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.
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).
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.
From the Ramsey Show (November 2, 2023):
This disturbing video rant from Dave Ramsey demonstrates an ongoing ignorance of safe withdrawal rates and sequence of returns risk, plus a combative insistence on using 12% average linear returns assumptions over decades.
Dave publicly… pic.twitter.com/Mh88TIoKVQ
— Marvin Bontrager, Ph.D. (@mbontrager5) November 9, 2023
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.
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:
- Educational purposes
- Down payment on a home
- 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.
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.
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 email@example.com. Financial planning inquiries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org]
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