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.


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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Jun 152017

We’re Living Longer

I don’t know how the term “aging gracefully” can be a compliment. To me it just sounds like a nicer way of saying you’re slowly looking worse. 😛 When the government pension (CPP) was first introduced in the 1960s, the average life expectancy was about 71 years old. The idea was that most workers would retire at around 65 years old, and receive 5 to 10 years of CPP benefits in retirement. And that was the case for awhile. 🙂 But today, the average life expectancy in Canada is over 80 years old which puts more pressure on the CPP investment board to perform well. It’s not unreasonable to assume that my generation of workers (millennials) could have a life expectancy on average of 90 years or older.

According to a Telegraph article, we could witness in our lifetime a world where most babies will have a life expectancy of 100 years or longer! 😀 It’s nice that people are living longer than previous generations. But it’s also kind of sad to think about getting old. Can you imagine having sex when you’re 90? It’ll probably be like trying to shoot pool with a rope. 😕

Young adults are also starting careers later today than in the 60s. So with relatively less money going into the sovereign wealth fund, and more people withdrawing, many economists are worried about the future sustainability of government benefits on the local, provincial, and national level – not just in this country, but all around the world.

If generation Y folks are likely to live to 90 years old, then planning to retire at 65 may not be financially feasible unless a large amount of wealth is saved up first. For those who are planning to retire early like myself, it is even more difficult. Assuming I reach financial freedom by 35, I will have 55 years of living in retirement if I choose to. That sounds great. But the reality is I will most likely be working on and off, or on a part-time capacity throughout my 40s and 50s because there are only so many non-productive activities I can do before I get bored and start working on something economically productive again. 🙂

So instead of planning to live until 80 years old, most healthy people my age should be aiming for 90 as the starting point. And with that it means accumulating more personal savings for retirement. But also keeping in mind that there is no set retirement age anymore, so plan to be flexible with work schedules to accommodate a balanced lifestyle.


Random Useless Fact:

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. 🙂


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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May 092016

Time and Annual Returns

I recently watched an interesting YouTube video about time and the rate of return, by finance columnist Preet Banerjee. He explains the relationship between an investor’s time horizon and his or her rate of return. Here’s a question to illustrate an example. If our goal is to accumulate $100,000 by age 65, how much do we need to save per month?

Here’s a table that breaks down how much investors will need to put away each month depending on their current age and the expected rate of return. For example, we can see that someone at age 30 who expects their portfolio to return 4% a year should save $109 per month.


As we can see, the rate of return is a much stronger factor for investors with a longer time horizon. The 20 year old still has 45 years until retirement and how much he has to save is heavily influenced by his average investment returns. On the other hand, the 60 year old investor only has 5 more years before retirement so most of his accumulated wealth will come from savings rather than from investment gains. This means he shouldn’t take on more investment risk and reach for higher returns since the his rate of return simply doesn’t matter very much. This is why I have a relatively high risk tolerance, even though some people don’t approve. It’s because I’m in my twenties and if I can get that higher rate of return on my portfolio now, my life would be so much better in the future. 😀

The other thing to note about the table is that time trumps rate of return in most cases. If one person starts to invest at age 40 and earns a 2% rate of return, and someone else starts just 10 years later but earns a 6% rate of return, then the first person would still come out ahead despite making 4% a year less. In other words if we start investing 10 years earlier than our peers, then that will have the same effect as outperforming their investments by more than 4% each year. Wow! Let that sink in.

We can also track our retirement progress with this information. For example if we plan to retire in 15 years we can use the AGE 50 row of numbers in the table above. Let’s say we want to accumulate an extra $300,000 between now and our retirement date. We know the table is based on an accumulation of $100,000. So to find out how much we need to save each month we just multiply the green numbers by 3, since $300,000 is 3 times $100,000. The tricky part is guessing which rate of return we are most likely going to see over the next 15 years, but I think 4% sounds like a reasonable assumption.

So start investing as early as possible and front load more risk to the earlier stages of wealth accumulation. 🙂

Random Useless Fact:




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.


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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