Sunday, October 29

Week 330 - $150/wk For An Online Retirement Fund

Situation: You’ve heard a lot about saving for retirement, and you’ve probably heard that Social Security plus your workplace retirement plan probably won’t get you to a comfortable retirement any more. Why? Because people only reduce their spending by 15% after they retire, which means you will need a private savings plan to make up for the lost income. This savings plan can take the form of an IRA, payments into a low-cost annuity, proceeds from the sale of your home (if you move to smaller quarters), or perhaps even gold you’ve hidden away, and other choices. But when retirement is more than 5 years in the future, stocks remain your best bet.

We recommend that you minimize costs by using a stock index fund backed by a bond index fund. The Vanguard Balanced Index Fund (VBINX) provides both in one package, allocated 60% to stocks and 40% to bonds. It is rebalanced daily, so you won’t get burned if a stock market bubble bursts. (Most of those stock gains would already have been converted to bonds as part of daily rebalancing, and bonds typically increase in value when stocks crash.) Or, you can choose a low-cost managed fund that uses an excess of bonds to balance both the inherent risk of stocks and the difficulty managers have of knowing when to move away from stocks and into bonds. The Vanguard Wellesley Income Fund (VWINX) has the best record. It is bond-heavy and therefore has less volatility than VBINX but performs about as well.

The third low-cost option is to study the markets yourself and invest in stocks online through a Dividend ReInvestment Plan (DRIP) at computershare, and in bonds at treasurydirect. This third option allows you to pick only the most stable stocks and bonds.

Mission: Detail one example of a personal online retirement fund (mine). I dollar-cost average $100/mo automatically (online) into 5 stocks: NextEra Energy (NEE), Coca-Cola (KO), JP Morgan Chase (JPM), Microsoft (MSFT), and IBM (IBM), then dollar-cost average $150/mo into ISBs--inflation-protected Savings Bonds (treasurydirect). 

Execution: In the Table, note that the iShares 7-10 Year Treasury Bond ETF (IEF) reflects returns from the main asset that the US Treasury uses to back its ISB accounts. Also note that we use red highlights to denote metrics that underperform our benchmark, i.e., the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY). Metrics highlighted in purple indicate issues that accountants will raise with that company’s CFO.

Administration: ISBs are a tax-deferred investment much like an IRA. Contributions from your checking account can be set up for automatic monthly deposits at treasurydirect. You can have your accountant designate the money that you spend to buy stocks online through a DRIP as an IRA. Compare this week’s blog to an earlier blog with the same title (see Week 120).

Bottom Line: Dividend Reinvestment Plans (DRIPs) take time to set up, but are on “automatic pilot” the rest of the time. Savings Bonds are even easier to manage (treasurydirect). So, the key difficulty is deciding exactly which stocks you’d like to own for an extended period.

Risk Rating: 6 (where 10-Yr US Treasury Notes = 1, S&P 500 Index = 5, gold = 10).

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