Step 97: Sequence of Return

Step 97 of the 100 Steps mission to financial independence: Sequence of Return
Step 97: Sequence of Return

Sequence of return – or sequence risk -can pose a serious threat to you portfolio and is a factor to be very aware of and take measures against when you are planning your retirement. Sequence of return can hamper a secure retirement, whether you plan to retire when you are 40, 65 or 80 and it can seriously increase your chances of outliving your portfolio, meaning you might be left with no income towards the end of your retirement.

So what is sequence of return?

Sequence of return is the risk of your portfolio being hit by bad market returns early on in retirement when you start making withdrawals from your portfolio. Like for anybody a bad market return affects the value of your portfolio, but whereas you have time to recover from a few bad years if you are still building up your portfolio, once you start withdrawing you no longer have this time to recover. The value of the portfolio can be affected (i.e. decreasing) by it so much that it threatens its own chances of survival. Not only does your portfolio reduce in value from your withdrawal but also from the market drop.

Let’s have a look at how devastating this effect can be by looking at the portfolio of a retiree who is hit by this phenomenon Let’s say they have $1,000,000 and that the market returns an average of 8% over the first 20 years. This retiree takes out $40,000 (4%) in their first year and then adjust for inflation by 3% each year. Below is the chart with how well they do.

market returns start portfolio take out Total left over
-10% $              1.000.000 $           40.000 $         864.000
-15% $                  864.000 $           41.200 $         699.380
-25% $                  699.380 $           42.436 $         492.708
5% $                  492.708 $           43.709 $         471.449
0% $                  471.449 $           45.020 $         426.429
-15% $                  426.429 $           46.371 $         323.049
5% $                  323.049 $           47.762 $         289.051
20% $                  289.051 $           49.195 $         287.827
10% $                  287.827 $           50.671 $         260.872
25% $                  260.872 $           52.191 $         260.852
30% $                  260.852 $           53.757 $         269.224
15% $                  269.224 $           55.369 $         245.932
-10% $                  245.932 $           57.030 $         170.012
15% $                  170.012 $           58.741 $         127.961
25% $                  127.961 $           60.504 $           84.322
30% $                    84.322 $           62.319 $           28.604
-15% $                    28.604 $            28.604 $                     0
15% $                              0 $                     0 $                     0
30% $                              0 $                     0 $                     0
25% $                              0 $                     0 $                     0

Despite the average 8% return, as you can see, this portfolio takes a big hit at the start of retirement with big negative returns and therefore a big decrease of value early on. Unfortunately after 16 years this person has run out of money and is no longer able to draw anything out of their portfolio. Of the $1,000,000 they started with, they were only able to take out just over $806,000. Continue reading

Step 96: Dollar Cost Averaging

Step 96 of the 100 steps mission to financial independence: Dollar Cost Averaging
Step 96: Dollar Cost Averaging

Oh go on, one more investment related step before we end the series on investing… Despite its very boring name, dollar cost averaging is a powerful investment strategy that actually makes market volatility work in your advantage.

This is achieved in two ways:

  • When the market is up you buy less shares, thereby avoiding investing a lot of money when shares are overpriced and when a crash might be just around the corner;
  • When the market is down, you benefit by buying more shares, thereby making the most of the shares being “on sale”.

Let’s look at how dollar cost averaging works.There are generally two ways to invest: investing a lump sum or investing a set monthly amount. As we know markets go up and downs all the time and although most markets go up over time, they still experience periods when prices drop.

Lump sum investing

Imagine you have a windfall of say $10,000 that you want to invest. If you invest it all in one go at a time when the market is climbing, this might be a very poor moment to invest this money. Wait a few months and the market might well experience a downturn:

  • Say the average price of shares at the moment is $100 then (costs excluding) you’d get 100 shares for your $10,000.
  • Imagine the prices drop to $80 on average in the next 6 months. If you had held off investing for 6 months, you would have been able to buy 125 shares, i.e. 25% more!
  • Now let’s say that another 6 months later the price of shares is back up to $100 a share again. If you entered the market today, you would have gained nor lost anything in a year’s time. Had you entered the market when shares were only $80 a piece, your portfolio would be worth $12,500 in a year’s time.

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Step 90: Investing in Gold and Commodities

Step 90 of the 100 steps mission to financial independence: Investing in Gold and Commodities
Step 90: Investing in Gold and Commodities

In the previous step we looked at how investing in Real Estate can be an interesting addition to your portfolio in order to spread your risk more and generate another new income field. In this step we will look at another way to diversify your investment portfolio which is through commodities and gold.

Investing in commodities

Commodities (or natural resources) are important for the stock market in two ways: firstly many companies rely on commodities. If you have any Coca Cola shares then of course sugar prices at some point affect Coca Cola profit and therefore share and dividend prices. For any shares you might have in big retail or fashion stores wool prices will affect these share prices at some point in the chain and many other companies might rely on such commodities as oil, copper, grains and aluminum.

Apart from their importance to the companies that trade on the market, commodities play another part on the market as they too can be invested in directly, just like shares and bonds!

There are generally two commodity classes:

  • Soft commodities – cocoa, wool, cotton, wheat, rice, coffee etc. These prices can fluctuate a lot, especially when a shortage exists (think about a bad harvest for grains, rice, potatoes or coffee for example and how this can drive up prices). Apart from the weather, also a growing population as well as people’s eating patterns effect these prices.
  • Metals – zinc, aluminum, copper. Prices are less volatile as their time takes much longer: a new mine takes much longer  to open and operate. It’s easier to predict how prices are affected, also if new technologies such as microchips are developed that require more or different metals.

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Step 79: The 4% Rule

Ste 79 of the 100 steps mission to financial independence: The 4% Rule
Step 79: The 4% Rule

“This whole financial independence story might sound nice and dandy, but how will I ever get there?” I hear you think. “How much money do I need to retire?” and most importantly: “What can I do NOW to make sure I get (and stay) on track to reaching my financial goals?”. Well, I am glad you asked as it is about time that we start looking at putting together a lifetime plan for your financial journey that will make sure you reach your financial dreams and that will give you the motivation and blueprint towards achieving those goals.

In order to get that plan together we will first discuss the 4% rule, a hugely popular and helpful guideline to planning for retirement.

The Trinity Study

In the late 90s and then again in 2009, three professors from Trinity University conducted a now famous study on how different withdrawal percentages affected various retirement portfolios over a 30 year period.

What they calculated in particular was how the portfolios stood up against various withdrawal rates, i.e. whether the portfolios would stand the test of time and outlive the withdrawals. If a withdrawal rate succeeded it meant there was still money left over in the portfolio after the time period of withdrawals ended. Their studies included: Continue reading

Step 72: Rebalance your Portfolio

Step 72 of the 100 Steps Mission to Financial Independence: Rebalancing your Portfolio
Step 72: Rebalancing your Portfolio

This and the next step look at managing your assets in your portfolio on a long-term basis to ensure they remain aligned with your goals. With time some assets might grow faster than others, goals might change or you might want to change the risk level of your portfolio the closer you get to your goals. In all cases this can be dealt with by rebalancing your portfolio and re-allocation your assets. Similar to the investing principle of “buy when everybody else is selling”, which we discussed in step 54, the rebalancing of your portfolio is another investing concept which is easy to understand and execute logically, but can be difficult to implement psychologically.

Yearly rebalancing

The yearly rebalancing of your portfolio ensures that if one area of your portfolio does really well in one particular year, you don’t deviate too much from the original asset allocation that you had in mind for your portfolio. If one assets grows much more than another, it might make your portfolio too volatile or too safe for your goals and risk tolerance.

Let’s look at an example and assume that you want a 70% shares and 30% bonds allocation in your portfolio. You put in $10.000 and the moment you enter the market both bonds and shares happen to be $100 per unit. Ignoring costs for the sake of this example, that means you’d have $7.000 in shares and $3.000 in bonds. A year later the shares have far outperformed the bonds, and even though both have gone up in prices, your bonds are now worth $3150 (a 5% increase), whereas your shares are now worth $8050 (an increase of 15%). The stocks and bonds allocation is now no longer 70/30 but 72/28. Not a huge difference you might think but if the shares keep outperforming bonds by that much for a few years, you might end up with an 80/20 portfolio in just a few years. Continue reading