Monday Randoms

Catching up on a few articles from around the web.

After trying to debunk the 70% replacement rule a few days ago, Laurence Kotlikoff was back to debunk the 4%, whereby a 4% withdrawal rate in retirement from an investment portfolio has an extremely high probability of allowing the portfolio to sustain without running out of money. Kotlikoff thinks that the 4% rule could result in vastly underspending or overspending, he says that each person's situation is unique. That true. I have referred to the 4% rule as being the building block of understanding which when understood can then allow for an informed decision on spending.

Where I think he goes of track is in making a pitch for his firm's software "you just need to specify start and stop dates and a rate of return." Markets and life are not that linear. The stock market will average X% per year over some time frame relevant to you but the number of years where the return equals that average will be very few if ever. The coincidence of needing to rewire your house and replace a vehicle during a year where the market drops 23% would be bad luck but is plausible and could be plan-altering. Avoid linear assumptions about returns and spending.

Doug Kass had a Tweet poking fun at stock market television. The way the Tweet reads, someone said something positive about Micron Technology (MU) based on call option activity. I did not see what show or pundit he was talking about but zooming out a little bit, be wary of you see on TV or read on the interweb. That might seem odd coming from someone who writes everyday and been on stock market television a few times. It is important to have or develop a hype/tout radar. It may or may not be an acquired skill but the sooner you can discern when someone is trying to incite action versus impart knowledge, the more you will get out of this type of media. I won't name names but one of the guys on Fast Money appears to be a cryptocurrency tout and on one segment he walked viewers through the process of how to convert Bitcoin into Ripple back when Ripple had that quick run of going up a few hundred percent. Put him in to the category of people to ignore. For the record I don't watch Fast Money but this person gets picked on mercilessly on my Twitter feed when he shills like that.

Quartz encouragingly offers that the key to a meaningful life might be simpler than we think. Unfortunately, the actual article is more of a if a tree falls in the forest piece with no satisfying conclusion. Maybe the take away is that finding meaning in life is up to us individually. A little more constructively a Facebook friend posted a meme that said "your life is two dates and a dash, make the most of the dash."

One fun topic I've written about a few times is to draw a parallel to Jason Bourne's go bag that was in the safety deposit box in the bank in Switzerland and an efficient and resilient portfolio. He had stacks of money in various currencies, at least one gun, various passports, a French drivers license, a Rolex watch (it appears to be a watch), contact lenses (maybe to change his eye color?) and other spy stuff. There is something intellectually appealing to having only what you need and having it all fit into a go bag and then being mobile and self-sufficient; maybe it's a guy thing. I think this is related to the positive feeling people often get when they purge a pile of now useless crap. I culled the t-shirt collection over the weekend and it felt good. However that can go too far as highlighted at Marketwatch. The article is worth reading just to gain a little insight into the psychology.

Finally a firefighting anecdote. In order to be on the line fighting a wildland fire you have to be able to hike for three miles in 45 minutes or less with a 45lb pack, this is called the pack test and after you pass it you are then said to be red carded (there is a refresher class too). This is an annual requirement. The way I frame it to our group is that if you pass the pack test you'll be red carded all right but if tomorrow you are laying on the couch, sore as hell and you can't move for a few days, how much fun are you going to have on a fire? We are volunteers, I don't know why someone would do this if it wasn't fun.

I have pulled people off of a fireline before if their fitness appeared to be sub par or they were just having a bad day, but generally if a firefighter is not in at least decent shape then the work will be much tougher than I think it needs to be. There is a parallel to investing with this, probably countless parallels.

The first one to come to mind is that once you choose an investment strategy you have to stick with it. There will be times where your chosen strategy lags but you must resist the temptation to throw in the towel when that strategy causes impatience. You will make investing much more difficult than it needs to be when out of frustration and impatience you switch to another strategy. That is called performance chasing and it usually goes badly.

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