Are Your Retirement Growth Assumptions Reasonable
Making the right assumptions about future rates of return is critical.
Investment returns assumptions can be an Achilles' heel in retirement analysis, and standardization is yet to emerge, even in the academic research. For instance, Gustafson, Boldt, and Bird (2005) base their discussion on historical returns from 1926-2003, with unexplained adjustment, and Ervin, Faulk, and Smolira (2009) make similar assumptions with a later version of the Ibbotson's Yearbook. Others go back even further, like Basu and Drew's 2009 study which uses the 1900-2004 interval. Phau (2011) also analyzes this longer period, but notes that the consideration of only US data perhaps results in overly optimistic assumptions when compared to results from other countries' markets, which may perhaps presage the next US equities era, to retirees' detriment.
Other, later work uses more modern periods (Schleef&Eisinger, 2011, 1970-2008), and some (Phau, Jan. 2012) suggest methodology for advisors to insert their own market returns assumptions into their retirement planning calculus.
There are several profound problems with using historical data as a projection foundation. The first is data quality. It seems quite likely that the further back one reaches, the greater the chance that error, incompleteness, or quanta definition (how are earnings defined, for instance, or was that a dividend or return of capital back in 1916?) incomparability has crept in. The second issue embraces similar concerns with (even modern) non-US data. The third is period cherry-picking: using more or even very recent data (such as 2009-current) can distort projections disastrously. A forth is a lack of correlation of market results with underlying, complex, and constantly morphing economic trends, which, for instance, deeply distort bond market expectations if based on the past thirty years.
In the end, future returns' magnitudes and sequences are unknowable, a phenomenon not likely to change (if it did risk premia would likely collapse and the word return might lose much of its meaning). In light of this ignorance, prudence dictates more conservative assumptions, or at least those in which the client is fully engaged in the potential disaster engendered by more aggressive assumptions. In a constantly changing world, a regularly-adjusted, iterative planning approach is probably best, at least for the portion of retirement security tied to risk-based assets. Hopefully in the future, a standardized economic consensus forecast may emerge, that planners could be expected to incorporate into their client work.
Dr. Jeff Camarda is a financial advisor located in Fleming Island & Ponte Vedra, FL. Dr. Jeff has over 33 years' experience working with local businesses and investors. More information about Dr. Jeff can be found at www.camarda.com.
This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing advisor, not the WiserAdvisor editorial staff. WiserAdvisor has qualified Financial Advisors in Jacksonville, Florida area. WiserAdvisor offers financial advisor matching service who meets your screening criteria. Following financial industry's best practice, we recommend that you talk to at least 2 to 3 advisors before making any decision. To introduce yourself to one of our advisor subscribers, please click here.
Only if You Are
One of The Select Few
Who Prefers to Take Charge
- Past Results
- Fee Schedules
- Investment Style
You may also be interested in...
By Justin Stoltzfus March 20, 2014 As financial experts sound the warning bells about the American retirement planning crisis, and how little the average worker has saved toward his or her golden years, all kinds of questions arise. What exactly do retiring workers have squirreled away to provide... more
By James O'Brien March 8, 2014 Despite a narrow brush with a new reduction to Social Security benefits, seniors will not see the proposed move to a more conservative cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, in 2014. President Barack Obama's announcement on Feb. 2 that he was scrapping the... more
By James O'Brien By now, many investors and analysts have taken a look at President Obama's MyRA plan and drawn a reasonable conclusion: It won't get retirees through many years of post-work expenses. But then, that's not the MyRA's purpose. The federal government's newest retirement instrument... more
Millions of employees will change jobs this year through career moves, layoffs or retirement. If you are one of these employees, chances are that this change has left you with a lot to think about. And one important decision you need to make is what to do with your retirement savings. You have... more
In tax planning, the goal typically is to delay the payment of income taxes. Thus, it can be difficult to understand why it might make sense to convert a traditional individual retirement account (IRA) to a Roth IRA, which results in the current payment of income taxes. Factors that favor... more