Financial Independence Retire Early (aka FIRE) is one of those big personal finance goals that has gotten a lot of attention recently. The idea of being financially independent, choosing when and if to work, is attractive for many people, especially when there is so much uncertainty in the world.
To be financially independent means that your investments (whether that be stocks, bonds, GICs, real estate etc) can provide enough income to cover annual expenses indefinitely. FIRE enthusiasts typically use the 4% rule as a guideline for how much income they can generate from their portfolio each year. The idea being that a person can draw 4% of their initial portfolio balance, adjusted for inflation each year, and have reasonably high chance of not running out of money after 30-years.
By using the 4% rule we can generate a rough target for FIRE. The basic idea is that you can take your annual expenses and multiply by 25 and that is your “FIRE number“. This is the amount needed in investments to safely retire early (although with low interest rates and low bond returns at the moment this rule is often thought to be too risky).
But despite it being a simple concept, reaching FIRE is a difficult task. It requires a high savings rate, low expenses, and lots of time.
FIRE is made easier with an above average income, which allows for a higher savings rate, but it is still a difficult task. Reaching FIRE means living well below your means for an extended period of time.
This combination of low spending, high savings, and a long time frame can lead to what’s known as “the boring middle”.
In this post we’ll briefly explain what FIRE is, why it’s so easy in the beginning, and why “the boring middle” could be a sign that there is an imbalance in the plan, one where the means may not justify the end.
Can you retire when the stock market is at an all time high? For many soon-to-be retirees this is an important question. It can be extremely nerve-racking to “pull the plug” and leave a stable income when investment values are at their peak.
But is this really a concern? Is it bad to retire when markets are at an all time high?
For many soon-to-be retirees, their investment portfolio will make up an important part of their future retirement income. Even retirees with a pension or full CPP/OAS will often have a small investment portfolio to support additional spending in retirement.
Many retirees worry about retiring at an all time high. They worry about a large decline in investment values soon after retirement. They believe this will dramatically impact their retirement plan. But is this concern justified? Or is this one of those biases that we’re all susceptible to?
Working for a few additional years would certainly help solidify a soon-to-be retirees financial plan, but at what cost? That lost time can never be recovered and could represent some “prime retirement years”. That income may also never be needed if everything goes to plan.
As it turns out, we’re actually at an all time high quite often, and the impact of retiring at an all time high isn’t even close to what we’d assume…
The 4% Rule is a common personal finance rule. It suggests that a retiree can spend 4% of their initial retirement portfolio each year, adjusted for inflation, and have a reasonably high chance of success.
When talking about the 4% Rule, a retirement period is considered a “success” when the retiree doesn’t run out of money by the end of retirement. Any investment balance above $0 is considered as success, even if that’s just $1.
By using this safe withdrawal rate, the success rate of a retirement plan could be as high 90%-95%+. This means that during 5%-10% of historical periods a retiree could run out of money if faced with the same sequence of returns in the future.
But… this also means that during 90%-95% of historical periods a retiree will end up with money left over, sometimes a lot of money.
This is the unspoken downside of the 4% Rule. By aiming for a high success rate of 90%-95% we’re often building plans for the very worst-case scenarios. By using the 4% Rule we’re planning for a very poor sequence of returns in early retirement, we’re planning for below average returns for 5, 10, 15+ year periods, or we’re planning for high inflation that is significantly above the average.
But what happens if we get average returns, average inflation, and steady growth year over year… well… we could die with millions in the bank.
No one wants to be “the richest person in the graveyard”, so what can be done about the fact that 90%-95% of the time the 4% Rule will leave us with lots and lots of money in late retirement?
There are a couple options to consider but first, let’s look at the typical “success rate” analysis that we do in a retirement plan and what “success” actually means.
The Guaranteed Income Supplement is a government benefit program focused on low-income retirees. It is based on income and is available to low-income Old Age Security (OAS) recipients. It is a non-taxable benefit meant to protect seniors from low levels of retirement income.
The GIS benefit provides income support to over 2.1 million retirees. It provides support to nearly 1 in 3 seniors in Canada. In a given year the Guaranteed Income Supplement will provide over $13 billion in benefits!
GIS is one of the most generous benefits in Canada and because of this it also comes with some extremely high “clawback” rates. GIS benefits get reduced as household income increases. This reduction is called a “clawback” rate because it “claws back” benefits from higher income households. At a certain income level, depending on the household situation, all benefits will be clawed back.
This “clawback” rate is important because it can reach 50% to 75%. This makes low-income retirement planning an important consideration. Not all income triggers the GIS clawback so it’s important to understand where retirement income is coming from and how GIS will be affected. With the average GIS recipient only receiving 54% of the maximum these clawbacks have a big impact.
In this post we’ll review what the Guaranteed Income Supplement is, how it works, how much you could receive, and how the GIS “clawback” works. We’ll also cover some common types of retirement income and how they can affect GIS benefits.
A lot of focus gets placed on the BIG personal finance decisions, buying a home, using a TFSA versus an RRSP, which investments to use etc etc. But really, it’s the small decisions, the ones we make daily, weekly, monthly, these are the decisions that have the largest impact on our personal finances.
When we look at someone’s financial journey, it’s typically not made up of leaps and bounds but rather small steps and steady progress. There typically isn’t one defining moment that leads to someone’s wealth. It’s usually a repeated process of saving and investing.
Like a snowball, wealth usually starts small, but it builds quickly. It generates more and more momentum as it gets larger until it becomes something unstoppable.
To build a wealth snowball is simple. It requires commitment in the beginning, with new contributions made on a regular basis. It requires growth, those contributions need to be invested and any investment income needs to be reinvested. And it requires time, time for the wealth snowball to gain momentum.
Given those three factors, at some point in the future, the wealth snowball will be driven not by contributions but by growth. New contributions will be dwarfed by annual investment growth and the snowball will grow faster and faster.
The important thing when building a wealth snowball is to stay on track, ensure spending is less than income, ensure the leftover gets invested regularly, and keep focused on the long-term because it takes a bit of time before growth overtakes contributions.
Children are expensive. That’s something we can all appreciate. But just how expensive are they? What is the cost of raising a child? What is the cost of raising 2, 3, 4+ children?
For new parents, or soon-to-be parents, the cost of raising a child can be a real guessing game. As parents to two young children, my wife and I felt the same uncertainty when we started our family. We had to guess about how much it would cost and what kind of expenses we needed to anticipate.
We anticipated some costs, especially in the first few years, but we never took the time to look at the total cost of raising a child, we just didn’t know where to begin.
As many parents can attest to, raising a child is expensive. There are many costs when raising a child. From diapers to daycare, food to formula, the total cost of raising a child is shockingly large.
The estimated cost of raising a child in Canada is $203,550! Wow!
Plus, this estimate doesn’t even include educations savings like RESP contributions. Add in enough RESP contributions to max out the $7,200 government grant and you’re at a total cost of $239,550 to raise a child in Canada!!!
With each child costing nearly a quarter million dollars, anticipating these costs becomes a very important part of a financial plan. It’s also important to realize this this quarter million is very front loaded, with a lot of the cost coming in the early years. For new families this is important.
When building a plan, we want to anticipate these costs on a year-by-year basis, we want to understand when these expenses will occur, and we want to plan for possible cash flow issues down the road.
We also want to help new parents understand that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, because for parents with 1, 2, or 3+ young children, the cost of daycare and diapers can feel pretty overwhelming.
Lastly, we also want to anticipate government benefits and tax credits, both can help offset a large percentage of the cost of raising a child. This is an important part of a family plan and can be worth thousands of dollars per year, so we don’t want to ignore them.