Thursday, April 4, 2024

500th Post—We’re Retiring

This is the 500th post of How Much Can I Afford to Spend in Retirement. The primary purposes of this post are to:

  • Celebrate our 500th post,
  • Announce our retirement from active blogging, and
  • Thank those who have helped us with the website in one way or another over the past 14 years

What does retirement mean in this context? It means that we are planning to cut way down on the quantity of our posts to pursue other goals in retirement. It does not mean that we won’t infrequently update the Actuarial Financial Planner spreadsheets, or that we won’t respond to reader comments or questions about the spreadsheets or maybe even add a new post infrequently.

We still believe that the Actuarial Approach (with its deterministic Actuarial Financial Planner model, general actuarial process and suggested spending adjustment guard-rails) is a superior approach for determining household spending in retirement. We also still believe that you should be using the Actuarial Approach in lieu of, or in addition to, the approach you are currently using for this purpose.

We simply no longer plan to respond to each financial planning opinion we read in the press that suggests otherwise. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

What Percentage Drop in Your Assets Might Trigger a Reduction in Your Discretionary Spending?

Nice to see two more recent articles in the retirement income press discussing the advantages of dynamic retirement approaches like ours that use guardrails to adjust spending in retirement. These two articles are:

In the first article, the authors say:

“We think including spending adjustments in retirement planning is a major step forward.”

In the second article, the author says”:

“Retirement planning that rejects success/failure framing can help clients understand that a realistic retirement journey involves not failure, but adjustments.

Advisors can help clients plan for those adjustments by establishing a “spend more” guardrail that tells clients when their risk of underspending and regret is too high, and so they can afford to live a little and spend more. It also means setting a “spend less” guardrail that tells clients when their risk of overspending is too high, so they should find a way to tighten the belt or adjust their goals to bring that risk down.”

We agree.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Trying to Help Households Determine How Much They Can Afford to Spend in Retirement

It’s been almost 14 years since our first post on How Much Can I Afford to Spend in Retirement? This post is our 498th post. As implied by the title of our website, our primary goal is to help individuals (or financial advisors for those individuals) determine how much they (or their clients) can afford to spend in retirement. Unlike most financial advisors, however, we attempt to do this by applying proven actuarial principles and processes to the decumulation problem.

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Does Your Retirement Plan Have Spending Guardrails?

Ongoing planning in retirement involves periodically assessing whether spending may be increased or must be decreased to remain on track. In his recent article, How Communicating Guardrails Withdrawal Strategies Can Improve Client Experience and Decrease Stress, Dr. Derek Tharpe says:

However, the results of these [Monte Carlo] simulations generally don't account for potential adjustments that could be made along the way (e.g., decreasing withdrawals if market returns are weak and the probability of success falls, or vice versa), making them somewhat less useful for ongoing planning engagements where an advisor could recommend spending changes if they become necessary.”

He also notes:

“Nonetheless, while these thresholds and the dollar amount of potential spending changes might be clear in the advisor's mind, they often go unspoken to the client. Which can lead to tremendous stress for clients, as they might see their Monte Carlo probability of success gradually decline but not know what level of downward spending adjustment would be necessary to bring the probability of success back to an acceptable level.”

If your retirement plan does not have spending guardrails, or your spending guardrails are “uncommunicated” by your financial advisor, you may wish to use the Actuarial Approach set forth in this website, or encourage your advisor to do so. For more discussion of our recommended guardrails, see our post of January 7, 2023.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Financial System Sustainability Superstars

Actuaries measure and monitor the health of financial systems by systematically comparing assets and liabilities and making adjustments when necessary to ensure system sustainability.

You can do the same thing for your personal financial system/retirement plan with assistance of the Actuarial Financial Planner (AFP) and by following the general actuarial process.

For more discussion of the general actuarial process, see our post of August 23, 2023.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Simplify Your Retirement Planning

As discussed in prior posts, the key to successful retirement planning is to

  • annually determine your Funded Status,
  • monitor it from year to year and
  • Adjust spending when your Funded Status falls outside pre-determined guardrails (suggested: 95%, 120%)

In her recent Go Banking Rates article, Hanna Horvath outlines six key steps to building an effective retirement plan and spending budget. We agree that the steps outlined by Ms. Horvath are important, but each of these steps (and much more) is anticipated in the simpler process we recommend. 

Why does simplicity matter? You are much more likely to adopt and follow an approach if it is relatively easy to understand and to implement. Entering relevant data into the Input section of the Actuarial Financial Planner enables you to quickly develop your household Funded Status, and therefore, build a more effective retirement plan and spending budget.

Saturday, March 9, 2024

We’ve Updated the Actuarial Financial Planner Models

In response to suggestions from several of our readers, we have added cells to the AFP models to permit inputting of additional non-recurring income and expense items. These new cells will enable you to estimate present values of items such as:

  • Social Security survivor benefits
  • Survivor benefits under Joint and Survivor annuities
  • Future home sales
  • Possible future Social Security cuts, and
  • Many types of expected future non-recurring expenses

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Simple Key to Retirement Planning Success

Key: You should determine your Funded Status annually and monitor it from year to year.

Why? Your Funded Status is a summary statistic that reflects actual experience and can keep you on track to meet your spending goals in retirement.

For more discussion of the importance of determining and monitoring your Funded Status, and why doing so is superior to using the 4% Rule (and its many variations) or typical Monte Carlo models, see our post of April 16,2023.

To determine your Funded Status, download and complete one of our Actuarial Financial Planners from the Spreadsheets section of our website.

Monday, February 26, 2024

A Planning Process That Works

You are responsible for your finances in retirement and need a plan that works. The Actuarial Approach, with its Funded-Status-focused process can help you:

  • Grow your assets,
  • Protect your assets,
  • Spend your assets in a manner consistent with your goals, and
  • Make better financial decisions.

To read more about the proven actuarial process we recommend, including a few hints for using the Actuarial Financial Planning models we provide, see our post of January 5, 2024

Check out our most recent Advisor Perspectives article if you are concerned about how future Social Security reforms may affect your plan.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Want a More Realistic Retirement Plan?

If you (or your financial advisor) aren’t planning for non-recurring expenses in retirement, you probably don’t have a realistic retirement plan. 

If you use a Strategic Withdrawal Approach (like the 4% Rule or its many variations) or your financial advisor uses a traditional Monte Carlo approach, your annual spending budget is usually expressed as a constant real dollar amount each year. Assuming constant real dollar spending for your entire period of retirement can either overstate or understate the assets you need to fund your retirement. This can occur because:

  • Some non-recurring expenses (such as travel expenses, new cars, pre-Medicare healthcare premiums, home remodeling expenses) are primarily front-loaded during retirement, or
  • Some non-recurring expenses (such as long-term care or bequest motives) are primarily back-loaded during retirement

If you want to develop a more realistic financial plan during retirement that reflects non-linear spending, we recommend you use a model like the Actuarial Financial Planner (AFP). The AFP distinguishes between future expected essential, discretionary, recurring and non-recurring expenses. See our post of April 16, 2022 for more discussion of this topic and our post of December 8, 2023 for discussion of steps you can take if there are an insufficient number of cells in the AFP to perform calculations of the present values of your non-recurring expenses (or other present values).