December 2021 Best of the Web

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What a wild ride 2021 has been! The news was marked by heightened political tensions, a disastrous end to America’s longest war, and pandemic ups and downs. Economic events included continued massive government intervention, internet forums taking down sophisticated hedge funds, supply chain and labor market issues, and inflation returning in a big way.

Despite all this, the stock market charts continue to trend up and to the right. Real estate booms. A manic environment persists around all things crypto and blockchain.

If we’ve learned anything with certainty this year, it’s that we can’t predict the future with any degree of certainty. Uncertainty and anxiety are dominant emotions amongst many investors concerned with potential bubbles in nearly all asset classes.

I’ve collected an interesting assortment of resources to help you make sense of the chaos and position yourself for financial and personal success in the year to come. Best wishes for a happy holiday season and start to a prosperous new year!

Vanguard’s Evolution

I’ve been a long-time customer of and cheerleader for Vanguard. Vanguard and its founder John Bogle have done immeasurable good for everyday investors like you and I.

But, in recent months I’ve criticized their messaging around FIRE and shared concern over their changing investment strategies.

I’m not alone. John Rekenthaler asks: Has Vanguard Lost Its Way?

Looking Forward and Back

I continue to appreciate Vanguard’s reasoned and probability based economic forecasts. They recently published the Vanguard Economic and Market Outlook for 2022.

Predicting the future is obviously problematic. Looking back at the past presents its own challenges. Still, both are important as we try to make the best decisions in the face of uncertainty.

Tyler at Portfolio Charts shares his research that identifies the Three Secret Ingredients of the Most Efficient Portfolios since 1970. Will history repeat itself over the next 50 years? Only time will tell. Still this is an interesting read for those of us interested in building a portfolio beyond a traditional domestic stock/bond or three fund portfolio.

Retirement Income Assumptions

Bill Bengen was on Morningstar’s Longview podcast with Christene Benz and Jeff Ptak recently: Revisiting Safe Withdrawal Rates.

My take home from this conversation is the humility the participants, each an expert on the topic in their own right, brought to it. We all want a simple answer as to how much is “enough.” But we are in unprecedented times. Those answers don’t exist.

The reality is, no one knows. Proceed with caution!

No Assumptions Necessary

Michael Fink shares The Hard Truth About TIPS, which is “they offer returns that are unattractive. But they may be more attractive than the alternative of accepting greater risk in an inflated market where the reward for taking risk is so small.”

I recently shared that we are between our peak earning years as a two income household in the past and likely lower earning years in the future. We also don’t yet have to worry about ACA subsidies. As such, we are focusing on harvesting capital gains in our taxable investment accounts.

This requires understanding how capital gains are taxed. Jim Dahle sums this up well, writing Short-Term vs. Long-Term Capital Gains.

How Not to Invest

I’ve shared our investment policy statement and created a downloadable PDF to help you create your own. I recommend everyone do so. Still, I recognize that many people won’t follow this advice.

Tadas Viskanta recognizes this fact as well. So he advises at least creating an anti-investment policy statement.

Last year at this time ARKK was making headlines for its eye-popping returns. This year returns have crashed back to earth. But neither of these reported numbers reflect how investors in the fund did. Amy Arnott suggests that ARKK provides An Objective Lesson in How Not to Invest.

The FIRE Is Spreading

Claire Ballentine reports on interesting findings of a recent survey. Goldman Sachs Says Young US Workers Are Plotting Early Retirements.

What Comes Next?

As FIRE principles help more people achieve our financial goals, we each have to figure out what comes next in our lives. I certainly thought about what I wanted to do, what life would look like, what would give me joy and satisfaction after financial independence.

What I didn’t appreciate is how much I would change. My retirement plans were based on values and beliefs I’d developed in my first half of life. But once I met many of my financial, educational, professional, and personal goals — I’d become a different person with new mountains to climb.

I’ve read multiple books that build upon psychologist Carl Jung’s idea of life’s two halves. One of the best, which I recently reread is Falling Upward by Richard Rohr.

As I was finishing the book, I stumbled upon this article by Tim Mauer that provides a great introduction to this concept and how he’s seen it play out in his financial advice clients: Making The Most Of Midlife Crises

Arthur Brooks points out that “Whole sections of bookstores are dedicated to becoming successful. There is no section marked ‘managing your professional decline’.” 

So he explores this important topic in the essay Your Professional Decline Is Coming (Much) Sooner Than You Think — Here’s How to Make the Most of It.

Thank you!

Wherever you are in your financial journey, I’m honored and grateful to have you as a reader of this blog. Best wishes for this holiday season and a happy, healthy, prosperous year ahead!

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Valuable Resources

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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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