October 2021 Best of the Web

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I took a step back from writing this month. I did not take a break from reading, and I have some great resources to share with you.

We start with a look at inflation. Some eye popping numbers were announced for IBond rates and Social Security inflation adjustments. Are you prepared for a period of high inflation?

We examine the evolution of Vanguard’s business, a new way to invest in Bitcoin and whether either of those are good things. I also share an outstanding resource for those of you looking to hire help with your financial planning, but overwhelmed with where to start.

Resources explore important topics including the non-financial aspects of retirement preparedness, when more information can actually hurt you, striking the right balance between saving for later and enjoying today, and more.

With such a wide variety of topics, I hope there will be something of value for everyone. Enjoy and have a great month.

Inflation Is Heating Up

This summer, I compared IBonds and TIPS as the topic of inflation was popping up everywhere I looked. Though speculation about high inflation was what sparked my interest in this topic, that was not why I chose to start buying IBonds.

IBonds have a number of unique features that make them attractive in the current extreme low interest rate environment. I viewed the upside of IBonds’ inflation adjustments in periods of high inflation as icing on the cake.

Well there will be a lot of icing for the next six months for anyone buying IBonds. Social Security recipients will also be getting a nice raise after recent eye popping inflation numbers were reported. From Tipswatch: Inflation report sets IBonds inflation adjusted rate at 7.12% and Social Security COLA at 5.9%.

What should you expect from stocks if high inflation persists? Ben Carlson reviews how stocks performed in the past during periods of high inflation, writing Inflation vs. Stock Market Returns.

Finding Good Financial Advice

I originally started blogging to become an educator and consumer advocate in response to receiving conflicted financial advice that cost us tens of thousands of dollars per year. Initially, I was very dogmatic against financial advisors.

After talking to readers, friends, colleagues and starting to help my parents with their investments, I’ve softened my stance. I realize many, probably most, people do need at least some help with their finances. Unfortunately, finding good help is hard.

Mike Piper wrote an excellent piece to help you sort through the alphabet soup of professional designations that financial advisors may have, to help you find the right help for your situation: Financial Advisor Licenses and Designations.

Is Vanguard Changing?

Rick Ferri and Ted Aronson discussed Vanguard’s recent decisions to bring private equity to retail investors and add actively managed funds to clients of their Personal Advisory Services (PAS). Investors in Vanguard’s actively managed funds and PAS clients in particular should listen to this episode of the Bogleheads on Investing Podcast.

Vanguard’s global head of private investments, Fran Kinniry discussed these coming changes and the surprising return assumptions driving them in this interview with Barry Ritholtz on the Masters in Business Podcast.

An Easy Way to Invest in Bitcoin?

Vanguard is introducing private equity to make this asset class easily accessible to retail investors. ETF providers are taking similar actions to enable investors to gain exposure to Bitcoin without actually going through the effort of fully understanding and owning Bitcoin directly. 

David Stein asks and answers Should You Invest in a Bitcoin ETF?

Beyond Dollars and Cents

The question “Can I retire yet?” is synonymous in many peoples’ minds with the question “Do I have enough money to retire?”. If so, you may be missing out on a big piece of the equation and setting yourself up for problems.

Jim Wang addresses this issue thoughtfully, writing Are You Ready to Retire? Probably not.

Fritz Gilbert introduced the 90/10 Rule of Retirement, to explain the drastic shift in focus between pre-retirement planning and post-retirement life.

When More Information Is Not Better

Jim Dahle explains Why You Should Ignore the Financial Media.

Laura D. Quinby and Gal Wettstein provide a perfect example of what can happen when we don’t heed Dr. Dahle’s advice, writing How Does Media Coverage of Social Security Affect Worker Behavior?

Finding Balance

Most readers of this blog are on track for a secure retirement. Many of you are looking to accomplish this a decade or more before traditional retirement age.

In my opinion, this is a superior approach to the paycheck to paycheck lifestyle most people live. But it is not without downsides and challenges.

Ben Carlson ponders when a desire to pursue financial freedom can become An Unhealthy Obsession With Money

This blog traditionally steers clear of the topics of politics and religion. But Sawyer Nyquist makes some compelling points when analyzing the FIRE movement, regardless of your beliefs. He writes A Theology of Financial Independence.

Credit Card Rewards

The fact that readers of this blog will relate to the above articles indicates the potential downside of being so hyper-aware of our personal finances. The upside of our financial literacy and awareness is we can take advantage of opportunities and strategies that many people should avoid. One such strategy I enjoy taking advantage of is credit card sign up bonuses.

As the holiday season is approaching, many of us spend more than usual. This is a great time to consider a new credit card to take advantage of the generous sign up bonuses offered if you meet the minimum spending requirements.

Best Cash Back Rewards

I tend to favor credit card travel rewards. However, a number of readers of the blog informed be they prefer the simplicity of cash back rewards.

Regardless of your preference, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a great card for anyone who can hit the relatively high spending limit of $4,000 in the first three months from account opening. When you do, you receive 60,000 bonus points. These points are worth $600 cash, $750 when used to book travel on the card, and potentially more if the points are transferred to travel partners. The card has a $95 annual fee.

The best pure cash back offer currently available is the U.S. Bank Altitude® Connect Visa Signature® Card. You earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first 120 days of account opening. The points are worth $500. The card’s $95 annual fee is waived the first year.

Outstanding Offer for Southwest Points

I prefer to focus on travel rewards. My favorite type are Southwest RapidRewards® points for three reasons. They:

  • Are easy to accumulate,
  • Are simple to redeem, and 
  • Provide a ton of value for domestic flights.

Recently Chase announced their best points offer ever on all three of their co-branded cards with Southwest Airlines, the:

Earn up to 100,000 bonus points with any of them. Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open, plus 50,000 more bonus points after spending $12,000 total on purchases in the first 12 months.

Fees and perks do vary between the cards, so see which best suits your needs. From top to bottom they are the most basic (i.e. less fees and perks) to advanced (i.e higher fees and perks).

All points count towards the 120,000 points required to earn a Companion Pass®. This allows you to fly with a companion for free for the remainder of the year you earn the points and the entire following year. The key is that you have to earn the points all in one calendar year.

For this reason, I’ll be watching this offer closely to make sure I don’t miss it. I’ll jump on it as late in the year as possible so we can earn and utilize the Companion Pass for at least part of 2022 and all of 2023.

Losing Our Caretakers

I like to think that helping people retire sooner is a good thing. In an ideal world that is true.

However, in some fields where there are already worker shortages more people retiring sooner will only exacerbate the problem. Judith Graham highlights one example that is likely to impact many of us, writing A Wrenching Farewell: Bidding Adieu to My Primary Care Doctor After Nearly 30 Years.

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Valuable Resources

  • The Best Retirement Calculators can help you perform detailed retirement simulations including modeling withdrawal strategies, federal and state income taxes, healthcare expenses, and more. Can I Retire Yet? partners with two of the best.
  • Free Travel or Cash Back with credit card rewards and sign up bonuses.
  • Monitor Your Investment Portfolio
    • Sign up for a free Personal Capital account to gain access to track your asset allocation, investment performance, individual account balances, net worth, cash flow, and investment expenses.
  • Our Books

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[Chris Mamula used principles of traditional retirement planning, combined with creative lifestyle design, to retire from a career as a physical therapist at age 41. After poor experiences with the financial industry early in his professional life, he educated himself on investing and tax planning. Now he draws on his experience to write about wealth building, DIY investing, financial planning, early retirement, and lifestyle design at Can I Retire Yet? Chris has been featured on MarketWatch, Morningstar, U.S. News & World Report, and Business Insider. He is also the primary author of the book Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence. You can reach him at]

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