Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Projected Retirement Income

If we retired today, how much would our retirement income be? To answer the question, I updated an analysis I did a few years ago and came up with this graph:

Passive income is what our combined tax returns would be in each year if we had not received a salary nor made any work related deductions. I also added back charitable deductions and personal concessional superannuation contributions to our SMSF as these aren't costs in the same way that margin interest is, for example. So, it is not 100% passive as it includes realised capital gains and losses. I also plot how much a 4% withdrawal from our superannuation accounts and US retirement fund would amount to under the assumption that we apply the 4% rule to these accounts. My thinking is that unrealised gains on the non-retirement funds would be sufficient to maintain purchasing power. Taxes are likely to be very low, so I just ignore them.

Last tax year our income would have been AUD 154k. Our spending not including mortgage interest and life insurance was AUD 152k. So, this is one reason why I don't feel comfortable retiring as we are spending very close to our sustainable income and spending is likely to continue to rise. On the other hand, if we apply the 4% rule to our entire portfolio at 30 June 2022, it would yield AUD 175k. But maybe the 4% rule is not conservative enough. My recent analysis of how much of our returns is needed to compensate for inflation, was much more pessimistic than this.

If we were forced to stop working we could easily slash spending by taking the children out of private school, which accounts for an expected 30% of our budget.

Sunday, January 21, 2024

How Much Investment Income Do We Need to Compensate for Inflation?


This chart compares the fitted investment income curve from my previous post about the "boiling point" with the monthly loss of value of our portfolio (including our house) due to inflation. I just took the monthly percentage change in Australia's consumer price index and multiplied by the value of our portfolio that month. The gap between the blue and orange curves is a naive estimate of how much can be spent each month in retirement mode.

Currently, projected investment income is only just enough to cover the loss from inflation. Smoothing inflation over twelve months tells a similar story:

Here I divide the CPI by its value twelve months earlier, take the twelfth root and subtract one before multiplying by the value of the portfolio. This shows that inflation is coming down a little but is still high. We really need to boost our rate of return relative to inflation in order to retire and maintain the real value of the portfolio. It is hard to think about retiring until in inflation is more under control.

Investment income accounts for superannuation taxes, but assumes that the only tax on investments outside superannuation is exactly equal to the franking credits paid.* In retirement, the superannuation tax would go away, but there would be capital gains and other taxes on investments outside superannuation. So, probably it is in the ballpark.

* This is because the series is computed as the change in net worth minus saving and inheritances. Saving is computed after tax including superannuation contribution taxes and income tax.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Further Update on Big Moomin's Account

I recently posted about the returns on the children's portfolios. It looks like it would be complicated to transfer Big Moomin's portfolio to me here in Australia. My brother has taken up my idea of just picking a couple of diversified funds and sticking with them and sent me details of two. These are growth oriented funds that invest in shares in his country and internationally as well as some bonds. The managers have mandates to do whatever they want. There isn't really a stated strategy. These are called "flexible" funds there. One is a few years old and has done well and isn't too correlated with any particular stock index. The other is only just over a year old and also did well in 2023. So, I said, sure, invest in those two funds and see how it goes after a year.

When Was the Boiling Point?

Interesting post from Enough Wealth on the "boiling point" when more of your gain in net worth comes from investment returns rather than saving. Rather than just look at the change in net worth, I created the following graph of monthly total saving from non-investment income:

This includes superannuation contributions and mortgage principal payments but not inheritances. I fitted a linear trend to this. Then I created a graph of investment income (including superannuation returns and changes in the value of our house):


I fitted a quadratic trend to this data. When the two curves cross we are at the boiling point. Because of the volatility of investment income it's a bit hard to see where that is. So, I also did this close up:


The boiling point was in January 2012 according to this analysis. Currently the trend is at about $35k per month, which is about four to five times the savings trend. That doesn't really say anything about the ability to retire. Some of the investment return is needed to maintain the real after inflation value of the portfolio and it needs to be compared to spending not saving!

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Bottom in Real Estate?

Fundrise have come out and said that they think the bottom is in in the commercial real estate market. Coincides with my assessment that maybe the bottom is close for a diversified portfolio. This graph shows monthly percentage returns of the TIAA Real Estate Fund and a twelve-month moving average:

So, I am switching some of my US 403b account back to the TIAA Real Estate Fund. My mistake in the last couple of years was not switching enough out of this fund to CREF Social Choice, though I did switch a lot. I was at 43% Real Estate, 57% Social Choice last month and now am at 70% Real Estate, 30% Social Choice. As a result of the switches I managed to roughly maintain the balance of the account in the last couple of years:

I was actively saving in this account up to June 2007, after which the trend is solely due to investment returns.

Monday, January 08, 2024

Contributions to Annual Return

I haven't formally finalized the accounts for 2023 yet. I will need to wait to get investment returns on illiquid investments that report with a long time lag. But I do have a preliminary estimate of 6.38% in AUD terms (6.64% in USD terms). This is rather disappointing as the MSCI returned 22.81%, the S&P 500 26.27%, and the ASX 200 14.45%. Our target portfolio returned 10.84%. So, why did we underperform the target by so much? The following tables analyze the returns of each portfolio:

RoR is the rate of return of the asset class and contribution is the rate of return multiplied by the share of the portfolio. The sum of contributions gives the portfolio return. The returns for the Moom portfolio are in currency neutral and unlevered terms and, so, differ slightly from the Australian Dollar return for the portfolio. The asset classes don't quite match, but it's close enough. 

The target portfolio got 2.48% returns from international stocks. The return I got from US stocks at 15.8% was less than the MSCI index at 22.5% but more importantly, my allocation to other countries resulted in a negative return and so the total contribution from international stocks was only 0.89%. 

The target portfolio got 1.73% returns from Australian stocks. Again, my return from Australian large caps was a bit lower than that of the ASX 200 but my allocation to small cap stocks had a negative return and so the overall contribution was only 0.49%.

The target portfolio represents managed futures using the Winton Global Alpha Fund. This gave a contribution of 0.59%. I also allocated to the Aspect Diversified Futures Fund and Australian Dollar futures. These dragged down returns resulting in a contribution of only 0.18%.

The target portfolio obtained a 1.61% contribution from hedge funds (based on the HFRI index), while I only got 0.25%. Though some funds like Pershing Square did very well, other Australian hedge funds under-performed.

Real Assets is the area where I outperformed. I represent this in the target portfolio using the TIAA Real Estate Fund. My allocations to other real assets resulted here in a small gain rather than a large loss.

Bonds and gold made a similar contribution to each portfolio. Finally, venture capital made an outsized contribution to the target portfolio of 4.38%. My venture capital investments lost money overall in 2023. I did much better than the target portfolio in buyout investments like 3i. But this wasn't sufficient to match the target portfolio's overall private equity contribution.

I think there is some luck here. In a different year, non-US stocks or Australian small caps might perform well. On the other hand, I also need to eventually reduce some of my allocations to Australian hedge funds that have under-delivered.

Update on the Children's Portfolios

I was calling our children Moomin and Baby Moomin on this blog. But the latter is no longer a baby, so let's call them Big and Little Moomin :) My brother reported to me that Big Moomin's portfolio only returned 4% in USD terms in 2023. He put that down to not trading enough because the bank has made it harder to trade on this trust account...  Obviously it's down to being in the wrong things. I have tried to get him to stick with a diversified portfolio. He manages this one and the accounts for two of his children who all inherited money from our mother. The will stated that they couldn't access the money till they were 23 years old. I manage Little Moomin's portfolio, because he was born after my mother died and so wasn't included in the will. My brother and I each contributed from our inheritances to his account. I invested his money in an investment bond with Generation Life. His account returned an estimated pre-tax 14% in AUD terms in 2023.* The target portfolio benchmark made about 10.8% for the year. So, finally, this portfolio outperformed the benchmark after under-performing so far:

The graph also shows how the target portfolio has matched the ASX 200 while experiencing lower volatility over this period.

Anyway, my brother says that he is going to try to transfer the money to me. Initially, he was advised that the money had to stay in his country, where my mother lived, but now apparently he has reason to think otherwise.

* It is estimated, as 30% tax is deducted inside the investment bond. You can reduce this tax eventually if the child "breaks the bond" by adding an additional investment and they are in a lower tax bracket when withdrawing the money.