Which of the following should be elements of a plan to provide lifelong income through all market cycles? (Multiple correct answers)
1. Hold a rainy day fund.
2. Maximize diversification, and include at least the following: stocks, bonds, real estate.
3. Commit to low spending relative to your assets.
4. Diversify your stock allocation across companies and countries.
5. Start a profitable business.
6. Dedicate your money to high growth investments.
7. Limit your mortgage(s).
This article discusses an issue raised by the book “The High-Beta Rich” by Robert Frank, and explains how QAM’s plans address it.
Historically, wealthy families were more immune to market cycles than the general population. The book shows that starting in 1982, the income of the top 1% earners became more volatile than the income of the overall population. While they enjoyed high growth, their income declined further during economic downturns. This is due to more of their income depending on volatile investments, including leveraged real estate, individual companies and concentrated stock investments.
The book presents stories of people that amassed substantial wealth, and later lost most or all of it. A common strategy to avoid losing it all, is to hold some money in stable investments. While this solves one problem, it introduces another one – it slows down the overall growth, which increases the risk of outliving your money.
Is there a solution that lets you enjoy the high growth without taking excessive risks?
Such a solution exists in certain cases. Here is a list of goals with details of how to achieve them:
1. Having your money last: Dedicate your money to high growth investments – stocks of profitable companies that are priced low (value stocks).
2. Recover from declines: Diversify across thousands of stocks in many countries.
3. Provide stable income through the declines: Commit to low spending relative to your assets, with a clear trend towards 3%-4%.
The beauty of this solution is that it doesn’t require lifelong financial sacrifices. What it does require is:
1. Disciplined spending, even as you see your savings reach high levels, or when your income is much higher than 3%-4% of your savings. Lack of this discipline is a big reason some wealthy people get into trouble during downturns.
2. Strength in the face of downturns, and commitment to the investment plan.
3. Permanent diversification at all times; avoiding the temptation to put a substantial portion of the money in a single company or real estate investment.
Does the list of these requirements seem too easy to follow? During over 11 years of service, QAM learned that many people find these requirements to be very difficult to adhere to. If you are able to adhere to them, you have a good chance at sustaining lifelong (and multigenerational) growing income. In addition, successive downturns are likely to become easier to handle, if you limit the growth in spending.
Which of the following are key elements of a plan to provide lifelong income through all market cycle? (Multiple correct answers.)
1. Hold a rainy day fund. Sometimes correct: A rainy day fund, such as 3-6 months of living expenses in cash, is necessary for surviving declines early in your saving years, especially if you have low job security. Once you build meaningful savings, the benefit of such an allocation gradually becomes outweighed by the benefit of maximizing the growth of your investments, for lifelong income.
2. Maximize diversification, and include at least the following: stocks, bonds, real estate. Incorrect: While maximal diversification helps survive declines, including slower growing investments hurts the necessary growth for lifelong income that grows with inflation.
3. Commit to low spending relative to your assets. Correct: This is a key element. There are a number of benefits to low spending relative to your assets: (1) It helps handle declines combined with lack of work without depleting your money; (2) It helps build your savings faster, to provide the nest egg needed for lifelong income.
4. Diversify your stock allocation across companies and countries. Correct: Diversification helps avoid total loss during declines.
5. Start a profitable business. Sometimes correct: Running a business combines pay from work and profits of the business ownership. As a small business, it has the potential of outperforming stock investments. The benefit of higher growth comes at a price of liquidity constraints and the risk of a total loss. Therefore, for the goal of lifelong income, it is best to limit your investment in your business to a small portion of your savings.
6. Dedicate your money to high growth investments. Correct: As long as you stick with high-growth investments, diversification provides a benefit of higher low points during declines, without the price of hurting your average returns.
7. Limit your mortgage(s). Usually incorrect, but read further: Real estate with no (or limited) mortgages tends to grow more slowly than diversified stocks, and is less liquid. If you are going to limit your mortgage for any reason (can’t qualify for high mortgage, short-term risk is too high, don’t like volatile investments along with the mortgage obligation), you are better off investing in diversified stocks instead of owning a home, for the purpose of lifelong income. There are non-financial benefits to owning your home, which may lead to accepting a lower mortgage along with less optimal lifelong income.
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