Friday, December 27, 2013

End of Year Reminder--Time to Determine Spending Budget for Next Year

It's that time of the year for many of us retirees to determine our spending budget for next year.  You may also wish to take this opportunity to revisit your investment strategy.  I will illustrate how easy this process is with an example retiree, Richard.

Richard retired last year at this time at age 65.  At that time, he used about 20% of his accumulated savings to buy an immediate life annuity that pays him $15,000 per year.  At the beginning of 2013, he had $800,000 left after his annuity purchase.  He inputted the assumptions recommended in our October 11, 2013 post (5% interest, 3% inflation, 30 years expected payout period (95-65) and $10,000 as the desired amount of assets at death) into the spreadsheet in this website, to determine a total spendable amount (excluding Social Security) for 2013 of $45,179 ($30,179 from accumulated savings and $15,000 from the annuity).  He deposited $30,179 in his non-interest bearing spending account and decided to invest half of the remaining assets ($769,821) in equities and the other half in a variety of fixed income investments.  During 2013, Richard spent exactly the amount in his spendable account plus the $15,000 from the annuity. 

Easy Steps to Determine Richard's Spending Budget for 2014

The first step in the process is gather asset data as of the end of 2013.  Richard's equity investments yielded almost 29% during 2013 and his fixed income investments yielded about 1%, so his end-of-year assets are $884,909 (compared with expected end-of-year assets from the previous year's calculation of $808,312, or an asset gain for 2013 of $76,597). 

The second step in the process is to determine a preliminary spending value for 2014 by inputting new amounts into the spreadsheet on this website.  If the same assumptions and amounts are used as last year except using $884,909 for accumulated savings and 29 years for expected payout period, Richard's preliminary 2014 spendable amount is $49,947 ($34,947 + $15,000).

The third step in the process is to apply the smoothing algorithm discussed in our October 11, 2013 post to the preliminary spending value.  Richard determines that the Consumer Price Index has increased by about 1.3% during 2013.  Therefore, he determines his 2014 spendable amount as last year's total spendable amount ($45,179) increased by 1.3% ($45,766), but not less than 90% of the preliminary 2014 total spendable amount of $49,947 (.9 X $49,947 = $44,952).  Since the corridor value is lower than last year's value increased with inflation for the year, it does not apply and Richard's total spendable amount for 2014 is $45,766 ($30,766 from accumulated savings and $15,000 from the annuity).

Richard plans to transfer $30,766 of his accumulated savings in his spending account and rebalance the remainder ($854,143) so that he has 50% in equities and 50% in fixed income investments.  He recognizes that because he has the annuity and Social Security, his actual investment mix is weighted more heavily in fixed income than equities, but he is comfortable with that result. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

New Research On Variable Spending Strategies (Like the One Recommended in This Blog)

In this December 10 article, Dr. Pfau compares the spending paths created by two variable withdrawal strategies: The Guyton Decision Rules and the Blanchett actuarial approach discussed in our November 20 post.  Unfortunately, Dr. Pfau's compares what is essentially a spending smoothing algorithm (Guyton) with year-by-year application of Blanchett's spreadsheet calculator without application of any smoothing of the results. However, as Dr. Pfau revealed in his article, Mr. Blanchett, "would almost certainly incorporate a moving average approach to smooth out the cash flows."
As I said in my original 2010 article (available in the articles section), the most important step in the five step general actuarial process to developing an estimate of how much you can spend each year involves periodic calculation of the theoretically correct spendable amount (using the simple spreadsheets found in this website, or Mr. Blanchett's spreadsheet or some other more "robust" calculator) and application of an algorithm to smooth actual experience as it occurs. See our post of October 11, 2003 for our recommended smoothing algorithm.
Dr. Pfau concludes that, "More research about variable withdrawal rates should look to build in a smoother spending path with changes only made when thresholds are crossed, and to more carefully calibrate the relationship between withdrawal rates and age." I agree and encourage Dr. Pfau to look at the approach recommended in this website.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Follow Up To July 23, 2013 Post--Delaying Commencement of Social Security

The consulting firm October Three has written a nice article about the potential financial advantages of delaying commencement of Social Security benefits until age 70. Readers of this blog will remember that we discussed this strategy and pointed readers to a spreadsheet on our site that would enable retirees to use their accumulated savings to "bridge" the period from age of retirement until age 70 (or some other age) in our post of July 23rd of this year. 
Using that spreadsheet, information for the example retiree in the October Three article, accumulated savings of $500,000 and the recommended assumptions described in this website (5% investment return, 3% inflation and survival until age 95), readers can confirm that if the example retiree retires at age 62 uses his accumulated savings as a Social Security bridge and defers commencement of his Social Security benefit until age 70, he can expect (under the recommended assumptions) to have total lifetime real retirement income of $39,130 per year starting at age 62 using the delay strategy vs. $35,655 per year if he commences Social Security at age 62. As can be seen in the spreadsheet runout tab, at age 70 he will be expected to have $305,906 of accumulated assets at age 70 under the delay strategy as compared with $514,533 under the non-delay strategy (commencing Social Security and level withdrawals from accumulated savings at age 62). The example retiree has essentially used a total of $240,804 of his accumulated savings to purchase a higher Social Security benefit commencing at age 70. To see the calculations using the delay strategy follow this link. Note that the estimated Social Security benefit commencing at age 70 has been increased by 3% per year for eight years of assumed CPI increases.
October Three argues that, "Rather than annuitizing retirement wealth, participants can get a much better deal by spending down retirement assets and deferring Social Security." While I like the article, I will have to reserve the right to pick a small bone with October Three over their use of "much better" here, as our post of September 22, 2013 shows comparable increases in total retirement income through combinations of self-insuring and purchase of deferred annuities (immediate, delayed or deferred). 
When considering the delay strategy, readers will also want to factor in other considerations, such as comfort in spending a significant amount of accumulated savings in the early years of retirement, taxation of Social Security benefits, possible future changes in Social Security law and possible changes in general interest rates/investment returns.