Early Retirement Resources 11/27/2023

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I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! There was a lot of news on the safe withdrawal rate front this month. We’ll start by exploring the key takeaways you need to know.

Online retirement resources

This month I read two outstanding books documenting different paths to financial independence. I’ll start with a brief review of each. And to kick off the holiday season, I’m giving away a copy of each to a few lucky readers.

Resources examine the idea of investing through different economic environments. Finally, I close out with a few articles that document the challenges of aging, as well as one that highlights what is possible at an advanced age with diligence to your health and a little luck.

Let’s dive in!

Safe Withdrawal Rates in the News

Amy Arnott shares The Good News on Safe Withdrawal Rates, highlighting key findings from Morningstar’s State of Retirement Income 2023 (you can find the full paper linked in the article).

Arnott also discussed key findings with her co-authors Christine Benz and John Rekenthaler on The Longview Podcast. What’s a Safe Retirement Spending Rate Today?

The world of pop culture and safe withdrawal rates collided when a video of personal finance guru Dave Ramsey went viral. In it, he advocates for withdrawal rates about two times higher than conventional wisdom and then disparages anyone who disagrees with him.

If you are new to the world of safe withdrawal rate research, Tyler at Portfolio Charts wrote a rebuttal that you must read and understand. Why Dave Ramsey Is Dangerously Wrong About Withdrawal Rates.

This blog spends a lot of time on safe withdrawal rates because understanding this concept is important. There is a lot of bad information out there as the video above shows. Starting with unrealisticallly high expectations can lead to financial disaster.

However, it is also possible to go too far in the other direction. Some people develop a fear that stops them from spending and enjoying their hard earned money in retirement. They spend too little as a result. Christine Benz addresses this, writing We Need to Talk About Your Retirement Spending.

The Journey to Financial Independence

The journey to financial independence can be long. Even the most aggressive paths to FIRE require staying the course for a decade. And despite some people’s perceptions, reaching financial independence is NOT the end of the journey. 

Two of my favorite authors recently published books sharing a variety of stories of people on the path to financial independence. They may motivate you to start your own journey, stay the course, and/or figure out what lies on the other side.

Pathfinders

JL Collins recently published Pathfinders: Extraordinary Stories of People Like You on the Quest for Financial Independence. Collins wrote introductions to each of nine sections of the book based on different themes: Freedom, Debt, Saving, Lifestyle Inflation, Investing, F-You Money, Staying the Course, Family, and End Game. 

There isn’t much new ground covered here if you have read JL’s blog or bestselling book The Simple Path to Wealth. But that is the beauty to his message. Investing doesn’t have to be complicated. His message cuts through the noise and gets to the essence of what matters.

Pathfinders is a collection of essays sent in by his readers that share how they have applied the lessons from the Simple Path on their own journeys to financial independence. The diversity of stories was inspiring and frankly amazing considering his work is written from a U.S.-centric point of view, but the stories in the book come from every corner of the world. 

One that caught my attention was titled “The Freedom of Future Generations” by J. Gonzalez. They shared their background as a former child migrant worker who began working the fields alongside their family at age 8, noting “Generational wealth was not part of our vocabulary.” 

Gonzalez wrote, “I had a strong desire to be the first person in my family to change this.” The essay goes on to share how at age 31 they have accumulated over $300,000, with six nieces and nephews named as beneficiaries, allowing them to use the funds for:

  1. Educational purposes
  2. Down payment on a home
  3. To start a business.

Gonzalez concludes the essay: “The beginning of generational wealth–and with it true freedom.”

Another story I particularly enjoyed was written by Jen from Portland, OR. It highlighted how her family reframed frugality from sacrifice to a joyful way of living. She wrote:

“My kids were still fairly young and oblivious. They didn’t care if their clothes were new or used. They still don’t honestly. They enjoyed helping me with my DIY projects-everything from making their own halloween costumes to creating homemade birthday cards for friends and families….frugality breeds creativity–which can make for fun, intimate memories.”

I loved that because I could picture my own oddly frugal family in every word of it and how some of our best memories have grown out of our unconventional lifestyle like creating our own Halloween costumes. 

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My Money Journey

Earlier this year, I was reading an article by another of my favorite personal finance writers Jonathan Clements in which he mentioned his new book My Money Journey: How 30 People Found Financial Freedom and You Can Too. I emailed him to ask for an advanced copy with an offer to read it and share it on the blog if I thought it was something you would enjoy.

The book came some time when I was away helping with my mom’s hospice care. I opened it when I returned home, briefly skimmed it and put it in a pile with many other things to get back to later. I’m embarrassed to admit that later never came until reading Pathfinders spurred my memory to get to it.

These books have many similarities. Clements also writes an introduction followed by sharing a collection of different people’s journeys to financial independence. In My Money Journey, the stories come from contributors to Clements’ popular HumbleDollar blog. The essays were organized by similar themes: Fierce Frugality, Family First, Slow and Steady, Winding Paths, and Risk and Return.

The essays in My Money Journey are a bit longer, more detailed, and the writers are typically further along in their journeys. They also are written by more established writers who you may be familiar with including Adam Grossman, Charles Ellis, and William Bernstein, each coincidentally featured below in today’s collection of resources, as well as Clements sharing his own journey.

The essays I related to the most came from the Family First section. They included Richard Connor sharing how he learned many of his most important money lessons by observing and helping his parents and in-laws and Matt Christopher White writing candidly and vulnerably about recognizing the need to swallow his pride and recognize when he needed to ask for help.

Your Own Financial Journey

Some of the most popular posts on this blog are the reader case studies. If you enjoy reading about other’s financial journeys for inspiration to get started, for motivation to stay on your own path, or to gain insights from those on the other side of financial independence you would likely enjoy both of these books.

If you would like a chance to win a free copy, let me know in the comments below and if you would prefer one or the other. I’ll randomly select two readers who comment by midnight 11/27. Good luck!

UPDATE: Congratulations to Chris & Paul who were randomly selected to each receive a book.

Change Is The Only Certainty

I recently wrote about the challenge of two competing truths.

  • You need to have the conviction to stay the course through inevitable rough times.
  • You can’t become so rigid that you can’t change your mind.

Adam Grossman outlines his investment approach through changing economic conditions that an investor he respects, Charles Ellis, is calling Sea Change.

William Bernstein was recently interviewed on the Bogleheads on Investing podcast. Among the topics discussed were changing your approach to fixed income investments during times of changing interest rates and inflation and protecting yourself from what he calls the four “deep risks.”

Challenges of Aging

These next couple of articles highlight a topic that has unfortunately become a theme on the blog as both Darrow and I have had to deal with the passing of our mothers over the past couple of months. I struggle with how to write about the topic of aging and the financial and personal challenges it presents. 

On one hand, I don’t want to be another voice that exagerates the likelihood of prolonged needs for long-term care and dwells on the downside of aging. These tend to push too many people to buy long-term care policies which are simultaneously expensive while not providing great coverage for the worst case scenarios you would want to insure.

Simultaneously, I’m acutely aware of how challenging it can be to deal with these end of life issues witnessing them so closely as a caregiver. I was also both touched and had my thinking challenged by Darrow’s recent post Senior Living: What Are Your Options? and by reader’s who generously shared their personal experiences in the comments.

All of that is a long winded way of introducing the next two articles by Reed Abelson and Jordan Rau which I hope challenge your thinking and open up better conversations around this challenging topic.

Facing Financial Ruin as Costs Soar for Eldercare

Adult Children Discuss the Trials of Caring for Their Aging Parents

Age Is a Number

Let’s end with a more upbeat and inspirational story about what is possible later in life. Mary Beth Skylis profiles Alfredo Aliaga, writing This 92-Year-Old Just Became the Oldest Person to Hike the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim.

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[Chris Mamula used principles of traditional retirement planning, combined with creative lifestyle design, to retire from a career as a physical therapist at age 41. After poor experiences with the financial industry early in his professional life, he educated himself on investing and tax planning. After achieving financial independence, Chris began writing about wealth building, DIY investing, financial planning, early retirement, and lifestyle design at Can I Retire Yet? He is also the primary author of the book Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence. Chris also does financial planning with individuals and couples at Abundo Wealth, a low-cost, advice-only financial planning firm with the mission of making quality financial advice available to populations for whom it was previously inaccessible. Chris has been featured on MarketWatch, Morningstar, U.S. News & World Report, and Business Insider. He has spoken at events including the Bogleheads and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants annual conferences. Blog inquiries can be sent to chris@caniretireyet.com. Financial planning inquiries can be sent to chris@abundowealth.com]

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46 Comments

  1. hi Chris thanks for the article. please enter me for receiving a book. I would really enjoy my money journey book. I am trying to be consistently frugal. I do ok, but now being semi retired I really don’t contribute to me savings…I just don’t dip into it. thank you

  2. Sorry to hear about your mom. It shows how financial planning is much easier than life planning. I followed some of Dave Ramsey’s ideas early on in my journey. Dave is great at helping people get out of debt, but his investment advice has always been dangerous. Thankfully people like you are pushing back. His 8% withdrawal strategy is crazy especially since he advocates using managed mutual funds that consistently underperform the indexes. Dave won’t accept the concept of sequence of return risk and his weakness has always been he won’t listen to reason. I would take either book if you are still giving one away. Best to you

  3. Thanks, great article. I always look forward to your monthly emails. I’d be interested in the drawing for the My Money Journey book as I’m very familiar with JL Collins’ material and haven’t consumed much of the HumbleDollar blog yet (although their website looks great). Happy Holidays!

  4. I think that financial/retirement writers (such as yourself) should recognize and emphasize that the 4% rule (or any version higher or lower) is a good tool for planning. However, it is really a lousy plan for retirement. Yearly expenditure needs and wants will almost certainly not be constant. Needing a new car, wanting a European vacation, moving to a warmer (or cooler) environment, or (as you experienced) having to travel and care for elderly parents among other things will cause spending to fluctuate.
    In retirement, the “rule” for spending must be flexible. It should provide a guidepost or a roadmap, but it is not a hard and fast rule.

    1. I agree that these studies are academic and do not accurately reflect real life spending. However they are a good starting point to determine how much you need to retire.

      With regards to your suggestion, both Darrow and I have written about that extensively.

      Best,
      Chris

  5. Hi Chris, I would love to have a copy of Clements’s book if able. Your nuggets above have intrigued me. Thank you!

  6. I would love to share “My Money Journey” with my adult (chronologically but not financially) children, thanks. Happy Holidays to you, your Queen and your Joker.

  7. Hi, Chris!

    I noticed your following comment:
    “On one hand, I don’t want to be another voice that exagerates the likelihood of prolonged needs for long-term care and dwells on the downside of aging. These tend to push too many people to buy long-term care policies which are simultaneously expensive while not providing great coverage for the worst case scenarios you would want to insure.”
    My wife and I signed up for the Cadillac of long-term care insurance with Genworth about 11 years ago. We had to take memory tests just to qualify. We have paid over $50K each in premiums so far. We are both in our late 60’s. Recently, Genworth notified us of a class-action suit against them. They were offering us downgraded insurance policies, and some cash back. Each year they offer us reduced coverage options, probably because we have unlimited coverage. However, the ever-increasing premium is going to really skyrocket over the next couple of years from about $5K to $17K annually for each of us. I know that the $100K plus that we have paid over the last eleven years is sunk cost, and should not factor into our decision about whether to a) stick with the Cadillac, b) take a cheaper reduced-coverage policy or c) scrap LTC insurance altogether. What are your thoughts please?

    1. Congrats on winning My Money Journal Paul! Look for an email from me so I can send it your way.

  8. I enjoy reading both of the authors. I would be honored to receive a copy of either book. Thanks!

  9. Would love a copy of either book! If a preference is needed, I’d go with JL’s book!

    Thanks for all the great content!

  10. Currently in the midst of reading Pathfinders and enjoying it. A story that stood out there is the guy who bought a $1300 mountain bike for his mental well being and is spending more money, delaying FI, but increasing current quality of life. That’s so important, because we don’t know what will happen in the future, so we must balance today to get the most out of life.

  11. Hello Chris…great post! I have dealt with all of the subjects that your post mentions, and agree with your opinions on them. My wife and I were Ramsey FPU Coordinator, and have to agree that I cannot agree with all of Dave’s advice. I am semi-retired, working only one day a week, and daily consume all that is financial/retirement related. Love your posts and appreciate the offer for one of the books. I already have read Jonathan’s book but would love to be put in the running for JL’s. Blessings!

  12. Hi Chris and Darrow,
    I enjoy reading your articles. I have learned a lot via them and your books (Choose FI, Can I Retire Yet, Retiring Sooner). I have read other books as well (e.g., Bogleheads Guide to Investing, Retire Before Mom and Dad, How to Think about money, Simple Path to Wealth). I have borrowed all these books via my library. However, I can’t borrow Clements My Money Journey or JL Collins Pathfinders because they are too new. Thus, I would love a copy of either, preferably Clements My Money Journey, but JL Collins Pathfinders would be fine too. Thank you in advance if you do pick me 🙂 If you don’t that is fine and I will wait to borrow them from my library.

    p.s. I found your guys website about a year ago. What really resonated with me was Chris’s Physical Therapy Background. I am professor at a small college and a lot of my exercise science majors go onto Physical Therapy school.

  13. I would be thrilled to get either of the options. I am certain either would be worth a read and educatonal.

  14. Hi Chris. Enjoyed today’s blog post, thanks for sharing. I’d be happy with either book, please enter me in the drawing. I’m already familiar with JL’s work, but hadn’t heard of, ‘My Money Journey’ – will definitely check out the authors blog. Thanks for offering the free books!

  15. I would love “Pathfinders: extraordinary …”
    I read “The simple path to wealth” and it has triggered my husband to resign from his university position and become a traveling doctor.
    I am certain that we would benefit from another JL Collins book.

  16. Thanks for the great resources! I’d be interested in My Money Journey as I’m pretty far along in my journey to FI and looking for more nuanced details vs basic concepts.

  17. Hi Chris,

    What a phenomenal newsletter~ I’d like to request the Pathfinders book as that looks really interesting. I’m a retired clinical social worker who enjoys reading people’s stories about their financial journeys. I enjoyed reading the article about Dave Ramsey and your even-handed approach to dealing with his rant. Thanks again~
    Barbara Boustead

  18. I found this web site several years ago and always enjoy the topics covered and the way in which you both, Chris and Darrow, write. Condolences to you both on the recent loss of your mothers. May wonderful memories ease the sorrow you both face. I would love to have a copy of My Money Journey, if I am fortunate to be one of your selected few. Thank you.

  19. Chris,

    My Money Journey sounds like a good read, and how nice of you to have this fun giveaway! I’d like to take this opportunity to mention I’ve been an avid reader of articles written by you and Darrow over many years, and I always seem to find some new insight. I hope to retire by the end of next year and the can I retire, yet blog has been a tremendous proponent, so thanks very much.

  20. Nothing is more empowering and energizing than reading real life stories to FI

    Would enjoy either book

  21. Love your blog! Keep up the great work! I’d be really happy to win either book. I follow both these blogs regularly.

  22. Chris, I just read the inspiring tale of Alfredo Aliaga’s Rim-to-Rim hike from our hotel room in Florida. We are here to celebrate Alan’s uncle’s 100th birthday. The two of them share the same birthday (today, November 28th), so the family will be enjoying a double celebration today. We all know our bodies and, perhaps, our minds inevitably change as we age. But a 92 year old Grand Canyon hiker who takes selfies with fans and a 100 year old uncle who laughs a lot and enjoys his family go a long way toward raising the bar for all of us. Thanks for highlighting Mr. Aliaga’s achievement!

  23. Either book would be a welcome to retirement guide for me, thanks for offering them to your readers. I retired this year and loved every moment so far, living and structuring my day on my own terms, or being flexible and helping my neighbors as needed with a project. I’m still learning how to retire, but so far so good! Your road map has been helpful to provide options and suggestions for me and I appreciate your work, thank you Chris.

  24. Chris, as a big fan of your writing and the website, I greatly appreciate your review of My Money Journey, and mentioning my essay. I’ve learned so much from you and Darrow and look forward to your articles.

Comments are closed.