Retirement planning is a huge financial need and one of the areas where financial literacy can pay off very well. Understanding the incredible power of compound interest can be used to start your retirement savings early and provide you with a huge benefit. Understanding the risks of inflation can guide your investment decisions. The recent Business Week Retirement Guide is very good. In Spending Safely, they explore how to spend while preserving your capital in retirement.
Bengen now suggests that the 4% figure – actually 4.1% for a 60/40 portfolio of large caps and bonds and 4.5% if you toss in small caps – merely seems impressive when plugged into Excel (MSFT) spreadsheets. In practice, the strategy, which Bengen stopped using with his own clients about three years ago, is inflexible and unrealistic he says – and the formula is too stingy.
Flexibility is factored into Bengen’s revised approach, which permits withdrawals to fluctuate within guidelines. His “floor-and-ceiling strategy” suggests that an initial withdrawal rate of 5.16% would be appropriate if a retiree pares back subsequent withdrawals by as much as 10% of the initial withdrawal during hard times (the floor). On the other hand, a retiree could withdraw extra cash equaling up to 25% of the first-year withdrawal (the ceiling) when the market is strong.
This adjusted thinking is correct I believe. People want simpler answers but some things just require a more complex understanding.
See more photos from my visit to Parfrey’s Glen Natural Area in Wisconsin, about an hour outside of Madison. It really was amazingly beautiful – the pictures do not do it justice. The Parfrey’s Glen trail is under a mile but well worth visiting. If you want to hike more try the Ice Age National Scenic Trail or nearby Devil’s Lake State Park. The top photo is of me (John Hunter) at nearby Durwood’s Glen. The yellow flower is from Parfrey’s Glen.
As I have mentioned previously credit unions do a much better job than any other financial category of providing customer value. Instead of trying to trick you and rip you off, credit unions often just provide services at a reasonable cost. What a sensible idea. Credit Unions Slowly Fill Void As Payday Lenders Leave D.C.
The credit unions’ products vary, but generally they are loans of $300 to $1,000 with an annual percentage rate of up to 18 percent. Unlike payday loans, in which borrowers sign over part of their next paycheck for the cash advance, the credit unions’ new products have longer terms, from thirty days to a year.
It is still an indication of bad personal finances to take the short term loan, but if that is the choice you make, paying a reasonable rate will greatly reduce the damage to your personal financial health.
The Declining Value Of Your College Degree by Greg Ip:
For decades, the typical college graduate’s wage rose well above inflation. But no longer. In the economic expansion that began in 2001 and now appears to be ending, the inflation-adjusted wages of the majority of U.S. workers didn’t grow, even among those who went to college. The government’s statistical snapshots show the typical weekly salary of a worker with a bachelor’s degree, adjusted for inflation, didn’t rise last year from 2006 and was 1.7% below the 2001 level.
To be sure, the average American with a college diploma still earns about 75% more than a worker with a high-school diploma and is less likely to be unemployed. Yet while that so-called college premium is up from 40% in 1979, it is little changed from 2001
The job market is more challenging than it was, it seems to me. Counting on being able to steadily progress during your career, without any gaps or times when you must accept much less than you hoped, is risky. This is one more reason why it is so important to spend less and save more in the good times in your career.
Are You Financially Literate? Do this Simple Test to Find Out by Annamaria Lusardi.
a) More than $102
b) Exactly $102
c) Less than $102
d) Do not know
2) Imagine that the interest rate on your savings account was 1% per year and inflation was 2% per year. After 1 year, would you be able to buy more than, exactly the same as, or less than today with the money in this account?
a) More than today
b) Exactly the same as today
c) Less than today
d) Do not know
3) Do you think that the following statement is true or false? “Buying a single company stock usually provides a safer return than a stock mutual fund.”
c) Do not know
To be “financially literate” you need to answer correctly to all three questions.
And I would add, just answering those 3 simple questions does not mean you are. But if you don’t answer all 3 correctly you are not financially literate. We provide several resources to help people improve their literacy, including: our blog posts on financial literacy, Curious Cat Investing Dictionary and Curious Cat Investing Books.
In response to: Fair Use Rights by David Bradley
Copyright is a taking of a public benefit for a private entity. This was put into law in order to increase the total public benefit. The idea was that taking from the public to provide the creator a limited-term, exclusive, government-granted, right to their work would encourage individuals to invest their time in creating works that would benefit society.
So the debate is properly about how great the taking from the public should be. It seem to me the current situation is completely corrupt. Many of the actions are taking public benefit to provide to the private entity where no possible public benefit exists. Extending copyright periods of long ago created works, where obviously the public is harmed purely for private benefit. No possible argument can be made that their is a payoff to the public for this taking.
If you wanted to take such an action and made it only for new work then their could be an argument that now a creator knows they have 100 years of government provided rights and therefore investing more time and effort in their work creates new and better work. I don’t believe this argument but at least it is possible. The current actions though are mainly about large companies using government to take from the public to provide themselves private benefit with no corresponding public benefit.
Lawrence Lessig is the person who has the best insight in this area, in my opinion: The Value of the Public Domain.
Fair use is the right to reference (and quote limited portions of) works that have been granted government copyright protection. This is integral to the whole idea of creating the greatest public benefit (even while providing some government imposed limits on public rights to the creator). The large companies now are using lawyers to greatly increase the harm to society by expanding the taking of public benefit. They threaten and scare many into paying fees (or completely avoiding works that have been granted limited government granted copyright rights) where none are are rightly due (see Lawrence Lessig for examples). This causes great harm to society for the private benefit of a few. This is an obvious failure of government. Those countries that are successful at adopting more sensible systems are going to have a great advantage over those countries that chose to continue to increasingly bad practices of harming society to benefit a few private interests.
Related: What is Wrong with Copyright Taking Public Good for Private Special Interests – Innovation and Creative Commons – Diplomacy and Science Research – More Government Waste – Crazy Watchmen – General Air Travel Taxes Subsidizing Private Plane Airports – China and the Sugar Industry Tax Consumers
I posted before on how universities seek profits instead of helping students develop good financial literacy and habits. Here are some tips on how you should use your credit card. College Credit-Card Hustle
Using state public disclosure laws, Business Week has obtained more than two dozen confidential contracts between major schools and card-issuing banks keen to sign up undergraduates with mounting expenses for tuition, books, and travel. In some instances, universities and alumni groups receive larger payments from the banks if students use their school-branded cards more frequently.
The growing financial alliance between schools and banks raises questions about whether universities are encouraging students to incur additional high-interest debt at a time when many young people graduate from college owing tens of thousands of dollars.
Universities rarely negotiate favorable terms for their students, according to people familiar with the practice. On the contrary, some schools and booster groups entice undergraduates to sign up for cards with low initial interest rates that are soon replaced by steep double-digit rates.
Schools (and if some try to play legal games about alumni associations being separate, I don’t accept that) should fully disclose exactly what they are doing. I know they can make all sorts of excuses about why being open and honest is not right for them. Well, I think it is easy to predict they will be selling out their students and hiding that fact (if they must be open about what they are doing they will avoid some of the most egregious behavior because they know there will be consequences if they obviously sell out students). And, now Business Week has evidence that many are.
If a school is not open and honest about the deals they are making just assume they are selling out the students for their own gain. I can’t really see why we would want to support such behavior and I would encourage us not to.
Others ignore the professional forecasters and focus instead on what futures markets are saying. But it turns out that even futures prices are not as accurate as our simple formula. Even sophisticated econometric models don’t yield better forecasts than our simple no-change rule.
The truth is that forecasting oil prices is so darn hard that complicated formulae add nothing but complexity. And so the simplest forecasting rule also turns out to be the best.
This is another example of how tricky it is to predict financial markets. I am a bit surprised for relatively longer periods (like a year) the professionals do so poorly. My father, a statistician (among other things), challenged me to predict the movement of stocks on a daily basis better than his prediction (which was no change). I can’t remember the result – which makes me think I failed. I think I would be more likely to remember if I succeeded.
Prices increased 5 percent in the 12 months to June, the most since May 1991. They were forecast to climb 4.5 percent from a year earlier, according to the survey median. The core rate increased 2.4 percent from June 2007, also more than forecast.
Energy expenses jumped 6.6 percent, the biggest gain since the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in September 2005. Gasoline prices soared 10.1 and fuel oil jumped 10.4 percent.
Rents which, make up almost 40 percent of the core CPI, also accelerated. A category designed to track rental prices rose 0.3 percent after a 0.1 percent gain in May. Today’s figures also showed wages decreased 0.9 percent in June after adjusting for inflation, the biggest drop since August 1984, and were down 2.4 percent over the last 12 months. The drop in buying power is one reason economists forecast consumer spending will slow.
The continued increase of inflation is a serious problem. Eventually the federal reserve needs to take serious action (raising the discount rate). And the politicians need to stop raising taxes on the future to spend more and more every year. Their continued financial irresponsibility is a large part of the reason for the declining value of the dollar – along with the voters that keep electing those proposing large increases in spending while pushing off paying for that spending to future tax increases.
Related: inflation investment risk – Food Price Inflation is Quite High – Bernanke warns of inflation – Politicians Again Raising Taxes On Your Children – USA Federal Debt Now $516,348 Per Household