March 24, 2011

Realistic retirement 'plan'

Planning for retirement is EASY, much easier than you have been led to believe by the investerati.  Not to say that you don't have to save, of course you do, but planning for it is ridiculous more than a year or two out.  There are just too many variables you cannot plan for; inheritance, death, divorce, kids, healthcare, tax changes, etc.

The best you can do is save the most you can via the lowest cost mutual fund or ETF that tracks the market / S&P 500.

Ok, now to the 'plan'.  About one or two years away from retirement, you need to get out a pen and a paper and be honest with yourself.  (I will use an example here but of course, you'll need to change the numbers for your situation).

Figure your total assets including house equity (If its not paid off, you cannot retire yet). 
Find a house you want to retire to and it maybe the same you are currently living in.

Assume 750k total assets minus 250k for your retirement home = 500k.
Ok, you have 500k and I suggest you use the 4% rule which means you can take 4% out every year, in this case that is 20k.  The reason this works is that even a conservative portfolio will return 2-3% and as we age, we spend less.

Now add any pension or known social security income you expect, say 15k for this example.

Thats it, your done.  20k + 15k = 35k. 
If that number isn't satisfactory, you have two choices;
 a) buy a smaller house
 b) work a few more years and recalculate

Do not listen to supposed financial experts about taking on more risk, no way, in fact, the rule of thumb is your age (as a %) in bonds or for a 65 year old, that means 65% bonds or CD's and 35% in equities and I prefer a simple S&P 500 index fund or ETF.

Thats it.  Sorry its not more detailed but I don't make a living selling financial advice or products anymore :)  Over the last few decades, the brokerage firms have both confused and scared people regarding retirement so as to benefit themselves.  If you need help, I offer coaching.

March 15, 2011

Japan Disaster and Investing

The disaster in Japan reminds us that investing is never easy. This is a human tragedy for sure and to think of ones financial situation seems kind of petty.

The earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear plant issues are just some of the absolutely unpredictable events that affect investors at every level.

This is a reminder that markets are indeed global and investing is never ever easy.

The best that we can do is have a long term strategy that includes saving the most that we possibly can and investing some of that in the lowest cost possible funds or exchange traded funds.

Every study on the subject conclusively proves that fees and costs are the number one factor in determining investing success.

Simple index fund investing will ultimately beat the 90% of people who insist on buying and selling trying to beat the market.  Simple index fund investing by definition is easy too.  Investing is truly one of the few things in life where less is more!!!