June 2020 Best of the Web

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Can 2020 get any more bizarre? In the past month COVID-19 cases and deaths have been on the rise as states reopen. Social unrest is sweeping across the nation. Unemployment is at levels that three months ago would seem unfathomably high. 

The Best

So naturally the stock market…continued its massive bull run towards new all time highs?!?

Some things remain the same as they’ve been. Creating income is a challenge for retirees in this low yield environment. Determining what you want life to look like after retirement can be hard as well. We start with some outstanding resources to address those challenges.

Some things are new. This month I share two new books to help you prepare for retirement. Articles address the historic stock market decline and rebound over the past three months and greater than normal market uncertainty going forward. We also address new strategies for credit card rewards.

We share some ideas to pay your financial good fortune forward to the next generation. I’ll close with resources that can help us all move forward from these challenging times.

Retirement Income

Christine Benz writes Retirees: If You Love Income, You Should Love Cashflow Even More.

Steve Vernon advises to Boost Your Risk-Protected Retirement Income With a Social Security Bridge Payment.

Mike Piper provides a new way to visualize Social Security optimization with Open Social Security: New Feature & Social Security Planning Takeaways.

NewRetirement’s Steve Chen talked with Glen Nakamoto, a DIY retirement planner. It is a fascinating conversation that demonstrates the challenges and complexity of converting assets into cash flow as required when Building a Retirement Paycheck.

Meeting Retirement Needs

Income is not the only need that retirees face. From the ESI Money blog, Three Retirement Needs You Must Satisfy.

New Books

I review a fair number of books each year. Every time I write a book review I inform the author that I will only review the book if I read it in full, like it, and feel it will add value for our audience.

For every book that I review, I turn down or start but don’t finish at least 4-5 other books. This is because book reviews take a lot of time and energy. I don’t want to waste my time or yours reading and writing a review for a book that I don’t feel that I’ll enjoy reading and that you’ll benefit from.

This month, I want to make a rare exception to help publicize two books that I have not actually read.

The first is The Golden Albatross: How To Determine If Your Pension is Worth It. The author blogs semi-anonymously as Grumpus Maximus and has written a guest post on this topic for us in the past.

I didn’t want to invest the time on this book because like many of you, I don’t have access to a pension. Based on my knowledge of the author’s past work and passion for this topic, this is a book that is likely worth your attention if you do have the good fortune of having a pension.

Todd Tresidder also released a revised version of his book How Much Money Do I Need To Retire?.

Again, I didn’t take the time to read the updated version of this book. However, I have read the original version multiple times years ago. The original is a great book that transformed how I think about that important question, and I’m confident the new version will be worth your time as well.

Market Madness

In the face of market volatility and uncertainty, Allan Roth writes The Question Every Advisor Must Answer.

Tyler at Portfolio Charts examines which portfolios did better after this and past crises, writing Welcome to the Big Bounce.

Jeremy at Go Curry Cracker! shares So That’s What It Feels Like To Lose $1 Million

Changing Credit Card Strategies

In last month’s round up, I shared an article about travel reward credit cards. Several readers emailed asking me to publish the post I was planning to release in March to share my credit card strategy. 

That strategy no longer makes sense. At the moment, I don’t have a credit card strategy. 

The pandemic has negatively impacted airlines and hotels more than most businesses. I’m not sure when I’ll want to travel again, what providers will still be in business when I do, and whether they’ll devalue these rewards.

My friend Jared Casazza is much more knowledgeable than me on this topic. He writes Cashing Out Instead of Keeping Points for Credit Card Rewards During COVID-19.

Sophia Kunthara reports Credit Card Companies Expanding Options for Cash-Back Reward Programs.

If you’re interested in credit card rewards, researching the best cash back options probably makes more sense than pursuing travel rewards until we have a better idea what the future looks like. I may cover this topic if I think the cash back rewards justify the effort.

Pay It Forward

I recently shared that I was excited to have the opportunity to speak to physical therapy students about financial independence at my alma mater, The University of Pittsburgh, this summer. 

My trip east and their summer session were cancelled. So that talk is postponed indefinitely. 

Carl Jensen, who writes the blog 1500 Days to Freedom, is going to be speaking to a class at the University of Colorado. He shared the theme of his planned talk, writing What I Wish I Knew.

The amazing thing is that a lot of the things that move the needle towards achieving financial independence are really simple…if only people knew. 

A perfect example: Brian X. Chen wrote How Much Are We Paying For Our Subscription Services. A Lot. The theme is consistent with Darrow’s classic post from this site, Recurring Expenses: Why “A Dollar a Day” is Really $9,000.

For those looking to pay it forward to the next generation in your own homes, Jim Blankenship advises Open a Roth IRA for Your Child.

A Moment For Silence

This past month, we’ve all seen the worst of our country. Racial tensions flared in response to several incidents of police violence against black citizens.

There is a sentiment that we all need to get political. Anyone with a public platform needs to speak out. I’ve seen the assertion that “silence is violence.” 

I disagree with this rhetoric. Sometimes silence means knowing that you don’t have a clue what to say to make things better, and you don’t want to be another voice making things worse.

I prefer Mahatma Gandhi’s take on remaining quiet. He said, “Speak only if it improves upon the silence.”

I’m currently reading Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World by former Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, MD. In it, Murthy shares a lesson he learned as a child by observing his parents. He writes “…to truly listen, you have to meet people where they are, emotionally and physically, however long that takes.”

Silence is necessary if you are actually going to listen to other perspectives, learn, and improve. We don’t need more ill informed voices screaming over one another. We need more understanding, empathy, and grace.

I don’t pretend to fully understand life experiences that are different than my own. So I choose to listen.

This outstanding conversation between Jamila Souffrant and Shawn Rochester from the Journey to Launch podcast highlights challenges that black Americans have to overcome to succeed financially that the rest of us simply don’t. Listening is a great starting point to develop empathy and understanding for an experience many of us haven’t lived.

A Moment For Grace

I always try to end these round up posts with something uplifting, inspirational, or fun that I’ve found on the internet. This month, I’m going with something relevant to our current world, but literally from my own back yard.

Amidst nationwide anti-police protests, I saw American flags and blue ribbons throughout my neighborhood every time I left home over the past couple of weeks. They were up to honor a 24 year-old Ogden city police officer who grew up in the neighborhood. He was shot and killed responding to a domestic violence call.

I urge you to take a minute to read the words of his family. They found grace amidst mourning their son while seeing the profession he died serving vilified. 

I hope we all can follow their lead in finding grace for ourselves and others. Wishing you all health, prosperity, peace, love, and a better month ahead.

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Valuable Resources

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  • Our Books

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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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  1. Chris,

    Can you share what exactly you liked in Todd’s first edition of his “How much money do you need?” because I’m honestly surprised to hear this? I think I read the same book (years ago) and I found it to contain fluff and no actionable information at all. OTOH, I remember reading in some of your articles about how you were quite clueless about the retirement savings when you started your journey. If that’s the time when you read Todd’s book then I can see it being beneficial to a rookie, but if a person knows a reasonable amount and has heard of Bogleheads? I think Todd’s book would be a waste of his/her time and money. It’s more like informercial to woo people to buy his services I would say.

    I would be also curious to flip through his updated version to see if he improved it, but I don’t think it will happen unless it’s free.
    I understand that you like to help him advertise his book, but before promoting it people would appreciate some good actionable opinion on how exactly he helped you. Otherwise, it’s an empty advertisement. I understand that PF bloggers have sort of formed their own bubbles (as a group of similarly minded individuals) to help promote each other’s work, but they shouldn’t underestimate their readership either. We already support you guys with clicks so you earn ad revenue, but we like to get good value when we pay out of our own pockets. At least that’s the case.

    Sorry if this comment sounds harsh. I just don’t like sugarcoating.

    1. Totally fair question. That’s why I shared my approach when reviewing and recommending books. Here is a full review I wrote of the book on my old blog, before I ever met Todd or had any relationship with him. http://eatthefinancialelephant.com/how-much-money-do-i-need-to-retire/

      I’m a little embarrassed at how bad my writing and ability to format a blog post was back then, but the opinions shared still are accurate and relevant.


  2. I’m a regular reader of your blog and especially enjoy the end of the month Best of the Web. Not all of the articles you provide links for are relevant to my situation, but I don’t think that is the point as you offer a wide variety of topics and viewpoints. I always learn something. Thanks!

      1. I feel the same way. Don’t let the lack of comments make you think these “Best of the Web” articles aren’t as valuable.

        1. Based on the numbers, lots of people get value from these. I do appreciate feedback though as it helps me to see what people are getting value from. I particularly value feedback on the podcasts b/c I don’t see nearly as many click throughs and so not sure if people aren’t audio consumers or (I assume) that if interested they go to them on their phones.

  3. I read a lot of books too, though mainly business and personal development not specific to finances. I agree that Todd Tressider’s work is worth checking out. In addition to the updated Retire book, he also wrote a book on Leverage which I found quite useful b/c most people only think of debt or financial leverage, maybe time leverage, but Tressider outlines several other examples of leverage, such as your network being a form of leverage as it amplifies your message.

  4. My reading and summation of the latest financial viewpoints for future ROI are sobering. First, we are fortunate to be within the U.S. system of excellence for truthful financial information. The U.S. is the zone for the international community to safeguard assets and maximize return. At least that is the common wisdom to date. So, returns on assets will be dismal according to most analyses. Bonds will not keep up to inflation. Stocks will float around and basically go sideways. This appears to be our decade of expectations.

    I read the term financial stagnation, and after reading up on the economics of such an environment we sure could have this for our future. It’s the Japanese phenomenon. Actually, this is expected for highly leveraged aging countries. How to beat this from occurring? Culture a pro-growth business environment for entrepreneurs, investors, and inventors. Decrease government intervention, over-regulation, and maximize freedom to those who are motivated by doing better. Increase migration and hopefully citizenship of those people who have ability to make things happen.

    What can we do with our personal investments to be in a better position if either stagnation or growth occurs? What financial experts are saying. Small Cap Value did better during the continuing Japanese stock malaise. Small companies can beat the bad financial environment at least to do so more than large-cap. Forget bonds and just live with the high volatility of stocks. Utilize cash for dry powder and be quick to the draw given the speed of most turnarounds of the present day. Invest in real estate or other financial instruments an example being your debt or talents. Wow, quite a different financial environment. I wonder if active funds will do better in this environment? Would balanced funds be more capable to utilize dry powder in quick turnarounds? Will Value beat growth given natural lower drawdown? I’m searching to make a retirement adjustment to investments. This is the new normal to not accept the common wisdom such as Bogels “just stand there”. But, better to just stand there than to make reckless changes to the portfolio. I’,m thinking we need to make some portfolio changes to gird up for a more profitable future. What do you think Chris?

    1. Forrest,

      I agree with most of what you write, but mostly this statement: “But, better to just stand there than to make reckless changes to the portfolio.” I believe in being globally diversified with stocks and in having small/value stocks to balance the tilt towards large/growth stocks in total market funds as well as holding bonds and cash. I recently wrote about further diversifying by adding a little gold to our portfolio.

      All that said, I don’t think diversification is a panacea for the problems you describe. I also don’t pretend to know which, if any, of those asset classes will do better than a simple S&P or US total market fund. The point is to be in position to profit in most any scenario.

      I think we all need to lower expectations and not reach to take risks that aren’t prudent. If investments perform as you and I seem to expect, then we’ll be OK b/c we planned for it. If they perform closer to historical standards, then that would be a pleasant surprise. I’d prefer that to being too optimistic with predictions and being surprised in the other direction.


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