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Looks Like I'll Be Able to Retire Comfortably at Age 91

January 30, 2015


My advice is to focus not on retiring comfortably, but on working comfortably.

You've probably seen articles and adverts discussing how much money you'll need to "retire comfortably." The trick of course is the definition of comfortable. The general idea of comfortable (as I understand it) appears to be an income which enables the retiree to enjoy leisurely vacations on cruise ships, own a well-appointed RV for tooling around the countryside, and spend as much time on the golf links as he/she might want.

Needless to say, Social Security isn't going to fund a comfortable retirement, unless the definition is watching TV with an box of kibble to snack on.

By this definition of retiring comfortably, I reckon I should be able to retire at age 91--assuming I can work another 30 years and the creek don't rise.

Since I earned my first real Corporate America paycheck at 16 in 1970 (summer job for Dole Pineapple), I've logged 45 years of work. Now if I'd been smart and worked for the government, I could have retired 10 years ago with generous pension and healthcare benefits for life.

But alas, I wasn't smart, so here I am, a self-employed numbskull.

The articles and adverts usually suggest piling up a hefty nestegg to fund that comfortable retirement. As near as I can make out, the nestegg should be around $2.6 million--or maybe it's $26 million. Let's just say it's a lot.

This presents retirees without generous government pensions two basic problems. One is making enough money to pay the bills of survival and set aside the two million or whatever the number is to retire comfortably.

The average full-time earned income in the U.S. is around $50,000, depending on how the statistics are massaged. At this income, the worker would need to to save every dime for 40 years to assemble the nestegg. Needless to say, this isn't practical (unless you inherit a trust fund, in which case you don't even have to bother with earned income.)

The magic solution is unearned income, i.e. dividends, interest, capital gains on investments, etc. If the worker aiming for that comfortable retirement socks his/her retirement nestegg in high-yielding investments, the nestegg will grow over time to the sky (i.e. the $2 million needed to retire comfortably.)

This raises the second problem: identifying those magical high-yielding investments that won't suddenly turn to dust when the long-awaited retirement approaches.

In the good old days, plain old savings earned 5.25% annually by federal law. Buying a house was not a way to get rich quick, it was more like a forced savings plan, as over time real estate earned about 1% above the core inflation rate.

But all the safe ways of gaining earned income have been eradicated by the Federal Reserve. As I described in The Fed's Solution to Income Stagnation: Make Everyone a Speculator (January 24, 2014), the status quo "fix" for economic stagnation was to financialize the U.S. economy. What this means on the ground is eliminate safe returns and make everyone a speculator in high-risk, high-yield financial games.

The essence of financialization is turning debt into a tradeable security that can be leveraged into speculative pyramids. If I loan you $100,000 to buy a house, that loan is called a mortgage. The collateral for the mortgage is the property. In the pre-financialization era, I held the mortgage to maturity (30 years) and collected the interest and principal. This trickle of earnings from interest was the entire yield on the loan.

In the securitized economy, I divide the loan into tranches that are sold to investors like stocks and bonds. I can "cash out" my entire gain in the present, and then sell derivatives on the securitized debt as a form of "portfolio insurance" to other buyers.

Clever financiers can pyramid security on security and debt on debt, all collateralized by debt on one property.

This enables the generation of vast profits not from producing goods and services but from financial churning. The more debt I underwrite, the more I can securitize and the more debt instruments I can conjure out of thin air.

The key dynamic of speculative financialization is that pyramiding credit expansions lead to bubbles which eventually pop, wiping out the phantom wealth created by the bubble.

In effect, the central bank/state's policies of low interest rates, easy money and limitless liquidity sought to compensate for the decline of real income by generating speculative income on a vast scale.

The problem is that speculative financialization only benefits speculators with access to nearly free money and the securitization markets--Wall Street financiers, corporate raiders, hedge funds and other financial Elites. These Elites pocketed immense fortunes but very little of this wealth trickled down to households for the simple reason that there is no mechanism for such a transfer except taxes--and this mechanism is controlled by the central state, which is easily influenced by wealth (campaign contributions, lobbying, etc.)

The Federal Reserve's solution to stagnating household income was to make every homeowner into a speculator. The Great Housing Bubble of the 2000s was the perfection of this strategy: as every home in the nation was floating higher in valuation as the result of an enormous credit/financialization bubble, homeowners were granted a form of "free income" via home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) and second mortgages.

That this increase in home equity was a form of phantom wealth that would necessarily vanish was not advertised as being an intrinsic feature of the solution.

In the wake of the implosion of the housing bubble, the Fed sought to repeat the exact same strategy of inflating speculative bubbles in widely held assets: stocks, bonds and real estate.

So anyone assembling a nestegg for retirement is gambling that the bubbles don't all pop before he/she cashes out. If the bubbles keep inflating steadily for another decade, making assets ever-more richly valued and unaffordable to anyone who isn't using leverage to buy them, then maybe I could retire after only 55 years of work at age 71.

But what are the chances that monumental bubbles in stocks, bonds and real estate will continue inflating for another decade? Most gigantic asset bubbles pop after five years of expansion. The current bubbles are in Year 6 of their speculative expansion, and it seems highly unlikely that they will be the only bubbles in the history of humanity to never pop.

If the current bubbles follow the pattern of all other speculative credit-driven bubbles, they will pop, without much warning and with devastating consequences for all those who believed the bubbles couldn't possibly pop. In that case, it looks like I'll need to work another 30 years, logging 75 years of labor before I can retire comfortably at 91.

My advice is to focus not on retiring comfortably, but on working comfortably. Line up work you enjoy that can be performed in old age. That's a much safer bet than counting on the serial bubble-blowing machinery of the Fed to keep inflating speculative bubbles that magically never pop.








Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy (Kindle, $9.95)(print, $17.76)
go to Kindle edition
Are you like me?
Ever since my first summer job decades ago, I've been chasing financial security. Not win-the-lottery, Bill Gates riches (although it would be nice!), but simply a feeling of financial control. I want my financial worries to if not disappear at least be manageable and comprehensible.

And like most of you, the way I've moved toward my goal has always hinged not just on having a job but a career.

You don't have to be a financial blogger to know that "having a job" and "having a career" do not mean the same thing today as they did when I first started swinging a hammer for a paycheck.

Even the basic concept "getting a job" has changed so radically that jobs--getting and keeping them, and the perceived lack of them--is the number one financial topic among friends, family and for that matter, complete strangers.

So I sat down and wrote this book: Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy.

It details everything I've verified about employment and the economy, and lays out an action plan to get you employed.

I am proud of this book. It is the culmination of both my practical work experiences and my financial analysis, and it is a useful, practical, and clarifying read.

Test-drive the first section and see for yourself.     Kindle, $9.95     print, $17.76

"I want to thank you for creating your book Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy. It is rare to find a person with a mind like yours, who can take a holistic systems view of things without being captured by specific perspectives or agendas. Your contribution to humanity is much appreciated."
Laura Y.

Gordon Long and I discuss The New Nature of Work: Jobs, Occupations & Careers (25 minutes, YouTube)


HUGE GIANT BIG FAT DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site should be construed as investment advice or guidance. It is not intended as investment advice or guidance, nor is it offered as such.... (read more)

WHY EMAIL TO THIS SITE IS READ BUT MAY NOT BE ACKNOWLEDGED: Regrettably, I am so sorely pressed for time and energy that I am unable to respond to the vast majority of emails. Please know I read all emails, but I can only devote a very limited number of hours to this blog and all correspondence....



This Month's entries:

Looks Like I'll Be Able to Retire Comfortably at Age 91 January 30, 2015

Could the U.S. Become the Unrivaled Superpower Again? January 29, 2015

The Surprising Consequences of the Global Frenzy for Positive Yield January 28, 2015

Greece at the Crossroads: the Oligarchs Blew It January 27, 2015

The Federal Reserve Has Declared the Winner in the Generational Financial War January 26, 2015

Oil Dinosaurs Face Extinction: State Oil Companies and the Meteor-Strike of Low Oil Prices January 23, 2015

Do We Want Solutions, Or Just What's Easy?
January 22, 2015

Asset Ownership and Our System of Deepening Debt-Serfdom
January 21, 2015

How Do You Unmanipulate a Manipulated Economy?
January 20, 2015

Who Benefits When Bubbles Burst?
January 19, 2015

Our Central Planners Are Breeding Failure
January 16, 2015

The Fed and the Price of Oil
January 15, 2015

What Is a National Nervous Breakdown?
January 14, 2015

The Deep State Strategy: Burn Everyone Else's Oil First, Leave Ours in the Ground
January 13, 2015

The Achilles Heel of the Global Status Quo: Deflation
January 12, 2015

2015: The War on Our Intuition That Something Is Fundamentally Amiss
January 9, 2015

2015: Everything Can Be Fixed by Printing More Money
January 8, 2015

2015: Asymmetric Oil Warfare
January 7, 2015

2015: Here's The Plan: Drive Everyone Into Ruinously Risky Bets
January 6, 2015

2015: A World Ruled by Hubris, Willful Blindness and Desperation
January 5, 2015

Of Two Minds in 2015
January 1, 2015


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Extra-Special Bonus Aphorisms:


"There is no security on this earth; there is only opportunity."
(Douglas MacArthur)

"We are what we repeatedly do." (Aristotle)

"Do the thing and you shall have the power." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction." (E.F. Schumacher, via Tom R.)

"He who will not risk cannot win." (John Paul Jones)

"When we drink coffee, ideas march in like the army." (Honore de Balzac)

"Progress is not possible without deviation." (Frank Zappa, via Richard Metzger)

"Victory favors those who take pains." (amat victoria curam)

"The man who has a garden and a library has everything." (Cicero, via Lee Bentley)

"A healthy homecooked family meal and a home garden are revolutionary acts." CHS

"Do you know what amazes me more than anything else? The impotence of force to organize anything." (Napoleon Bonaparte)

"The way of the Tao is reversal" Or "Reversal is the movement of Tao." (Lao Tzu)

"Chance favours the prepared mind." (Louis Pasteur)

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." (Winston Churchill)

"Where there is ruin, there is hope for treasures." (Rumi)

"The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love and something to hope for." Joseph Addison (via Susan J.)

"The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, via Wayne H.)

"Passive absorption of marketing-dominated media is the primary activity on the plantation of the mind, and that of course is the goal of the colonial overlords: distraction, passivity, confusion, divide and conquer, and the old stand-by, financial desperation." (CHS)

"While we can always buy back into a trending market, we cannot go back in time and recover a profit lost to greed or complacency." (CHS)

"Whatever remains unconscious emerges later as fate." (Carl Jung)

"Any sufficiently advanced cartel's actions are indistinguishable from magic." (CHS)

"We have no leadership, just cronies and puppets." (CHS)

"The secret sauce in an investment isn't the upside, it's the viability between people who choose to share your dream in business or in life." (Eric P.)

"The ultimate goals of making money are balance and independence from money." (An Chu)

"Central planning perfects the power of threats to bypass the system's defenses." (CHS)

"Independence requires independence of thought, habit and action." (CHS)

"Certainty has another advantage: it's more persuasive than hedged hesitancy." (CHS)

"That which is cheap and abundant will be squandered until it is no longer cheap or abundant." (CHS) (3/5/2014)

"The prime directive of any bureaucracy is to eliminate all accountability." (CHS)

"In a world besotted with the artifice of consumerism, what matters is not what can be commodified and bought but what can't be commodified and bought." (CHS)

"The Mobile Creative credo: trust the network, not the corporation or the state." (CHS)

"The Smith Market Uncertainty Principle: The more precisely we can determine the likelihood of a trend change, the less precisely we can determine the timing of the trend change--and vice versa." (June 20, 2014)

"Smith's Law of Conservation of Risk: Every sustained action has more than one consequence. Some consequences will appear positive for a time before revealing their destructive nature. Some consequences will be intended, some will not. Some will be foreseeable, some will not. Some will be controllable, some will not. Those that are unforeseen and uncontrollable will trigger waves of other unforeseen and uncontrollable consequences." (July 8, 2014)(thanks to Lew G. for retitling the idea.)

"The truth at any cost lowers all other costs." (Robert David Steele)

"Liberation isn't profitable, and more's the pity." (CHS, 11/29/2014)

"There is no difference between the path of repeated failure and the path that eventual leads to uncommon success." (CHS, 12/5/2014)

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    bikesnobnyc

    carfreewithkids

    howwedrive


    Smart Growth/Alt. Transpo

    t4america.org

    discoveringurbanism

    theoverheadwire

    Regional Communities


    The Great Transformation

    Club Orlov

    Mat Stein: When Technology Fails

    Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group (AIDG)

    The Survivalist Blog

    Little Homestead in the City


    Dumpster-Diving/Freegan

    Urban Dumpster Diver


    Hawaii

    ilind.net (Ka'a'awa)

    Richard Ha/Hamakua Springs

    Hilo Living


    Leaving America

    Yield Qwest: Overseas Business Emigration


    Buy gold online:

    Buy gold online at low prices: BullionVault

    Need to send a gift?
    Amazon.com gift certificates

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    Original Music

    2 new songs:


    Obsession (Song 29)
    (rock/grunge; CHS & CC, lead guitars)

    The Bridge
    (jazz; CC, bass & guitars)



    My "definition" of success:

    1. Did I make myself useful today?
    2. Did I take care of myself today and avoid burdening anyone with my cares and troubles?
    3. Were I to meet the living Jesus or Buddha at day's end, would I feel ashamed of my conduct during the day, or could I meet his gaze with the inner knowledge that I emulated his teachings to the very best of my ability?


    live free
    live well
    live with integrity
    live with kindness
    be average but with self-discipline


    7 things to aspire to:

    austerity
    restraint
    humility
    responsibility
    patience
    sacrifice
    thrift

     

       
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