September 2020 Best of the Web

Want To Reach FI Sooner? Join more than 18,000 others and get new tips and strategies from Can I Retire Yet? every week. Subscription is free. Unsubscribe anytime:

We have thought provoking and actionable resources this month. Let’s jump right in.

The Best

Bill Bengen updated his original research that led to the 4% rule. His findings were far more conservative than conventional wisdom at that time. I start by sharing his recently updated research. His results may surprise you.

Articles explore a variety of topics that will impact your retirement security including social security, investment portfolio management, and annuities. We also look at early retirement’s “open secret.”

Aging gracefully is a challenge. We explore how the pandemic has hit baby boomers particularly hard and a timeless challenge that many of us will face.

I address the concept of giving more generously and effectively. I’ve been thinking of ways to do more for others. Read to the bottom to see how this may include me giving more to you personally.

The 4% Rule

Is a 4% withdrawal rate in retirement safe? For years, retirement experts have been saying that with high stock market valuations and extreme low interest rates the 4% Rule is obsolete and anything but safe.

This month, Bill Bengen updated his research that led to the 4% Rule to factor in CAPE ratios and inflation to better predict maximum safe withdrawal rates for those beginning retirement in different economic conditions. 

His conclusions may surprise you. Bill Bengen Revisits The 4% Rule Using Shiller’s CAPE Ratio, Michael Kitces Research.

Simplifying the Complex

Mike Piper answered the question How Do Social Security Inflation Adjustments Work?

JoeTomlinson writes The Unimportance of Asset Allocation in Retirement Planning. He makes  a compelling case that once you have a reasonable portfolio, at best, you’re probably wasting your time trying to fine tune it.

Harry Sit shares the open secret of many of us in the FIRE community, writing Positive Cash Flow: Open Secret in Early Retirement.

Jonathan Clements on…

Jonathan Clements is one of my favorite personal finance writers for the constant reminders to ignore the noise and focus on things that actually matter.

This month on his Humble Dollar blog he shares the importance of knowing what you don’t know, writing Playing Dumb.

I often talk and write about the need to learn the rules of personal finance. This month on The Evidence Based Investor, Clements asks Are You Still Playing by the Old Rules?

Another frequent contributor on these “Best of” roundups is financial planner Allan Roth. He’s apparently a fan of Clements as well. Clements’ writing led Roth to take a closer look at single premium immediate annuities and he was surprised what he found. Roth writes, A Skeptic Takes a Second Look at SPIAs.

Challenges of Aging

The pandemic has been challenging for everyone. Janet Siroto writes that older adults are facing unique challenges. ‘I Feel Cheated’ – How Boomers Are Dealing With the COVID-19 Curveball.

Last summer I reviewed Cameron Huddleston’s book about having hard conversations with your aging parents. She wrote the book to prevent others from finding themselves where she was, surprised by and unprepared for the task of becoming caretaker for her mother. Her mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at a relatively young age. 

Huddleston recently wrote an important blog post sharing her experience over the past decade, What It’s Really Like When Your Parent Has Alzheimer’s Disease

If you’re a parent or an adult child with aging parents, this isn’t something to think about while procrastinating. Start having these conversations now, before it’s too late!

Giving With Impact

Most of us start off equating the question “Can I retire yet? with the question “Do I have enough money to retire?” However, money is only one component of the retirement decision. For me at least, it has been the easiest piece of the puzzle.

This month, I found two resources that have me thinking about how to better give time and money.

Steven Bertoni writes The Billionaire Who Wanted to Die Broke… Is Now Officially Broke. This is a fascinating story of 89 year old Charles Feeney who set aside about $2 million dollars for his and his wife’s retirements. They recently finished giving away the other $8 billion plus dollars of their fortune!

This story is fascinating at many levels. The one thing that really jumped out at me is that he set a specific and quantifiable goal of giving away his fortune before he turned 90. Even the best and most important goals can get pushed to the backburner waiting for a better time if not given urgency.

For those that enjoy audio content, this interview from Peter Attia’s Drive podcast made me think about ways of giving time and money for maximal effect. I especially loved the idea that in these hyper-partisan times that no one has a monopoly on good or effective ideas. If you’re truly doing good, effective, and impactful work then everyone will disagree with you at some point. John Arnold: The most prolific philanthropist you may not have heard of.

Maybe I Can Help

Nearly three years ago, I left my career as a physical therapist. Since then, our family has moved across the country and adapted to a new way of life. I undertook and completed the passion project of writing and releasing a book.

I’ve struggled to determine what’s next. Dealing with the pandemic over the past few months, I’ve found the uncertainty crippling at times.

I’ve always been happiest and felt I was answering my life’s calling when helping, teaching, and serving others. With limited opportunities for person-to-person contact, opportunities to do things I’d planned in my community are limited.

I’ve been kicking around starting to do one-on-one financial coaching or pursuing a CFP designation. But committing to anything feels overwhelming right now.

I recently discussed these challenges with my friend Jillian Johnsrud. She encouraged me to stop thinking and start doing. She shared a motto that has helped her reach out to others and get started, “I have an hour, maybe I can help…”

So, I’m taking her advice. I set aside an hour a week over the next five weeks on Wednesdays from 2-3 PM Mountain time to meet with a few blog readers. I want to learn what you’re struggling with and see if I can help. I am not a financial advisor or accountant so I can’t give any specific investing or tax advice. 

Aside from that, I’m open to discuss anything and help you in any way I can on your journey to financial independence, transitioning to early retirement, or any other area where you’re stuck, struggling and would like to chat about it. Maybe I can help.

Click the link to grab one of the five spots to chat. First come, first served. No charge. No strings attached.

*** Update*** The spots are filled so I removed the link. I may open up more spots at different times in the future, so keep an eye out. I look forward to chatting with those of you who scheduled. — Chris

* * *

Valuable Resources

  • The Best Retirement Calculators can help you perform detailed retirement simulations including modeling withdrawal strategies, federal and state income taxes, healthcare expenses, and more. Can I Retire Yet? partners with two of the best.
  • Free Travel or Cash Back with credit card rewards and sign up bonuses.
  • Monitor Your Investment Portfolio
    • Sign up for a free Empower account to gain access to track your asset allocation, investment performance, individual account balances, net worth, cash flow, and investment expenses.
  • Our Books

* * *

[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 Financial planning inquiries can be sent to]

* * *

Disclosure: Can I Retire Yet? has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Can I Retire Yet? and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on the website are from advertisers. Compensation may impact on how and where card products appear on the site. The site does not include all card companies or all available card offers. Other links on this site, like the Amazon, NewRetirement, Pralana, and Personal Capital links are also affiliate links. As an affiliate we earn from qualifying purchases. If you click on one of these links and buy from the affiliated company, then we receive some compensation. The income helps to keep this blog going. Affiliate links do not increase your cost, and we only use them for products or services that we're familiar with and that we feel may deliver value to you. By contrast, we have limited control over most of the display ads on this site. Though we do attempt to block objectionable content. Buyer beware.


  1. Chris,
    I understand what you mean by finding things to do while we are going through the pandemic. I retired last October with the idea of traveling at first but I had to cancel due to the shelter in place. During the past 6 months, I have met a new boyfriend and moved into my own apartment. It’s a low-cost senior housing apartment and I couldn’t be happier. I was renting a room in a house for 7 years and I longed to have my own place and here I am. I exercise all the time, do some part-time work, and spend time with my boyfriend. My life isn’t perfect but I m healthy, happy, and in good spirits. I am 66 years young and have many more to go. I enjoy reading your emails. Thank you for your insight on retiring.

    1. Thank you for reading and sharing your story Carmen. I would say I’m in a similar place. Certainly no regrets that we took the path we did and are in the position we are in. Just a bit disorienting to be living in a world so different from the one we had spent so much time planning for.


  2. Hi Chris – I’ve been following you since your earlier blog and always find your posts insightful and helpful. I would love to chat at some point if you decide to go down the path of consulting and have availability. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for reading and sharing the kind words Nicole. The one thing I miss from my career as a physical therapist is the personal interaction.

      Things I had started doing and was planning to do more of in my community are now on hold indefinitely. We also built a life that enabled us to travel freely and host people in our home comfortably as our long-time friends and family live all over the country. That also now seems like something that won’t be happening much in the immediate future.

      It also is nice to get ongoing feedback when working with people. I know from comments and emails that my writing is helping people, but it is a really slow and inconsistent feedback loop. I also feel like writing helps many people, but at a more shallow level as opposed to one-on-one work where you limit yourself to helping only a few people, but have the ability to go really deep.

      All of that is a long answer to say that I see myself doing some type of consulting, coaching, advising in the long run. But with a 7 y/o and the uncertainty of the pandemic, committing to anything right now feels overwhelming. So stay tuned and on the look out for these more random and limited opportunities to chat in a way that makes sense for now.


  3. HI Chris,
    If you decide to pursue a CFP designation, you thoughts here would be nice:
    1) Is it worth it for self-directed financial planning folks to pursue a CFP to better manage their own personal finances (or a least some sections)?
    2) If hiring a financial planner, how important do you think the CFP designation is?

    1. 1.) Good question. I really want to know that I have the knowledge of the CFP and the classes can be taken for a few thousand dollars (or could just read the texts and totally self direct the learning). I’m debating on whether it is worth it to have letters to put behind my name. I’m also not sure how I would fill the experience requirement to obtain the CFP designation, as I have 0 desire to ever work for anyone again and don’t really want to actually manage people’s money on an ongoing basis.
      2.) It depends on your needs. I think CFP is an indicator of a minimal level of competence and knowledge. However, many CFPs are thought to think conventionally and the CFP focuses a lot on financial products vs. process. I think process and being able to think outside the box is more important if you want a different result than the masses. And if you plan creatively and save well, you probably don’t need many financial products. Many people need a coach for accountability, behavioral modification, and basic education. I don’t know how you would identify a good one, as basically anyone can call themselves a coach (or financial advisor for that matter).

      Whichever route I may go, I’m assuming I’ll have built trust and credibility going in with this audience. But to find someone off the street who will be a good match…I think that is a tough question.

      Hope that helps.

Comments are closed.