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Investing Blog Roundup: Why Delaying Social Security Doesn’t Provide an 8% Return

It’s common to see articles stating that delaying Social Security is a great deal, because it gives you an 8% return per year. Delaying Social Security is indeed a good deal, in a majority of cases. But it doesn’t give anything close to an 8% return — not usually anyway.

Recommended Reading

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Investing Blog Roundup: Open Social Security (improved WEP/GPO functionality)

The Open Social Security calculator now has some new functionality for people affected by the Windfall Elimination Provision and/or Government Pension Offset.

Specifically, it allows you to enter a date on which your pension from non-covered employment will begin (so that the calculator knows not to apply the WEP/GPO until that date), and it allows you to enter what your PIA would be without the effect of the WEP (so that the calculator can account for the fact that survivor benefits are calculated based on a PIA that hasn’t been reduced by WEP).

Special thanks go to Brian Courts who not only offered the separate-PIAs suggestion but also provided code to implement the idea!

Recommended Reading

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Investing Blog Roundup: Remembering Jack Bogle

As you have likely heard by now, Jack Bogle died this week.

There have been an abundance of great articles about him in the last two days — not just about what he achieved professionally (as monumental as those achievements were), but about what he was like as a person. That’s no coincidence. Many of us have personal stories to share.

He founded a massive company, and he revolutionized an industry, but he was as approachable as anybody I’ve met. He’d ask you what you were working on. He’d tell you about what he’d been reading lately. He’d sit next to you at lunch and discuss Social Security — sharing his opinions (he had opinions!), but also listening intently to yours.

If you’re feeling moved to do something in his memory, I have two suggestions:

  1. A donation to the National Constitution Center (Bogle served as chairman of the Center’s board for several years and often bragged about the work that they do), and/or
  2. A donation to the John C. Bogle Center for Financial Literacy.

And this is probably as good a time as any to suggest that you consider signing up to be an organ donor, if you have not yet done so. It’s easy, costs nothing, and could save somebody’s life — much as Jack’s life was saved in 1996 by somebody’s generous decision to be an organ donor.

Recommended Reading

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Investing Blog Roundup: How Important is Sequence of Returns Risk?

I recently encountered an article from the Early Retirement Now blog, discussing just how much sequence of returns risk matters in retirement. The article isn’t new (May 2017). And it’s pretty math-heavy. But it’s worth a read.

One noteworthy finding: over a 30-year retirement, only 31% of the variation in safe withdrawal rates is explained by the average return earned by the portfolio over that 30-year period. 64%, however, is explained by the sequence of those returns.

If the math intimidates you, I would still encourage you to at least click over to the article and find the second table — the one with a column of green-highlighted cells. What these cells are showing you is how important each 5-year window of returns is in determining safe withdrawal rate.

It’s quite striking how much less important each 5-year window of returns is, relative to the prior 5-year window. For example, years 0-5 explain more than 28% of the variation in safe withdrawal rate. Years 5-10 explain another 19%. Years 10-15 explain another 13%. And so on.

Key takeaway being: the returns that your portfolio earns in the first several years of retirement matter a lot.

Other Recommended Reading

Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!

Investing Blog Roundup: Checking in on Oregon’s Auto-IRA

In July 2017 Oregon began rolling out their OregonSaves program — essentially an auto-enrollment Roth IRA for employees who are not covered by employer-sponsored retirement plans.

The plan has a 5% default contribution rate, which by default increases by 1% per year until it reaches 10%. Employees can choose to change that rate or opt out of the plan entirely. The first $1,000 of contributions is essentially kept in cash, while further contributions go into a target-date fund.

Anek Belbase and Geoffrey Sanzenbacher at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College recently took a look at how the plan is doing (e.g., how many potential participants actually participated, how many decided to increase or decrease the default contribute rate, etc.). It’s interesting reading about what might end up being a prototype for similar programs in other states.

Other Recommended Reading

Thanks for reading!

Investing Blog Roundup: Sitting In on a Steak Dinner Annuity Pitch

Salespeople of financial products (especially but not exclusively insurance) are known for hosting free meals as a way to attract prospective clients. Ron Lieber of The New York Times recently accompanied his aunt to such a meal and wrote about the experience. If you’ve been curious about accepting such an invitation before, hopefully Lieber’s article will satisfy your curiosity — without you having to actually sit through the sales pitch.

Other Recommended Reading

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My new Social Security calculator (beta): Open Social Security