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I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. In this crazy year, it was nice to hit pause and reflect on all that I still have to be grateful for.

The Best

One thing I’m grateful for is the number of amazing people who provide useful information to help us save more, invest smarter, and retire sooner. It is a challenge each month to pare down my list of the best content to share with you.

This month, we go deep on topics including safe withdrawal rates, Roth IRA conversions, Social Security benefits, underfunded pensions, and geoarbitrage.

We have articles that cover timely topics as well as sharing some timeless wisdom. Perhaps nothing is more timely and challenging than dealing with spiking COVID-19 cases while colder temperatures and shorter days are pushing us inside. I close with some awesome free resources and frugal fun ideas to fill your winter days.

Enjoy this month’s selections.

So What Is the Safe Withdrawal Rate?

The past two months I kicked off these “Best of” posts with links to Bill Bengen’s recent work. He recently updated his original research that led to the “4% Rule” that is now popular in retirement planning.

Big ERN put Bengen’s new research under the microscope. He asked and answered Can we raise our Safe Withdrawal Rate when inflation is low?

Ironically, just a few weeks earlier Big ERN wrote Do we really have to lower our Safe Withdrawal Rate to 0.5% now?

My two take homes from these articles, and Big ERN’s outstanding Safe Withdrawal Rate Series in general are:

  1. People want simplified, one size fits all answers for how much they can spend in retirement. Unfortunately, they don’t exist.
  2. The most extreme or oversimplified viewpoints get the most attention. That doesn’t make them correct. Reader beware.

Looking Deeper

Our next few articles provide in depth analysis of topics that are too often given superficial treatment.

Paul at The Good Money Life writes Optimizing Roth IRA Conversion Strategies.

Richard Connor explains taxation of Social Security benefits with That Monthly Check.

Ben Carlson asks What’s Going to Happen to All the Underfunded Pensions?

Harry Sit asks if he should Relocate Out of California to Escape Higher Taxes After Retirement? Regardless of where you currently live, this is a good article for anyone considering domestic geoarbitrage to lower expenses in retirement.

Timely Information

Mike Piper summarized IRS information that will be important as we prepare for next year: 2021 Tax Brackets, Standard Deductions, and Other Changes.

The past few weeks we’ve had reason for optimism as different pharmaceutical companies have released promising results of COVID-19 vaccine trials. I found this conversation from Peter Attia’s Drive Podcast extremely helpful to understand vaccines. Particularly helpful was learning how the process of creating a vaccine, which normally takes 1-2 decades, could safely be completed in less than a year. Warning: This conversation between two physicians is at times technical and hard to follow for a layman, but it’s worth the effort. Paul Offit, M.D.: An expert perspective on COVID-19 vaccines.

Most of us altered travel plans in 2020 due to the pandemic. Scott Medintz writes Advice on Getting Your Canceled Flights Refunded, From People Who Did It.

Timeless Wisdom

Allan Roth shares The 7 biggest shockers from my four decades of financial planning.

Dave at Accidental FIRE asks Do You Live In A 15 minute neighborhood? Though I never heard this terminology before, this is what we were seeking when we chose our retirement location. Finding a 15 minute neighborhood immensely improved our quality of life.

I learned more new terminology around another timeless concept. From the blog Millers on FIRE: Wealth Guilt – How I Overcame It.

As I was doing some work on the blog this month, I came across an article Darrow wrote four years ago, a few weeks after the last presidential election. The world is a different place today, but the take home messages are as applicable as ever. My Political Travels.

Dark Times

There’s no doubt this is a tough time. Days keep getting colder and shorter. COVID-19 cases and deaths are spiking. Our holiday traditions and social interactions are being altered.

If you’re thinking this season of life kind of sucks, I won’t argue with you. Instead, I’ll share Sigal Samuel’s work: How to make this winter not totally suck, according to psychologists.

Frugal Resources to Bring a Little Light

I’ll close with a few frugal ideas to get you through the winter.

I’ve been using this shoulder season where I’ve been stuck inside to declutter the house and get rid of things I no longer need. I recently discovered our local Facebook Buy Nothing Group. You can find your closest group by going on Facebook and searching “Buy Nothing Groups near me.” 

I had an awesome first experience. In less than an hour, we went through and loaded two large boxes of books and toys our daughter outgrew, took a few pictures of them, and posted them to the group. By the next morning, another family who will be able to enjoy them picked them up off of our porch. 

I also came across two free apps this month: hoopla and kanopy. Both can be used with streaming services like Roku, Apple TV, or an Amazon Fire stick. With both of these apps, you create an account using your local library card to unlock a wide variety of movies, documentaries, and books. All are available for free through the partnership between the apps and libraries without having to leave your home.

Since publishing my book last October, Choose FI publishing has released two additional books: Raising Your Money-Savvy Family For Next Generation Financial Independence and The Golden Albatross: How to Determine If Your Pension Is Worth It. If you’re using this season to get your financial house in order, you can now bundle any two or all three of these books together for a discount off the already low price at the Choose FI Book Store.

A Little Help Please!

Finally, we are a family that loves to play cards and board games. That’s always been our frugal habit.

We’ve been playing Code Names with our family across the country via FaceTime or Zoom since the pandemic started. It’s a lot of fun and works well as long as the parties on both ends of the call have a copy of the game. 

We’re looking for other ideas to diversify our game collection. Have you found other board games that work well when playing remotely? Has anyone found a great app or other method that lets you play cards from different locations?

Please share recommendations in the comments. Help us and your fellow readers connect with our families and friends until we can safely gather together in person again. 

Thanks for reading. Stay safe. Be well. And have a great month!

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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. Now he draws on his experience to write about wealth building, DIY investing, financial planning, early retirement, and lifestyle design at Can I Retire Yet? Chris has been featured on MarketWatch, Morningstar, U.S. News & World Report, and Business Insider. He is also the primary author of the book Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence. You can reach him at chris@caniretireyet.com.]

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