We Can’t Leave It Up To How We Feel
You’ve built your foundation and you’re now there!
You’ve determined just how dependent you are on your Retirement Bucket™, and you’ve forecasted out how dependent you are each year going forward (at least the next five years).
You’ve determined the investment rate of return you must earn in order to have your Retirement Bucket™ remain intact for the rest of your life, despite your withdrawals and inflation.
You’ve tackled the 3rd question which is where do you position your investments to produce the long term rate of return you need to earn while experiencing acceptable levels of volatility and paying less taxes to the government?
Assuming you utilized Principle and Guidelines #1, #2, and #3, and you now have your Retirement Bucket™ holdings allocated exactly the way you need, Principle and Guideline #4 calls for you to assess your holdings on a strict timetable, and OBJECTIVELY rebalance.
‘OBJECTIVE’ vs. ‘Subjective’ Evaluation
Note that I used capital letters for the word OBJECTIVELY. The reason for this is that we have to remove our subjective emotions when investing.
It’s challenging to do, but it’s imperative if you want to be successful.
We can’t leave it up to how we feel on a given day.
For a recent example, if this past August 25th (2015) was your pre-scheduled day to objectively rebalance your Retirement Bucket™, how committed would you have been if you subjectively evaluated everything vs. objectively?
Time has a way of healing everything, so I will call your attention to the fact that, from the peak in May, 2015, the price of the S&P 500 broad market index had fallen over 12% as of August 25th.
That’s right. A 12% drop in just three months!
You now may remember the exhilaration of the financial media as they announced that “the correction” was now underway.
Getting back to our story, would you be able to remain objective at this point and rebalance?
Emotionally and subjectively, you’d say “no way”.
“Not only do I not want to rebalance back into equities, I want to get out of them completely! Everywhere I turn they’re saying this is just the beginning of another big correction. I knew it was too good to be true!”
If you were able to objectively assess the situation, however, you’d conclude that it was an incredibly opportune time (as it has certainly proven to be).
To keep it very simple, let’s assume that you’ve followed each step in The Relaxing Retirement Formula™ so far, and your carefully calculated investment mix is to allocate 30% to fixed income and 70% to equity investments. (We don’t even need to get into specific investments yet to understand the principle. Let’s simply stick with a basic 30%/70% allocation without factoring in whether that’s a proper allocation for you or not.)
If this was true for you, and you hadn’t rebalanced in six months or so, it’s highly likely that if you took a snapshot of your allocation August 25th (see above), it would look more like 33% fixed income and 67% equity investments because equity prices (in general) dropped.
If August 25th was your pre-scheduled date to evaluate and rebalance (if necessary), what would be the objective action to take?
The objective answer is to get your allocation back to your pre-established mix of 30%/70%, which requires you to add more money to the equity (stock based investment) side of your allocation. Take advantage of the extraordinary timing to buy your equities at low prices.
In essence, what are you doing here? You’re buying “low” vs. buying “high”, exactly what an intelligent, objective investor would do.
Fast Forward to Last Friday (March 18, 2016)
If you then fast forward to last Friday, March 18, 2016, you would find that the price of the S&P 500 Index climbed back up over 10% since August 25th. (It may not feel like that given the climb to a November peak followed by another big drop in January!)
Given this, had you rebalanced back on August 25th, it’s highly likely that your pre-determined allocation was now way out of balance the other way, i.e. 27% fixed income and 73% equity because equity prices rose sharply since you rebalanced last August.
If last Friday, March 18th was your pre-scheduled date to evaluate and rebalance (if necessary), what action should you objectively take?
The answer, exactly like it was before in the opposite circumstance, is to get your allocation back to your pre-determined mix of 30%/70%, which now requires you to sell a portion of your appreciated equities.
And, in the case of most of our Relaxing Retirement members, take the opportunity to replenish your cash positions to the level you need to satisfy your upcoming withdrawal needs for spending.
In this case, you’re selling “high”, exactly what an intelligent, objective investor would do.
The bottom line is two-fold:
First, remain objective during good times and bad, as hard as that is during heightened market volatility. Emotional investors never win.
And, second, successful investing in your retirement years, when you’re dependent on your investments to provide you with monthly cash flow to cover your spending needs, is every different than investing during your “working” years.
It requires a carefully thought out, disciplined “system”. Random movement for the sake of movement is a recipe for disaster.