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It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again

Tom Gayner once commented that the secret to investing successfully is surviving the first thirty years. He was half joking and half serious, but his reasoning was sound. He suggested, after that length of time an investor would have experienced several market trends and cycles and he ought to be able to recognize their recurrence.

Since the new year, market participants have seen the following:

  • a hike in interest rates
  • a 13.5% decline in the S&P 500
  • a 9.5% decline in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA)
  • a 25% decline in the NASDAQ

None of these should come as a surprise to anyone. As Yogi Berra might say, “IT’s déjà vu all over again.”

In January 1966, the Dow Jones Industrial Average hovered around 8,891. But, by June 1982 – after years of decline, the DJIA had surrendered 72% of its value closing around 2,406. “The Nifty Fifty” – a group of cutting-edge, high-tech companies including Xerox, Polaroid, Kodak, etc. had vaulted the DJIA to lofty levels. It seems speculators were willing to pay 50-100 times earnings – not unlike some of the valuations we’ve seen in the recent market environment.

The late 1990’s also saw similar valuations placed upon countless dot.com/high tech companies as the world prepared for Y2K.

When speculation ramps up, it can drive equities to levels that simply aren’t sustainable or justifiable. Is it any wonder the NASDAQ has lost 25 percent so far this year?

Investors and speculators seeking refuge in fixed income won’t find much comfort either. If interest rates continue to rise – as they’re likely to do, bond valuations will also decline.

As a reminder of this, I keep a de-commissioned “50-year bond” certificate on my wall. The bond was issued in 1945 by the Reading Railroad Co. (yes, the same one from Monopoly). The bond was set to mature in 1995 and the attached coupons paid an annual rate of 3.25%.

In 1972, the bond was surrendered. The owner would have likely seen a 40% drop in the value of the bond as interest rates climbed from 5.45% in March 1972 to 6.66% in July.

It’s impossible to know what interest rates or markets will do over the short term. There are advantages to be had by studying market history and those of us over 55, have been to this rodeo before.

Featured

4% Retirement Rule Now Obsolete

For years, financial professionals have suggested retirees draw 4% from their nest egg as a means of drawing sustainable income. That plan – designed by Financial Planner Bill Bengen in 1994, typically included allocating 60% into equities for long term growth and 40% into cash and fixed income as a means of dampening market volatility.

In theory, a senior with $250,000 of retirement savings would allocate $150,000 into equities for long term growth and $100,000 into cash and bonds. Then, they would draw $10,000 /year (or $833 /month) from the cash portion and re-balance the portfolio annually.

That plan is now being challenged by… the individual who first advocated the 4% rule.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Bill Bengen suggests retirees cut spending and exercise caution with the latest surge in inflation. He suggests adherents to the 4% rule take a pay cut and roll back their drawdown rate to 3%.  (See: https://www.wsj.com/articles/cut-your-retirement-spending-now-says-creator-of-the-4-rule-11650327097?st=gmubxx8uvq6aakz&reflink=desktopwebshare_permalink )

The problem is that there’s no precedent for today’s conditions,” he said.

A recent Morningstar report recommended a 3.3% initial withdrawal rate for those retiring today. It suggested that was an optimal rate for those who want spending to keep pace with inflation over three decades and want a high degree of certainty their money will last.

As of March 1st, Canadians had $2 trillion invested in mutual funds. Roughly 1/2 of those funds were invested in balanced funds, 1/3 were invested in equities and 1/8 were invested in fixed income/bond funds. Old ways of thinking still permeate retirement income strategies and expose Canadians to

Any retirement income strategy ought to include the use of annuities. Retirees receive higher, tax favoured income and retirees can rest assured they will never have to take a pay cut. Recent rates were posted here: https://think-income.com/annuity-info/