Jun 192019
 

Dale Jackson retired at the age of 55. He didn’t win the lottery or start his own successful business. He just worked and saved diligently throughout his career as a media journalist, most recently known for writing investment articles for BNN Bloomberg.

He explains how he achieved early retirement in a recent interview. Here are some highlights below.

  • Keep an eye out for opportunities

Jackson explains that “opportunities come along for every generation.” Most of the time economic recessions are seen as bad times. But it’s actually an opportunity to speed up the retirement process. Asset values are down so we can buy more stocks at a discount. Interest rates are low so we can pay down the mortgage faster. Another example he points to was in 2011 where the Canadian dollar was worth more than the U.S. dollar. That doesn’t happen often. So with the suggestion of his financial advisor Jackson sold CAD to buy USD and that was one of the best currency trades any Canadian could have made during this past decade.

  • Diversify your holdings

Speaking of buying US dollars. It’s not enough to simply hold other currencies. We have to keep our money constantly working. Jackson says that Canada isn’t big enough to make up a diversified portfolio. But the United States is. 🙂 Buying U.S. companies in USD is highly recommended, especially when TFSA and RRSP allow for US dollar accounts. He uses the following graph to explain how over the past 10 years the resource-heavy Canadian stock market index (TSX Composite) has advanced only 55% while the S&P 500 in the U.S. has more than tripled in value! Uh oh. Poor Canadians.

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May 212018
 

Schedule the Life You Want

Without focus and direction, it’s easy to get lost. Imagine we are sailors looking for a remote island to retire on. We could sail aimlessly in the open waters for 40 days before finally finding something we like. But if we plan and pick a destination beforehand, then we can arrive there much sooner. Most people work 40 years before retiring. But what if they planned ahead? The famous psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson argues that “planning is unbelievably useful. You need to figure what it is you’re aiming towards, and why.” His calendar is fully booked, often weeks in advance. I’m a planner as well. I find it boosts my productivity by at least 2x and really puts my goals into perspective. 🙂

Millennials are the first generation in history who can anticipate reaching the age of 90 in large numbers. This means we will spend about one-third of our lives as what we now refer to as “old people” lol. Planning for how we want to spend those last decades is pretty important. It doesn’t have to be detailed, but having a rough schedule for the next 60 years of our lives would provide us with some direction that matches our goals and values. Most millennials don’t do this. And as a result, they will likely have the following life broken down into 3 stages.

But our bodies and minds won’t be the same when we’re older. So by the time most people retire in their 60s they are no longer able to fully take advantage of their leisure time. Jordan Peterson said he enjoys giving himself a limited time to finish complicated tasks. It’s fun to see if you can achieve something far more than you thought, in far less time. This is why I plan to retire by age 40 at the latest. Here is what my life will look like.

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Aug 312017
 

There’s a general rule of thumb that says if you retire you can safely withdrawal up to 4% of your nest egg every year without it running out before you kick the bucket. Financial advisor Bill Bengen, now retired, came up with this guideline after testing a variety of withdrawal rates using historical rates of returns for stocks and bonds. He published a study in 1994 about how 4% was the highest sustainable withdrawal rate retirees could use.

But 1994 was over two decade ago. How does the 4% rule hold up today, after the great recession? Bill recently did some further research into the topic and according to him, the 4% rule still holds true today. 🙂 In fact, he is even confident that retirees can safely withdrawal not just 4%, but actually 4.5% if they are okay with their nest eggs lasting for only 30 years.

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In a Q&A session on Reddit last week, Bill explained the methodology, details, and implications of his findings. He says that 4.5% is the “percentage you could “safely” withdraw from a tax-advantaged portfolio (such as an IRA, 401(k), RRSP, or TFSA) the first year of retirement, with the expectation you would live for 30 years in retirement. After the first year, you “throw away the 4.5% rule and just increase the dollar amount of your withdrawals each year by the prior year’s inflation rate.”

For example, if you had $1,000,000 in an RRIF, you would withdraw $45,000 in the first year of your retirement. Let’s say inflation during this year was 2%. This means in the second year you may withdrawal $45,900. Overall, Bill recommends a 50% equities/50% bonds mixture at the beginning of one’s retirement.

As for how recessions, interest rates, and government policies affect the safe withdrawal rate over time, Bill reassures us that these factors have little bearing on the safe withdrawal rate. There are only 2 major factors that count.

  1. Encountering a major bear market early in retirement.
  2. Encountering high inflation during retirement.

Bill explains that both these factors “drive the safe withdrawal rate down.” His research is based on data going back to 1926. He tests the withdrawal rates for retirement dates beginning on the first day of each quarter, beginning with January 1, 1926. The average safe withdrawal rate for all those 300+ hypothetical retirees is, “believe it or not, 7%! However, if you experience a major bear market early in retirement, as in 1937 or 2000, that drops to 5.25%. Add in heavy inflation, as occurred in the 1970’s, and it takes you down to 4.5%.” So far, Bill has not seen any indication that the 4.5% rule will be violated. Both the 2000 and 2007 retirees, who experienced big bear markets early in retirement, appear to be doing okay with 4.5%.” 🙂

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Aug 182016
 

Early Retirement 

For professional skiers the best time to retire is when they start to go downhill. But what about the rest of us? Well for most people the question isn’t at what age we should retire, it’s at what income. 😉 People who want to retire early seem to have a clear and consistent focus to grow their wealth so that it can provide them with enough passive income to sustain their lifestyles forever. This can be done through a number of ways such as reducing living expenses, increasing income, and making high investment returns. 🙂

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I recently read a CNBC article that featured a couple, Carl and Mindy, who retired in their early 40s with a million dollars. And they did it pretty much the same way as most other early retirees.

In 2012 the husband-wife duo with 2 kids already had $570,000 saved up. But they were inspired to retire early so they set a clear goal to build a portfolio of $1 million and no debt. And earlier this year in 2016, they have accomplished their dream. 🙂

The CNBC article suggests that “anyone can do the same — and you don’t have to be an investment banker raking in millions. All it takes is smart decisions along with intelligent saving and investing.

Here are some steps the couple took to reach their financial goals.

  • Track spending – “My wife and I wrote all of our expenses in a book,” says the husband.
  • Live in an affordable location –  The couple resides in a low-cost area in Colorado, and lives on $2,000 a month for the whole family. They mention this would not be possible in San Francisco or Manhattan.
  • Cut bills – “I learned that you don’t need a lot of money,” said the wife. “My quality of life has not changed since we became laser-focused on cutting out our expenses. I don’t need the cable TV. I don’t need a super-expensive phone plan. I don’t miss all this stuff because it didn’t really add to my life,” she said.
  • Invest in appreciating assets – The couple bought a $176,000 fixer upper home that they estimate is now worth over $400,000. They also I bought 2,000 shares at Facebook at $30 a share which is now worth around $120 a share!
  • Consistent savings – They’ve continuously put away $2,000 per month into their investment portfolio.

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Apr 252016
 

How to Think About Retirement Planning

Some people are reluctant to accept change, especially cashiers because nobody likes to count nickels and dimes. But the world is constantly changing and the retirements of generation Y will look very different than generation X. The trend towards a gig economy has only just begun. In the private sector less people are working 40 years at one company, and more are doing contract work, starting side hustles, and becoming self employed. According to Intuit, in just 4 years from now up to 40% of American workers could be independent contractors. Wow, what other changes will we see in 4 years? I don’t know, because I don’t have 2020 vision. XD

So as we adapt to changing economic strategies, by growing our income streams for example, our retirement plans must also reflect this new world of mobile apps, and short-term work that is long on flexibility, but short on benefits. When it comes to making smart retirement decisions today we should separate the things we can control, from the things we cannot.

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We start by thinking about the factors that we have full control over, such as how much we need to save (and therefore, spend) in order to meet our long term goals. For example, I want to reach financial independence by age 35, which means I need to save about 1/3rd of my income right now. Although diet and exercise habits aren’t directly related to personal finance, they’re extremely relevant in the big picture because healthcare can be a major cost, especially for Americans, when we reach retirement age.

According to the National Council on Aging, about 92% of older adults have at least one chronic disease. Jeez Louise! Chronic diseases account for 75% of the money America spends on health care. Diabetes alone affects 23% of Americans over the age of 60. According to Statistics Canada, more than half of all Canadian adults are overweight or obese. 🙁 Although certain aspects of our health revolves around genetics, we also rely heavily on epigenetics, and the idiosyncratic personal choices we make today to determine how we live our golden years. Just like with a motor vehicle, proper maintenance can extend our life expectancy, and keep the repair costs down in the long run. This way we can save our money and spend it on meaningful experiences rather than on medication and treatments. 🙂

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