 years instead of 30 years. Delaying retirement by just three years would reduce your annual contribution goal from $8,092 to $6,281, which works out to $523 in contributions per month. You could hang on to $151 more each month while still ending up with the same amount of money when you retire.

Another possibility is to reduce your savings goal by coming up with other sources of retirement income. For example, if you decide to get a part-time job during retirement and are sure you can make at least $1,000 per month at that job, then the amount of annual income you’ll need from your retirement savings accounts will drop from $39,600 to $27,600. That means your new retirement savings goal will be $690,000. If you’re retiring 30 years from today, you’ll need to contribute $5,640 per year — $470 per month — to hit your new goal.

Finally, you could boost your retirement savings contributions by finding more income today or reducing your current expenses. Increasing your income could mean getting a raise, lobbying for a promotion, switching to a higher-paid job, or supplementing your income with a part-time job or side gig. Reducing your expenses could mean making some short-term sacrifices, such as cutting back on entertainment expenses, to free up some more money.

One extremely helpful way to reduce expenses is to pay off any credit card debt you’re carrying. Getting rid of those monthly payments can save you a boatload in interest charges, freeing up that money for retirement savings.

Saving money is a huge challenge for the average American, but that means you can be above average just by spending a little time on retirement planning. And once you retire, unlike those unfortunate baby boomers, you’ll be confident that you have plenty of money to finance your retirement dreams.

History says the bull market is ending

My Comments: Paranoia is an elusive thing. Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean there’s no one out there intent on putting you down. It’s much the same with the stock market. Just because we’ve not had a market correction now for almost nine years, it doesn’t mean there is one just around the corner. Or does it?

I’m writing this in an attempt to justify my position that for the past three years, I’ve been warning clients and whomever will listen that a market correction of significance is ‘just around the corner’. Is it paranoia or is it real?

Personally, I hope it happens soon. That way we can get over it and move on for the next several years. I just want to be able to start the next upturn from a higher point than the depths of the next collapse. How about you?

If you want a way to participate in the inevitable upside and avoid the inevitable downside, reply to this post or send me an email. I have an answer for you.

(This comes from http://stansburychurchouse.com)

If history is any guide, the good times are about to end for the U.S. stock market.

It’s been one of the longest-running bull markets ever…

Over nearly nine years, or 105 months, the S&P 500 has returned 368 percent (including dividends).

That’s the second-longest bull market the U.S. has ever seen… just behind the nearly 9.5 year-long, or 113 months, bull market that started in 1990.

You can see the S&P 500’s past bull markets in the table below… it shows the date they began, their overall return and how long each lasted. On average since 1926, bull markets have lasted for 54 months, and resulted in returns of 160 percent.

After the 2008/2009 global financial crisis, interest rates around the world plummeted. In the U.S., the Federal Reserve cut interest rates from over 5 percent to zero in the course of just over a year.

Coupled with that, we saw an unprecedented surge of money printing as the Fed expanded its balance sheet (by creating money and buying assets) from a little over US$800 billion to over US$4.4 trillion today, along with a wholesale bailout of the banking system.

We also later have seen a “Trump rally” where investors expected President Donald Trump’s tax reform and infrastructure investment election promises to boost the economy.

But the gains can’t go on forever

Take a look at the following chart. It shows when and why each of the bull markets above eventually ended.

For example, in 1990, the U.S. market entered its longest-running bull market on the back of the Internet boom. The S&P 500 soared over 400 percent in nine years. But in March 2000, the market peaked – and went on to fall 49 percent over the next 2.5 years.

In 2002, the market soared back. It went up over 100 percent in five years. Then the global financial crisis hit in 2007, and the S&P 500 fell 57 percent over the next 17 months.

The bull market/bear market cycle keeps repeating… thanks to mean reversion. Markets (along with most other things in life) tend over time to reverse extreme movements and gravitate back to average.

It’s like a rubber band… stretch it and when you let go it returns to its original shape. So after a period of rising prices, securities tend to deliver average or poor returns. Likewise, market prices that decline too far, too fast, tend to rebound. That is mean reversion, and it works over short and long periods.

And mean reversion isn’t the only reason we think the U.S. bull market is winding down…

Overpriced equities

By many measures, U.S. stock market valuations are high.

One of the best ways of measuring market value is to use the cyclically-adjustedprice-to-earnings (CAPE) ratio. It’s a longer-term, inflation-adjusted measure that smooths out short-term earnings and cycle volatilities to give a more comprehensive, and accurate, measure of market value.

As the chart below shows, the CAPE for the S&P 500 is now at 33.6 times earnings. That’s higher than any time in history, except for the late ‘90s dotcom bubble. It’s even higher than the stock market bubble of the late 1920s.

High valuations don’t mean that share prices will fall. High valuation levels can always go higher, at least for a bit. Or they could stand still for a while. But mean reversion suggests that at some point, valuations will fall, one way or the other.

And as we showed you recently, the U.S. economy could also be about to see a slowdown in growth – which could also dampen market sentiment and hurt share prices.

It’s not just the U.S.

Now, this is all in the U.S. But we’re seeing a similar situation in global markets.

As we told you in November, the MSCI All Country World Index (which reflects the performance of global stock markets) has seen an unprecedented streak of gains over the past year. And it’s up 8.4 percent since we last wrote about it. As we said earlier, nothing goes up forever.

Plus, if the world’s biggest market (at around half of the global market cap) is in trouble, the rest of the world could be too.

So what should you do?

Look to diversify your portfolio. Regular readers will know that we’re big fans of diversification.

We’ve written before about the importance of not just investing in different sectors and asset classes… but in different markets and countries too. That’s because spreading a portfolio around the world reduces risk. After all, gains in one market can offset losses in another.

And while the gains in some markets are nearing an end, they’re just getting started in markets like India, Bangladesh and Vietnam. These are three of the fastest-growing markets in the world.
So do yourself a favour and diversify your portfolio.

Read the original article on Stansberry Churchouse Research. This is a guest post by Stansberry Churchouse Research, an independent investment research company based in Singapore and Hong Kong that delivers investment insight on Asia and around the world. Click here to sign up to receive the Asia Wealth Investment Daily in your inbox every day, for free. Copyright 2018. Follow Stansberry Churchouse Research on Twitter.

How to Pay Off Your Mortgage Before You Retire

My Comments: Retirement is the third stage of our lives. #1 is childhood when our needs are provided for by adults; #2 is adulthood when our needs are met by our efforts; and #3, retirement when you quit working for money and money has to work for you.

If you’re lucky, you don’t need to learn a new skill set to retire successfully. Or you understood what had to happen before you retired. One of those things is not having to pay more than necessary for shelter.

In a perfect world, you are happy with where you live and like whatever it is you live in. And before you retired, you figured out how much extra you had to pay each month to make the mortgage disappear just when you quit working.

Wendy Connick, Sep 28, 2017

Housing is the single biggest monthly expense for many families, so if you don’t have a housing payment to worry about during your retirement years your savings will last you a lot longer. Paying off your mortgage by the time you retire isn’t complicated; it just requires a little preparation.

Your repayment plan

If you know how much you owe on your mortgage, your interest rate, and how long it will be before you retire, figuring out how to get rid of the mortgage in time isn’t difficult. You can even use a mortgage payoff calculator to see the effect of adding extra payments.

For example, let’s say that you owe $220,000 on your mortgage at 5% interest, and it’s scheduled to be paid off in 25 years. However, you plan to retire in 20 years. Making an extra principal payment of $170 per month would get you paid off in 19 years and 11 months, and incidentally save you just over $38,000 of interest over the life of the loan.

Sticking to the plan

Coming up with a repayment plan is the easy part — sticking to it is a lot harder. Scraping up an extra $170 every month for the next 20 years can be a daunting task to undertake. Fortunately, there are ways to make saving that extra payment a lot easier.

First, make sure that the extra payments you make are to the mortgage’s principal, not a combination of principal and interest like your regular payments. Putting the extra money into the principal means that the loan will be paid down much faster, and you’ll save a lot more money on interest during the life of the loan.

Next, find a way to automate your extra payment. Ideally, this would mean setting up an automatic extra principal payment with your mortgage company, to happen along with your regular monthly payment. If the mortgage company can’t or won’t set this up for you, the next best option is to do an automatic transfer from your checking account to a special, dedicated savings account.

The biggest benefit of the second approach is that rather than taking a single large sum each month, you can spread your transfer out into multiple tiny transfers, which will be less disruptive to your checking account balance. For example, instead of doing one $170 transfer each month, you could transfer $5.70 every day from your checking to the special savings account. When it’s time for you to make your mortgage payment, you just make the extra principal payment straight from the savings account.

The biweekly payment option

Switching to a biweekly (every other week) payment system, instead of a monthly one, is another way to pay off a mortgage faster — assuming that it will take care of your loan balance in time. Splitting your monthly payment into two biweekly payments works because there are 52 weeks in a year, so it comes out to the equivalent of 13 monthly payments per year instead of just 12.

The main argument against biweekly payment schedules is that the extra money goes to both principal and interest, just like your normal payments. That means that your extra payment won’t go as far toward paying off the loan quickly as if you’d made the same extra payment toward principal only. Also, many lenders charge to make the switch from monthly to biweekly payments. So unless you have a significant reason to do so, stick with making extra principal payments. It’s the simplest way to have a retirement free from monthly housing bills.

The World’s Most Deceptive Chart

My Comments: First of all, Happy Labor Day to everyone. I trust you are able to take some time off to spend with family or do something fun to celebrate the end of summer. I’m working very hard these days to complete a project that I call Successful Retirement Secrets (SRS). My plan is to find a way to reach out to the millions of people not yet retired, and share with them secrets I’ve discovered over the years.

These comments from Lance Roberts surfaced a couple of months ago, but they are even more relevant today. He has a lot of charts, some of which I’ve chosen not to include. I have put a link to his article at the end.

If you have money invested and are wondering how all this talk with North Korea might catch up with your retirement, this is good stuff. On the right of this page is where you can schedule a short conversation with me if you are so inclined.

by Lance Roberts | May 7, 2017

I received an email last week which I thought was worth discussing.

“I just found your site and began reading the backlog of posts on the importance of managing risk and avoiding draw downs. However, the following chart would seem to counter that argument. In the long-term, bear markets seem harmless (and relatively small) as this literature would indicate?”


This same chart has been floating around the “inter-web,” in a couple of different forms for the last couple of months. Of course, if you study it at “face value” it certainly would appear that staying invested all the time certainly seems to be the optimal strategy.

The problem is the entire chart is deceptive.

More importantly, for those saving and investing for their retirement, it’s dangerous.

Here is why.

The first problem is the most obvious, and a topic I have addressed many times in past missives, you must worry about corrections.

The problem is you DIED long before ever achieving that 5% annualized long-term return.

Let’s look at this realistically.

The average American faces a real dilemma heading into retirement. Unfortunately, individuals only have a finite investing time horizon until they retire.

Therefore, as opposed to studies discussing “long term investing” without defining what the “long term” actually is – it is “TIME” that we should be focusing on.

Think about it for a moment. Most investors don’t start seriously saving for retirement until they are in their mid-40’s. This is because by the time they graduate college, land a job, get married, have kids and send them off to college, a real push toward saving for retirement is tough to do as incomes, while growing, haven’t reached their peak. This leaves most individuals with just 20 to 25 productive work years before retirement age to achieve investment goals.

This is where the problem is. There are periods in history, where returns over a 20-year period have been close to zero or even negative.”

Like now.

Outside of your personal longevity issue, it’s the “math” that is the primary problem.

The chart uses percentage returns which is extremely deceptive if you don’t examine the issue beyond a cursory glance. Let’s take a look at a quick example.

Let’s assume that an index goes from 1000 to 8000.
• 1000 to 2000 = 100% return
• 1000 to 3000 = 200% return
• 1000 to 4000 = 300% return
• 1000 to 8000 = 700% return

Great, an investor bought the index and generated a 700% return on their money.

See, why worry about a 50% correction in the market when you just gained 700%. Right?

Here is the problem with percentages.

A 50% correction does NOT leave you with a 650% gain.

A 50% correction is a subtraction of 4000 points which reduces your 700% gain to just 300%.

Then the problem now becomes the issue of having to regain those 4000 lost points just to break even.

It’s Not A Nominal Issue

The bull/bear chart first presented above is also a nominal chart, or rather, not adjusted for inflation.

So, I have rebuilt the analysis presented above using inflation-adjusted returns using Dr. Robert Shiller’s monthly data.

The first chart shows the S&P 500 from 1900 to present and I have drawn my measurement lines for the bull and bear market periods.

It’s A “Time” Problem.

If you have discovered the secret to eternal life, then stop reading now.

For the rest of us mere mortals, time matters.

If you are near to, or entering, retirement, there is a strong argument to be made for seriously rethinking the amount of equity risk currently being undertaken in portfolios.

If you are a Millennial, as I pointed out recently, there is also a strong case for accumulating a large amount of cash and waiting for the next great investing opportunity.

Unfortunately, most investors remain woefully behind their promised financial plans. Given current valuations, and the ongoing impact of “emotional decision making,” the outcome is not likely going to improve over the next decade.

For investors, understanding potential returns from any given valuation point is crucial when considering putting their “savings” at risk. Risk is an important concept as it is a function of “loss.” The more risk that is taken within a portfolio, the greater the destruction of capital will be when reversions occur.

Many individuals have been led to believe that investing in the financial markets is their only option for retiring. Unfortunately, they have fallen into the same trap as most pension funds, which is believing market performance will make up for a “savings” shortfall.

However, the real world damage that market declines inflict on investors, and pension funds, hoping to garner annualized 8% returns to make up for the lack of savings is all too real and virtually impossible to recover from. When investors lose money in the market it is possible to regain the lost principal given enough time; however, what can never be recovered is the lost “time” between today and retirement.

Time” is extremely finite and the most precious commodity that investors have.

In the end – yes, market corrections are indeed very bad for your portfolio in the long run. However, before sticking your head in the sand and ignoring market risk based on an article touting “long-term investing always wins,” ask yourself who really benefits?

This time is “not different.”

The only difference will be what triggers the next valuation reversion when it occurs.

If the last two bear markets haven’t taught you this by now, I am not sure what will. Maybe the third time will be the “charm.”

Source: https://seekingalpha.com/article/4052547-worlds-deceptive-chart

This is how much fees are hurting your retirement

Thursday = Retirement Issues

My Comments: Value is in the eye of the beholder. When we need something, and for whatever reason, choose not to do it by ourselves, we spend money. If you are selling advice, or pork chops, or cars, people are going to spend money when they have to.

As a self-styled expert on retirement planning, what you pay for financial advice can run into several percentage points every year. What is your frame of reference that determines if you are getting value in exchange for what you are paying?

Aug 17, 2017 Craig L. Israelsen

This article is reprinted by permission (?) from NextAvenue.org.

The importance of keeping your investment portfolio costs low should be self-evident. They come directly out of your pocket. But you may be surprised to see how much it matters to stick with low-fee mutual funds and Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs). I’ve run the numbers.

The two primary portfolio costs consist of what’s known as the “expense ratio” of the funds or ETFs (the annual fee charged as a percentage of assets) and the “advisory fee “(if there is a financial adviser involved).

The average expense ratio among all mutual funds is roughly 100 basis points or 1.0% (one basis point is one hundredth of 1%). Assuming an annual advisory fee of 100 basis points, or 1%, the total portfolio cost is 2% (or 200 basis points). At that level, for a diversified fund portfolio with a starting balance of $1 million, the average annual withdrawal for a retiree between age 70 and 95 is about $126,426 (assuming the retiree makes the government’s Required Minimum Distribution or RMD). Remember: this is an average withdrawal figure over a 25-year period; the actual RMD will vary each year based on your portfolio’s performance during the prior year and each year’s RMD percentage.

If the cost of funds in the portfolio is cut in half by using mutual funds or ETFs with lower expense ratios, the overall portfolio cost can be reduced from 2% to 1.5%. By doing so, the average annual withdrawal then increases to $136,218, meaning the retiree will have roughly $10,000 more income each year. That works out to a “raise” of about $830 a month during retirement.

$32,000 more a year in retirement

But you can do even better. It is now possible, by using low-cost ETFs, to build a diversified retirement portfolio for as low as .10% (or 10 basis points). If the advisory fee were reduced by a mere 10% down to .90% (or 90 basis points), the overall portfolio cost could be lowered to 1.0%. At that level, the retiree can withdraw an average of $146,853 each year — or an additional $10,000 annually.

Finally, if the adviser lowered his or her fee to .40% and the fund expenses amounted to .10%, the total portfolio cost would be just .50%. At that level, $158,407 would be the average amount withdrawn each year.

All together, by slashing fund expense ratios from 1.0% to .10% and the advisory fee from 1% to .40%, the retiree could receive $32,000 additional annual retirement income — or roughly $2,600 more each month between the ages of 70 and 95. Clearly, the impact of portfolio costs is huge.

A modern diversified portfolio

Here’s how to put together a low-cost, diversified portfolio that I call the 7Twelve® portfolio. If you use low-cost, actively managed funds from various fund families, the overall fund expense can be as low as .54%. If you use ETFs from various fund families, the cost can drop to .16%. And if you use just Vanguard ETFs, the overall fund expense ratio can be as low as .10% (I have no affiliation with Vanguard; they’re just an investment company specializing in keeping costs low).

The idea of building a diversified portfolio for as little as .10% is not theoretical. It is a reality and can and should be considered.



Craig L. Israelsen, Ph.D., teaches in the personal financial planning program at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah. He is the author of “7Twelve: A Diversified Investment Portfolio With a Plan” and his website is 7TwelvePortfolio.com.