2020 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder Meeting Video, Transcript, and Notes

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The 2020 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder Meeting was on May 2nd, 2020 and is now available as a recorded video on Yahoo Finance and a handy Rev.com transcription. As usual, I recommend listening or reading on your own, as my notes always differ slightly from what the business media chooses to highlight.

What makes Berkshire Hathaway (BRK) interesting to me is that it all started out as Buffett investing his own money alongside a few close family and friends. He’s always had nearly all of his own money in it. Even today, Berkshire is the main investment vehicle for many family members. People you run into at the store. People with whom you’ve shared a meal. This changes the types and amounts of risk you take.

And, now, I would never take real chances with money, of other people’s money under any circumstances. Both Charlie and I come from a background where we ran partnerships. I started mine in 1956 for really seven either actual family members or the equivalent. And Charlie did the same thing six years later. And we never, neither one of us, I think, I know I didn’t, and I’m virtually certain the same is true of Charlie, neither one of us ever had a single institution investment with us.

Buffett has stated that when he writes his annual letters, he imagines his sister reading them. That’s how I try to write as well, as an enthusiast making careful shares and recommendations to family. This overall sentiment helps you understand how BRK is run.

He started out with a familiar story of “betting on America”. This country has been though a lot, and it will recover again.

One of the scariest of scenarios, when you had a war with one group of States fighting another group of States, and it may have been tested again in the great depression, and it may be tested now to some degree, but in the end the answer is never bet against America, and that in my view is as true today as it was in 1789, and even was true during the civil war, and the depths of the depression.

In terms of investing, this means holding onto stocks for 20 or 30 years. But to survive the shocks during those times, you should never borrow money to invest in stocks, you need to have adequate reserves in 100% safe cash, and you need the proper psychological temperament.

The American tailwind is marvelous. American business represents, and it’s going to have interruptions, and you’re not going to foresee the interruption, and you don’t want to get yourself in a position where those interruptions can affect you either because you’re leveraged or because you’re psychologically unable to handle looking at a bunch of numbers.

You just don’t know what’s going to happen. You know, at least in my view, you know that America’s tailwind is not exhausted. You’re going to get a fine result if you own equities over a long period of time. And the idea that equities will not produce better results than the 30-year Treasury bond, which yields one and a quarter percent now, it’s taxable income. It’s the aim of the Federal Reserve to have 2% a year inflation. Equities are going to outperform that bond. They’re going to outperform Treasury bills. They’re going to outperform that money you’ve stuck under your mattress.

Simple, low-cost S&P 500 index fund for growth. Avoid the salespeople.

So find businesses. Get a cross section. And in my view, for most people, the best thing to do is to own the S&P 500 index fund. People will try and sell you other things because there’s more money in it for them if they do. And I’m not saying that that’s a conscious act on their part. Most good salespeople believe their own baloney. I mean, that’s part of being a good salesperson. And I’m sure I’ve done plenty of that in my life too, but it’s very human if you keep repeating something often enough.

100% backed-by-the-government cash for safety. For them, it means Treasury-backed bills. For individual investors, this extends to FDIC-insured savings accounts and certificates of deposit.

And that means we own nothing but treasury bills. I mean, we’ve never owned, we never buy commercial paper. We don’t count on bank lines and a few of our subsidiaries have them, but we basically want to be in a position to get through anything. And we hope that doesn’t happen but you can’t rule out the possibility anymore than in 1929 you could rule out the possibility that you know you would be waiting until 1955, or the end of 1954, to get even.

Ignore the two things above if you have credit card debt.

My general advice to people, I mean, we have an interest in credit cards. But I think people should avoid using credit cards as a piggy bank to be rated. I had a woman come to see me here not long ago, and she’d come on some money. Not very much, but it was a lot to her. She’s a friend of mine, and she said, “What should I do with it?” I said, “Well, what do you owe on your credit card?” She says, “Well, I owe X.” I said, “Well, what you should do…” I don’t know what interest rate she was paying, but I think I asked her and she knew. It was something like 18% or something. I said, “I don’t know how to make 18%.” I mean, if I, owed any money at 18% the first thing I do with any money I had would be to pay it off. It’s going to be way better than any investment idea I’ve got. That wasn’t what she wanted to hear.

Be safe with your finances at this time. You don’t sell your airline stocks at a multi-billion dollar loss if you think a V-shaped recovery is likely. Just because we are still recovering from one horrible event, doesn’t mean another might not happen.

I would say that there are things that I think are quite improbable. And I hope they don’t happen, but that doesn’t mean they won’t happen. I mean, for example, in our insurance business, we could have the world’s, or the country’s, number one hurricane that it’s ever had, but that doesn’t preclude the fact that could have the biggest earthquake a month later. So we don’t prepare ourselves for a single problem. We prepare ourselves for problems that sometimes create their own momentum. I mean 2008 and 9, you didn’t see all the problems the first day, when what really kicked it off was when the Freddie and Fannie, the GSEs went into conservatorship in early September. And then when money market funds broke the buck… There are things to trip other things, and we take a very much a worst case scenario into mind that probably is a considerably worse case than most people do.

After listening to this entire Buffett talk and reading this Munger interview, the overall takeaway is definitely that of safety. They have been safe and will stay safe, no matter who complains about their cash levels. The world has changed, and just because something has a lower price today than in January, doesn’t automatically mean it is a better deal than in January.

Here is a NYT Dealbook article by Andrew Ross Sorkin, who has attended many shareholder meetings in person and also sensed a different tone this year.

You can find links to previous years’ Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder Meeting Full Videos, Transcripts, and Podcasts here.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder Meeting Full Videos, Transcripts, and Podcasts

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

(2020 update. The 2020 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder Meeting took place virtually with a Q&A session with Warren Buffett and Greg Abel (the likely next CEO). Right now it is available on replay at Yahoo Finance with the full transcript linked below.)

Berkshire Hathaway’s Annual Shareholder Meetings are held in Omaha, Nebraska every May. Although most of my portfolio is in a diversified mix of index funds, I also own individual shares of Berkshire Hathaway and respect the rational and practical advice given out by Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger.

I also like getting the information directly! I missed the live event again in 2019, but I plan catch up by first reading the WSJ liveblog, and then listening to the entire Q&A session via Yahoo Finance podcast at my own pace. Here are the many ways that you can catch up on past shareholder meetings.

Full Videos

  • Yahoo Finance Livestream. Yahoo Finance is the exclusive online host of the Berkshire Hathaway 2020 Annual Shareholders Meeting that occurred May 2nd, 2020. View the entire Q&A session in its entirety on demand.
  • CNBC Warren Buffett Archive. Footage of shareholder meetings from 1994-2019 In 2018, Berkshire gave CNBC a box of old VHS tapes (!) which were converted to digital videos so that everyone can view them for free. Additional material from CNBC including interviews, highlights, and short-form videos is also available.

Transcripts

Liveblogs

Podcasts

  • Yahoo Finance also makes the BRK meeting available as a podcast, so you can listen in parts during your commute or chores. I listened to the entire 2018 meeting in the car while driving, and I liked it much better than sitting in front a computer. 2019 is already uploaded. iTunes. Player.fm.

Books

This post is about the live shareholder meeting, and is separate from the 2019 annual shareholder letter (which are also great).

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Should I Roll Over My 401k into an IRA? How to Decide

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The WSJ article What to Do With a 401(k) When Leaving a Job did a good job summarizing the various things to consider when that time comes. Here is a chart showing what happens to the 401k and 403b plans held across Vanguard-sponsored employer plans:

Now, Vanguard-sponsored 401k plans are mostly from big employers and are highly likely to have both low-cost investment options and reasonable fees. I don’t know if these percentages apply to all 401k and 403b plans in general. I’ve seen some pretty bad ones with absurdly high fees, although that was several years ago. Here’s a summary of the right questions to ask:

Investment selection? Are the available investments better in your 401k or in your choice of IRA custodian? Some 401ks offer choices not available to retail investors. For example, access to mutual funds from Dimensional Fund Advisors (DFA). Or institutional shares of certain funds with low expense ratios. Or stable value funds with higher interest rates than retail bond funds. On the other side, you may be itching to buy something like real estate in a self-directed IRA. These days, both probably have some sort of all-in-one Target retirement fund, but is yours a low-cost option from Vanguard (Target Retirement) or Fidelity (Freedom Index)?

Account fees? Part of the total cost picture is the expense ratio of the funds inside, but you may also be subject to overall account management fees or maintenance fees. Some 401k plans have zero or minimal management fees. Other 401k plans have crazy-high fees on the order of 1.75% of assets annually. Nearly all of the major IRA providers now offer no annual fees and commission-free ETF trades.

Need Advice? Some 401k plans offer some level of included advice that you may value. Other people have their own personal advisor that would love to customize that IRA.

Age 55 Rule (Early withdrawal?). Starting in the year that you turn 55, you can make a withdrawal from your 401k without the 10% early withdrawal penalty. You will still owe income taxes for a pre-tax 401k withdrawal, just not 10% penalty. For IRAs, you would have to wait until age 59.5. Potential early retirees may value these 4.5 years of additional flexibility.

Asset protection needs? There is a lot of legal fine print here, but 401k plans in general appear to offer some of the highest levels of asset protection. IRAs do offer a certain level of asset protection as well, just not quite as high as a 401(k). The difference will probably not matter much for the vast majority of workers, but it may matter for high-income professionals with liability concerns like doctors.

Non-deductible / Backdoor IRA contributions? The article didn’t cover why I didn’t roll over my last 401k plan into an IRA when leaving the employer. My situation is admittedly somewhat uncommon, but not unheard of. Call it “finding-yeast-in-April-2020” uncommon.

Due to my higher income level at the time, I contributed to a non-deductible IRA each year and then converted that to a Roth IRA. (This is also known as a Backdoor Roth IRA.) However, when you do the conversion, if you have any other pre-tax “traditional” IRAs, your conversion must include the pre-tax IRA amount as well on a pro-rated basis. For example, if you had a $20,000 pre-tax deducted IRA and a $5,000 non-deductible IRA, and then decided to convert $5,000 into a Roth IRA it would be considered 80% from the pre-tax IRA and only 20% non-deductible. You’d have to pay taxes on the entire pre-tax IRA amount (contribution + gains) since you never paid taxes initially. By keeping my pre-tax 401k at the employer, I am able to take full tax advantage of all annual Backdoor Roth contributions. Thankfully, the old 401k was at Fidelity with solid investment options and no annual fees.

How much do you value simplicity? If you do a lot of job-hopping, then do you really want to juggle five old 401k accounts? Merging them all into one IRA can save you time and hassle. On top of keeping tabs on your investments and asset allocation, you’d have to do all the mundane things like keep all your contact info and beneficiaries up to date. I would worry also that my spouse would forget about an old 401k plan if I something happened to me.

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Couch Potato Portfolios: Simple, Cheap, and Diversified Still Works

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Scott Burns of the Dallas News is known for his “Couch Potato Portfolios”. These are literally the simplest, laziest, easiest portfolios that you will ever see. The Basic Couch Potato Portfolio is 50% Total US Stock and 50% Total US Bond funds/ETFs. The Margarita version is 1/3rd US Stocks, 1/3 International Stocks, and 1/3 Bonds. Can’t get much easier to remember than that! You may be surprised at how well they have performed despite their simplicity.

Indeed, Burns recently provided another update on his Couch Potato portfolios, this time for theoretical retirees from various periods including those who retired in the year 2000 to the end of March 2020 (emphasis mine):

In this scenario, you’d be:

– Retiring just as the Internet bust was starting.
– Getting run over by the 2008-09 financial crisis.
– And ending with the coronavirus crash through the end of March.

In spite of all that, you wouldn’t be broke.

Here is a chart of how a 65-year-old couple would have done if they retired in various years from 1989 to 2015 and went with a 4% withdrawal rate (adjusted annually for inflation).

These retirees may not be shopping for a yacht, but they are still hanging in there. Simple, cheap, and diversified does much of the heavy lifting required. I appreciate that he included the likelihood that one or both of the couple would survive until 2020 as well. You may be surprised by how long your portfolio might have to last, but we also have to balance the risk of running out of time with the risk of running out of money.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Good Time to Convert Traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs?

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It might be a little painful, but it may be worthwhile to check on your pre-tax IRAs during this dip. If you have been thinking of converting your “Traditional” IRAs over to Roth IRAs, your shrunken gains will lead to a smaller tax bill now, while your (hopefully) future gains from this point onward will be tax-free after 5 years and age 59.5.

Roth IRAs have a few unique benefits like a lack of minimum required distributions, but the primary consideration regarding conversions is still whether you think your tax rate will be lower today or when you withdraw. This is outlined in greater detail in the WSJ article A Strategy for Taking Advantage of the Market Meltdown (paywall?). One interesting suggestion is to convert just enough money from a traditional IRA to make full use of your current income-tax bracket. Here are the 2020 IRS marginal tax brackets (source) – remember the left column is adjusted gross income so it comes after subtracting the standard deduction of $12,400 (single) and $24,800 (joint).

Depending on your income situation for 2020, you might have a good amount of room to convert and pay a 10%, 12%, or 22% rate. For example, a married couple could make up to $105,050 in gross income (before the standard deduction) and still be in the 12% bracket. You get the most tax-deferred benefit if you can pay for your tax bill with external funds as opposed to the IRA balance itself.

Backdoor Roth IRAs. In case you aren’t already aware, you can make a “backdoor” Roth IRA contribution even if you exceed the standard income limits on Roth IRA contributions. This is primarily because there are no longer any income limitations on Roth IRA conversions. There are some finer points that experts debate, but the general idea is that you first contribute to a non-deductible traditional IRA and then quickly convert that to a Roth IRA (ideally with no gains and thus tax owed). One catch is that if you already have other deductible pre-tax IRA balances, then these would mix together and you’d have to pay tax on a pro-rated basis.

Given the recent stock market drop, if you made non-deductible IRA contributions in the past few years, but your “Backdoor Roth” was complicated by also having some other pre-tax IRA balances mixed in (say, from a 401k rollover), then this might be a chance to convert everything over to a Roth IRA with much smaller tax consequences.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

How Many People Save, Even Without High Incomes?

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If you are living paycheck-to-paycheck, by definition you aren’t saving and buying any assets. The folks who do have assets, those assets keep growing and compounding away. Left alone, that gap just widens relentlessly. Meanwhile, building up assets from nothing can feel agonizingly slow in the beginning.

So if you don’t make at least six figures already, should you just give up? It’s not your fault, and you can’t do anything about it, so why bother? I worry that this is the underlying message of certain media articles. As a small antidote, check out this chart that shows the percentage of households with a positive savings rate, broken down by income quartiles.

The data is taken from a 2016 survey by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Source: Personal savings: A look at how Americans are saving by Deliotte Insights.

Let’s use real numbers to add some clarity:

  • A household in the 20th percentile earns about $24,000 per year. Yet, according this chart, ~30% of households that earn less than $24k manage to spend less than they earn.
  • The 2nd quintile (20th-40th percentile) household earns between roughly $24k and $45 per year. A little over 40% of these households manage to spend less than they earn.
  • The 3rd quintile (40th-60th percentile) household earns between roughly $45k and $75k per year. Close to 60% of these households manage to spend less than they earn.
  • Let’s skip to the 80th to 90th percentile, where households earn between ~$120,000 and $170,000 per year. This is between 5X and 7X the 20th percentile and more than double the middle quintile. Yet even here, only a little over 70% of households have a positive savings rate.

It should not be surprising that households with higher incomes have a higher savings rate. Of course it is easier to reach financial freedom if you have a higher income. That’s just a mathematical fact.

Nearly 30% of households that earn between ~$120,000 and $170,000 per year spend everything they earn and then some. A higher income does not guarantee that you are not living paycheck-to-paycheck. When you look beyond the broad averages, you start to see the ability of households to differ. Everyone with a low income is not spending the same. Everyone with a high income is not spending the same.

This supports the notion that your actions still matter. Use your money to invest in yourself, increasing your skills and the ability to find more rewarding work. You can prioritize your expenses. It won’t be easy, and yes there will be setbacks and roadblocks in your way. In fact, it’s probably better to expect that it won’t be easy. As we should tell our children, success is not a straight line. “More often, a meandering and unexpected path is what leads to success”.

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Prudential Instagram Ads For Early Retirement

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I had no idea @prudential existed until today (and this post is not sponsored by them in any way) but apparently they have a series of Instagram-specific ads targeting younger workers. They even have some that reference early
retirement. Do you think they hit the mark?

View this post on Instagram

Embracing the FIRE movement? 🔥

A post shared by Prudential (@prudential) on

Prudential Ad Image

While I found the ads amusing, the Prudential website itself still consists of the usual vanilla articles about retirement, annuities, and life insurance. So the products are the same old stuff, nothing new. I often wonder about the best way to help people to improve their financial situation. Will Fintech really make a difference? But I guess the first thing is to catch their attention.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

How Your Portfolio Accumulation and Withdrawal Years Are Different

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The last 10 years of stock market returns have been pretty remarkable. If you invested $100,000 in the S&P 500 in the year 2000 and held it though the dot-com crash and financial crisis, you would be closing in on $300,000 today. However, if you retired in 2000 with a portfolio invested in the S&P 500 and used a 4% withdrawal rate (increasing each year by 3% for inflation), your nest egg would less than $50,000 and on a path to zero!

This stark difference between accumulation and withdrawal modes is illustrated by the chart above, taken from the Blackrock Blog post How to avoid “dollar cost ravaging” in retirement. “Dollar-cost ravaging” is also known as “sequence of return risk”, as explained in the this quote:

Investors have probably heard the term “dollar-cost-averaging,” where you make regularly timed investments to smooth out the risk of “buying high.” Retirees tend to do the opposite. Instead of putting money into their portfolio, they take it out with a regular cadence in the form of income. “Dollar-cost-ravaging” occurs when the market loses value while you’re taking withdrawals, especially in the early years of retirement. Because money is coming out rather than going in, it’s harder for the retiree to recover their losses when markets rebound. We even saw this during one of the most successful bull markets in our history over the past decade. The sequence of returns matters, and the biggest challenge is a bear market early in your retirement.

Unfortunately, there is no easy solution to this problem. This is what the article offers: “Striking the right balance to limit your losses in a declining market is just as important as capturing growth when the market is strong.” In other words, don’t hold too much in stocks, but also not too little. You can more easily weather a recession when you are still working and saving then when you are spending it down. I think more important advice is that you should be ready to withdraw less money out of your portfolio if the market tanks early on in your retirement withdrawal phase. Don’t follow a rigid withdrawal rule from some academic study into oblivion!

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

What If You Invested $10,000 Every Year For the Last 10 Years? 2010-2019

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Now that you’re done reading articles about what happened in 2019, how about stepping back and taking in the longer view? Most successful savers invest money each year over a long period of time, these days often into a target-date fund (TDF). It may not get you doing silly things on a super-yacht, but this slow-and-steady behavior is a perfectly legitimate way to build wealth. Not everyone gets rich with IPOs or Bitcoin.

Investment benchmark. I chose the Vanguard Target Retirement 2045 Fund as this all-in-one fund is low-cost, highly diversified, and available both inside many employer retirement plans and anyone with an IRA. During the early accumulation phase, this fund holds 90% stocks (both US and international) and 10% bonds (investment-grade domestic and international). I think it’s a solid default choice in a world of mediocre, overpriced options.

Investment amount. For the last decade, the maximum allowable annual contribution to a Traditional or Roth IRA has been roughly $5,000 per person. The maximum allowable annual contribution for a 401k, 403b, or TSP plan has been over $10,000 per person. If you have a household income of $67,000, then $10,000 is right at the 15% savings rate mark. Therefore, I’m going to use $10,000 as a benchmark amount. This round number also makes it easy to multiply the results as needed to match your own situation.

A decade of real-world savings. What would have happened if you put $10,000 a year into the Vanguard Target Retirement 2045 Fund, every year, for the past 10 years? You’d have put in $100,000 over time, but in more manageable increments. With the interactive tools at Morningstar and a Google spreadsheet, we get this:

Investing $10,000 every year for the last decade would have resulted in a total balance of $174,000. That breaks down to $100k in contributions + $74k investment growth.

Are you a dual-income household that can put away more? If you were a couple that both maxed out their 401k and IRAs at roughly $20k each or $40k total per year, you would have a total balance of $700,000! That breaks down to $400k in contributions + $300k investment growth.

Bonus: 15 years of real-world savings. What would have happened if you put $10,000 a year into the Vanguard Target Retirement 2045 Fund, every year, for the past 15 years instead? (Now $150,000 total.) This is a self-centered inclusion as it has now been 20 years since I graduated college and 15 years since starting this blog. Here are the extended return numbers:

Investing $10,000 every year for the last decade and a half would have resulted in a total balance of $307,000. That breaks down to $150k in contributions + $157k investment growth. Your gains are now officially more than what you initially invested!

Are you a dual-income household that can put away more? If you were a couple that both maxed out their 401k and IRAs at roughly $20k each or $40k total per year, you would have a total balance of over $1,200,000! That breaks down to $600k in contributions + $620k investment growth.

Timing still matters, but not as much as you might think due to the dollar-cost averaging and longer time horizon. Yes, the last decade has been a great run for US stock markets. But Vanguard Target funds also own a lot of international stocks, which haven’t been nearly as hot and have maintained lower valuations. More importantly, you can’t control that part. You have much more control over how much you save. Here are my previous “saving for a decade” posts:

Work on improving your career skills (or start your own business), save a big chunk of your income, and then invest it in productive assets. Keep calm and repeat. Our path to financial freedom can be mostly explained by such behavior. The only “secret” here is consistency. We have maxed out both IRA and the 401k salary deferral limits nearly every year since 2004. No inheritances, no special access to a hedge fund. You can build serious wealth with something as accessible and boring as the Vanguard Target Retirement fund.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

SECURE Act Highlights: Summary of Retirement Plan Changes

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I try to ignore talk about pending legislation, but the SECURE Act (Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act) has now been passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump. Portions are effective as of January 1st, 2020. Instead of going into fine detail, I think this Practical Law article provides a concise summary of all the major points. This way, you can skim it and only dig further if it applies to your specific situation. Many of the points deal with employers, but here are the highlights that apply to workers:

Increased 401k eligibility for part-time employees.

The Act requires that 401(k) plans permit participation by long-term employees working more than 500 but less than 1,000 hours per year in three consecutive years. This provision is effective for plan years beginning after December 31, 2020.

Penalty-free withdrawals for birth of child or adoption.

A new distribution rule will allow participants to take a penalty-free withdrawal of up to $5,000 from a plan following the birth or legal adoption of a child. The distribution option applies to 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, governmental 457(b) plans, and Individual Retirement Account (IRA). It does not apply to defined benefit plans.

Required minimum distributions now start at age 72.

Currently, required minimum distributions from a retirement plan or IRA must start once an individual turns age 70.5. Under the Act, this age is increased to age 72. The change is effective for distributions required to be made after December 31, 2019, with respect to individuals who turn 70.5 after December 31, 2019.

“Stretch” inherited IRAs eliminated, replaced with 10-year time limit.

For defined contribution plans and IRAs, where a participant dies before the distribution of their entire interest, the distributions must now be made by the end of the tenth calendar year following the participant’s death. The new requirement does not apply if the beneficiary is an eligible beneficiary (for example, a surviving spouse or minor child).

Added lifetime income (annuity) options to your 401k/403b/457b.

The Act permits participants in defined contribution plans, 403(b) plans, and governmental 457(b) plans to take a distribution of lifetime income investment in the form of an annuity if: The lifetime income investment is no longer authorized to be held as an investment option, OR The distribution is made as a direct rollover to a retirement plan, IRA, or annuity contract.

No longer a maximum age for contributions to a traditional IRA.

Previously, you could no longer make contributions to a traditional IRA for the year during which you reached age 70 1/2 or any later year. There is (still) no age restriction for Roth IRA contributions.

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My Money Blog Portfolio Income Update – December 2019 (Q4)

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

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How do you turn a pile of money into income for the rest of your life? I have read hundreds of articles about this topic, and have found no ideal solution. Much of the advice applies to those aged 65+, but what about someone in their 40s with a much longer time horizon?

During the accumulation phase, I believe a 3% withdrawal rate remains 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 are not close to retirement, your time is better spent focusing on your earning potential via better career moves, investing in your skillset, and/or look for entrepreneurial opportunities where you own equity in a business.

My crude and simple solution is to first build a portfolio designed for total return, and then spend the income. Stock dividends are the portion of profits that businesses have decided they don’t need to reinvest into their business. The dividends may suffer some short-term drops, but over the long run they have grown faster than inflation. Bond interest from high-quality IOUs are more reliable, but won’t rise as quickly.

As you’ll see below, my portfolio distributes about 2.5% in the form of dividends and interest. If we were to stop working, we would then take out another 0.5% by selling a few shares and then we’d have our 3%. Right now, we are both still employed and thus we withdraw less than 2.5%, so we don’t have to sell anything.

I track the “TTM Yield” or “12-Month 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. I prefer 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 12/24/19) Yield Contribution
US Total Stock
Vanguard Total Stock Market Fund (VTI, VTSAX)
25% 1.71% 0.43%
US Small Value
Vanguard Small-Cap Value ETF (VBR)
5% 1.95% 0.10%
International Total Stock
Vanguard Total International Stock Market Fund (VXUS, VTIAX)
25% 2.92% 0.73%
Emerging Markets
Vanguard Emerging Markets ETF (VWO)
5% 2.71% 0.14%
US Real Estate
Vanguard REIT Index Fund (VNQ, VGSLX)
6% 3.12% 0.19%
Intermediate-Term High Quality Bonds
Vanguard Intermediate-Term Treasury ETF (VGIT)
17% 2.23% 0.38%
Inflation-Linked Treasury Bonds
Vanguard Short-Term Inflation-Protected Securities ETF (VTIP)
17% 1.96% 0.33%
Totals 100% 2.30%

 

Here is a chart showing how this 12-month trailing income rate has varied over the last five years.

One of the things I like about using this number is that when stock prices drop, this percentage metric usually goes up – which makes me feel better in a bear market. When stock prices go up, this percentage metric usually goes down, which keeps me from getting too euphoric during a bull market. I see it as a very conservative, valuation-based withdrawal rate metric due to our very long retirement horizon of 40+ years.

What’s not shown in the chart above is how the total income rises as the portfolio value rises. I have a chart of my portfolio income as well, but it mixes in my own contributions so it doesn’t present a clear picture.

In practical terms, I let all of my dividends and interest accumulate without automatic reinvestment. I treat this money as my “paycheck”. Then, as with my real paycheck, I can choose to either spend it or reinvest in more stocks and bonds.

The income from our portfolio lets us “work less and live more” now as I now fear running out of time more than running out of money. We use our nest egg to allow us to work less hours in a more flexible manner as parents of young children. We are very fortunate to be in this situation, although I’ve also been working towards this goal steadily for 15 years! Others may use their portfolio income to start a new business, travel around the world, sit on a beach, do charity or volunteer work, and so on.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

MMB Portfolio Asset Allocation Update, December 2019 (Q4)

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

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Plenty of people will tell you what you should own, but I’d rather they just share what they actually own. Here’s my year-end portfolio update for Q4 2019, including all of our 401k/403b/IRAs, taxable brokerage accounts, and savings bonds but excluding our house, cash reserves, and a few side investments. Dividends tend to arrive on a quarterly basis, and this helps determine where to invest new cash to rebalance back towards our target asset allocation.

Actual Asset Allocation and Holdings

I use both Personal Capital and a custom Google Spreadsheet to track my investment holdings. The Personal Capital financial tracking app (free, my review) automatically logs into my accounts, adds up my balances, tracks my performance, and calculates my asset allocation. I still use my manual Google Spreadsheet (free, instructions) because it helps me calculate how much I need in each asset class to rebalance back towards my target asset allocation.

Here are my YTD performance and current asset allocation visually, per the “Allocation” and “Holdings” tabs of my Personal Capital account, respectively:

Stock Holdings
Vanguard Total Stock Market (VTI, VTSAX)
Vanguard Total International Stock Market (VXUS, VTIAX)
WisdomTree SmallCap Dividend (DES)
Vanguard Small Value (VBR)
Vanguard Emerging Markets (VWO)
Vanguard REIT Index (VNQ, VGSLX)

Bond Holdings
Vanguard Limited-Term Tax-Exempt (VMLTX, VMLUX)
Vanguard Intermediate-Term Tax-Exempt (VWITX, VWIUX)
Vanguard Intermediate-Term Treasury (VFITX, VFIUX)
Vanguard Inflation-Protected Securities (VIPSX, VAIPX)
Fidelity Inflation-Protected Bond Index (FIPDX)
iShares Barclays TIPS Bond (TIP)
Individual TIPS securities
U.S. Savings Bonds (Series I)

Target Asset Allocation. I do not spend a lot of time backtesting various model portfolios, as I don’t think picking through the details of the past will necessarily create superior future returns. I mainly make sure that I own asset classes that will provide long-term returns above inflation, distribute income via dividends and interest, and finally offer some historical tendencies to balance each other out. I make a small bet that US Small Value and Emerging Markets will have higher future long-term returns (along with some higher volatility) than the more large and broad indexes, although I could be wrong.

While you could argue for various other asset classes, I believe that it is important to imagine an asset class doing poorly for a long time, with bad news constantly surrounding it, and only hold the ones where you still think you can maintain faith through those fearful times. I simply don’t have strong faith in the long-term results of commodities, gold, or bitcoin.

Stocks Breakdown

  • 38% US Total Market
  • 7% US Small-Cap Value
  • 38% International Total Market
  • 7% Emerging Markets
  • 10% US Real Estate (REIT)

Bonds Breakdown

  • 33% US Treasury Bonds, intermediate
  • 33% High-Quality Municipal Bonds (taxable)
  • 33% US Treasury Inflation-Protected Bonds (tax-deferred)

I have settled into a long-term target ratio of 67% stocks and 33% bonds (2:1 ratio) within our investment strategy of buy, hold, and occasionally rebalance. I will use the dividends and interest to rebalance whenever possible in order to avoid taxable gains. I plan to only manually rebalance past that if the stock/bond ratio is still off by more than 5% (i.e. less than 62% stocks, greater than 72% stocks). With a self-managed, simple portfolio of low-cost funds, we minimize management fees, commissions, and taxes.

Holdings commentary. I know that US stock valuations are on the higher side, but this year of all-time US highs is another reminder that you still need to stay in the game. My forward expectations for US stock returns are muted, but I’m not selling a single share. International stocks have also hit an all-time high, but nobody really noticed because US stocks have still outperformed by a long shot this decade. I remain satisfied with my mix, knowing that I will own whatever successful businesses come out of the US, Europe, China, or wherever in the future.

On the bond side, my primary objective remains to hold high-quality bonds with a short-to-intermediate duration of under 5 years or so. This means US Treasuries, TIPS, or investment-grade municipal bonds. FDIC or NCUA-insured certificates would also fit in there. I don’t want to worry about my bonds. I then tweak the specific breakdown based on my tax-deferred space available, the tax-effective rates of muni bonds, and the real interest rates of TIPS. Right now, it is roughly 1/3rd Treasuries, 1/3 Muni bonds, and 1/3rd TIPS.

Performance numbers. According to Personal Capital, my portfolio went up +19% so far in 2019. I see that during the same period the S&P 500 has gone up +29%, Foreign Developed stocks up +21%, and the US Aggregate bond index was up about +10%.

An alternative benchmark for my portfolio is 50% Vanguard LifeStrategy Growth Fund and 50% Vanguard LifeStrategy Moderate Growth Fund – one is 60/40 and the other is 80/20 so it also works out to 70% stocks and 30% bonds. That benchmark would have a total return of +20.9% for 2019 YTD.

The goal of this portfolio is to create sustainable income that keeps up with inflation to cover our household expenses. I’ll share about more about the income aspect in a separate post.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.