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My Money Blog Portfolio Income and Withdrawal Rate – March 2019 (Q1)

dividendmono225One of the biggest problems in retirement planning is turning a pile of money into a reliable stream of income. I have read hundreds of articles about this topic, and I have not yet found a perfect solution to this problem. Everything has pros and cons: stocks, high-dividend stocks, bonds, annuities, real estate, and so on.

The imperfect (!) solution I chose is to first build a portfolio designed for total return and enough downside protection such that I can hold through an extended downturn. As you will see below, the total income is a little under 3% of the portfolio annually. I could easily crank out a portfolio with a 4% income rate, or even 5% income. But you have to take some additional risks to get there. With a total return-oriented portfolio, I am more confident that the (lower initial) income will grow at least as fast (and hopefully faster) than inflation.

Starting with a more traditional portfolio, I then try to only spend the dividends and interest. The analogy I fall back on is owning a rental property. If you are reliably getting rent checks that increase with inflation, you can sit back calmly and ignore what the house might sell for on the open market.

I track the “TTM Yield” or “12 Mo. Yield” from Morningstar, which the sum of a fund’s total trailing 12-month interest and dividend payments divided by the last month’s ending share price (NAV) plus any capital gains distributed over the same period. (Index funds have low turnover and thus little in capital gains.) I like this measure because it is based on historical distributions and not a forecast. Below is a very close approximation of my investment portfolio (2/3rd stocks and 1/3rd bonds).

Asset Class / Fund % of Portfolio Trailing 12-Month Yield (Taken 3/15/19) Yield Contribution
US Total Stock
Vanguard Total Stock Market Fund (VTI, VTSAX)
25% 1.81% 0.45%
US Small Value
Vanguard Small-Cap Value ETF (VBR)
5% 2.03% 0.10%
International Total Stock
Vanguard Total International Stock Market Fund (VXUS, VTIAX)
25% 2.89% 0.72%
Emerging Markets
Vanguard Emerging Markets ETF (VWO)
5% 2.63% 0.13%
US Real Estate
Vanguard REIT Index Fund (VNQ, VGSLX)
6% 4.21% 0.25%
Intermediate-Term High Quality Bonds
Vanguard Intermediate-Term Tax-Exempt Fund (VWIUX)
17% 2.86% 0.49%
Inflation-Linked Treasury Bonds
Vanguard Inflation-Protected Securities Fund (VAIPX)
17% 3.09% 0.53%
Totals 100% 2.67%

 

Using this metric, my maximum spending target is a 2.67% withdrawal rate. One of the things I like about using this number is that when stock prices drop, this percentage metric usually goes up… and that makes me feel better in a gloomy market. When stock prices go up, this percentage metric usually goes down, which keeps me from getting too happy. This also applies to the relative performance of US and International stocks. In this way, tracking yield adjusts in a very rough manner for valuation.

We are a real 40-year-old couple with three young kids, and this money has to last us a lifetime (without stomach ulcers). This number does not dictate how much we actually spend every year, but it gives me an idea of how comfortable I am with our withdrawal rate. We spend less than this amount now, but I like to plan for the worst while hoping for the best. For now, we are quite fortunate to be able to do work that is meaningful to us, in an amount where we still enjoy it and don’t feel burned out.

Life is not a Monte Carlo simulation, and you need a plan to ride out the rough times. Even if you run a bunch of numbers looking back to 1920 and it tells you some number is “safe”, that’s still trying to use 100 years of history to forecast 50 years into the future. Michael Pollan says that you can sum up his eating advice as “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” You can sum up my thoughts on portfolio income as “Spend mostly dividends and interest. Don’t eat too much principal.” At the same time, live your life. Enjoy your time with family and friends. You may be more likely to run out of time than run out of money.

In the end, I do think using a 3% withdrawal rate is a reasonable target for something retiring young (before age 50) and a 4% withdrawal rate is a reasonable target for one retiring at a more traditional age (closer to 65). If you’re still in the accumulation phase, you don’t really need a more accurate number than that. Focus on your earning potential via better career moves, investing in your skillset, and/or look for entrepreneurial opportunities where you get equity in a business.

Top 10 Best Credit Card Bonus Offers – March 2019

Updated March 2019. That space in your wallet or purse is more valuable than you think. Credit card companies are fighting it out, offering strong perks and $500+ value for a single card during the first year to encourage you to apply and try it out. These are the top 10 credit card offers that I would apply for right now, if I didn’t already most of them. Recent changes:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred – improved 60k offer.
  • Hawaiian Airlines – improved 75k offer.
  • Gold Delta SkyMiles – limited-time 60k + $50 statement credit offer.
  • IHG Rewards Club Premier – improved 120k offer.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless – limited-time 100k offer.
  • Barclaycard Arrival Plus – bonus offer up to 70k.

If you pay off your balances every month, then you can join me and many others in funding a huge chunk of your annual travel budget with cash credits, points, and miles. You don’t need to be a “I only fly business class” world traveler. I mostly use my rewards points on domestic economy flights, mid-class hotels, and cheap car rentals. If you have credit card debt, you should focus on paying that off first as the interest charges could offset most of the perks.

This is a companion post to my Top 10 Best Business Card Offers. Small business bonuses are on average even higher than those on consumer cards.

Note: Certain Chase cards have a “5/24 rule” which is an unofficial rule that they will automatically deny approval on new credit cards if you have 5 or more new credit cards from any issuer on your credit report within the past 2 years. This rule applies on a per-person basis, so if you are new, you might want to start with those Chase cards.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

  • 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points (worth $750 towards travel) after $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • 2X points on Travel and Dining at restaurants worldwide.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.
  • Alternative: Chase Sapphire Reserve Card. 3X on Travel and Dining, Priority Pass airport lounge access, $450 annual fee, $300 annual travel credit.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus Card

  • 70,000 points (worth $700 towards travel) after $5,000 in purchases in the first 90 days. See link for details.
  • Unlimited 2X miles on every purchase.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $89.

Hawaiian Airlines Bank of Hawaii Card

  • Up to 75,000 bonus miles. 50,000 miles after $2,000 in purchases within 3 months, plus an additional 25,000 miles after $6,000 total in purchases within the first 12 months. See link for details.
  • Free first checked bag for primary cardmember when using your card to purchase eligible tickets directly from Hawaiian Airlines.
  • Receive a one-time 50% off companion discount for roundtrip coach travel between Hawaii and The Mainland on Hawaiian Airlines.
  • $99 annual fee.

IHG Rewards Club Premier Card

  • Up to 120,000 IHG Rewards club points: 80,000 points after $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months, plus an additional 40,000 points after $5,000 in total purchases within 6 months of account opening. See link for details.
  • Free Night after each account anniversary year (valued up to 40,000 IHG points).
  • $89 annual fee.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.

Gold Delta Skymiles Card from American Express

  • 60,000 Delta Skymiles after $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months + $50 statement credit after a Delta purchase within your first 3 months. Limited-time offer expires 4/3/19. See link for details.
  • 60,000 Skymiles are worth at least $600 in Delta airfare with “Pay with Miles” option.
  • First checked bag free on Delta flights ($60 value per roundtrip, per person).
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card

  • 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Limited-time offer. See link for details.
  • Free Night after each account anniversary year (valued up to 35,000 Marriott points).
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.

Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Red Card

  • 60,000 American Airlines miles. 60,000 miles after first purchase (any amount) in first 90 days. See link for details.
  • First checked bag free on domestic AA flights ($60 value per roundtrip, per person).
  • $95 annual fee.

Citi Premier Card

  • 50,000 ThankYou points (worth $625 towards travel) after $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • 3X points on Travel, including Gas Stations
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $95.

American Express Gold Card

  • 40,000 Membership Rewards points (flexible, worth 50,000 miles at various airlines) after $2,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • $120 in Grubhub and Seamless credit. $10 in statement credits each month when you pay with this card at participating partners – Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and participating Shake Shack locations.
  • $100 airline fee credit. Select one qualifying airline and then receive up to $100 per calendar year in statement credits towards checked baggage fees and inflight meals.
  • $250 annual fee.

Bank of America Premium Rewards Card

  • 50,000 points (worth $500 towards travel) after $3,000 in purchases within the first 90 days. See link for details.
  • 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • $100 annual Airline Incidental Statement Credit.
  • Up to $100 credit towards TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee.
  • $95 annual fee.

Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Card

  • $500 cash bonus after $3000 in purchases within the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • 4% cash back on dining and entertainment.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Chase World of Hyatt Card

  • Up to 50,000 Hyatt points. 25,000 Bonus Points after $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. Plus an additional 25,000 Bonus Points after a total of $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months. See link for details and rough valuation of points.
  • $95 annual fee, free night award upon card anniversary.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Improved Bonus: 60,000 Points = $750 In Travel, 2X Points on Travel and Dining

Update with improved 60k offer. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is a premium travel rewards credit card, now with an improved offer that is the best publicly-available bonus in years. The card earns points that can be redeemed for cash, travel … [Read the rest]

TD Ameritrade Commission-Free ETF List + Up to $2,500 Account Transfer Bonuses

Updated 2019 with new transfer bonus links. TD Ameritrade has made several changes to their commission-free ETF trading program over the years. I am not an active trader, so that is the focus of this post. Most recently, they made an important … [Read the rest]

Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard Review – Up to 75,000 Bonus Miles

The Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard is the official co-branded card with perks like Hawaiian miles for purchases, a free checked bag, and companion ticket discounts. Sometimes it has the Bank of Hawaii logo on it, but in all cases it is … [Read the rest]

My Money Blog Portfolio Asset Allocation and Performance, March 2019 (Q1)

Here's my quarterly portfolio update for Q1 2019. Most of my dividends arrive on a quarterly basis, and this helps me decided where to reinvest them. These are my real-world holdings, including 401k/403b/IRAs and taxable brokerage accounts but … [Read the rest]

Sprint Free Year of Unlimited Data Promo: Get Free Service Through April 30th, 2020

Now free unlimited data all the way through April 30th, 2020. Sprint has an unadvertised "secret" promotion (no TV, radio, newspaper ads, not even mentioned on front page of website) that is only available online to new customers who use the right … [Read the rest]

Domino’s App: 10 Points Free Per Week = Eventual Free Pizza

I find it interesting how Domino's Pizza rescued themselves from oblivion by (1) improving the taste of their pizzas so they don't remind you of cardboard and (2) fully embracing mobile (lazy) ordering. Their smartphone app lets you apply coupons … [Read the rest]

Amazon Prime Reading: Free $3 Amazon Credit w/ First Book

Amazon Prime reading has been around since 2016, offering "unlimited reading" from a rotating selection of books, magazines, and comics - all free for Amazon Prime subscribers. Right now Amazon is offering a free $3 Amazon credit when you borrow … [Read the rest]

Forced Retirement: The Time to Prepare is Now

Here's a random thing that happened after becoming financially independent. When I caught this opening scene of people getting fired from the movie "Up in the Air" on TV, I felt sympathy but I remember it used to give me stress and anxiety. … [Read the rest]

Charlie Munger CNBC Interview 2019 Full Video, Full Transcript, and Notes

Here's another Charles T. Munger interview (last one for a while, I promise!) for those of you that share a peculiar fondness for hearing someone encourage rationality, patience, and self-discipline. After the Daily Journal 2019 annual meeting, … [Read the rest]

United Explorer Business Card Review – 50,000 Bonus Miles

The United Explorer Business Card is the co-branded business credit card between Chase and United Airlines. This card offers unique perks for regular United customers including free checked bags and expanded award seat availability for redeeming … [Read the rest]