Archive for the ‘Money’ Category:

Visualizing the 4% Rule, Trinity Study and Safe Withdrawal Rates

Posted In: Financial Independence | Money
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Instructions for using the calculator:

This calculator is designed to let you learn as you play with it. Tweaking inputs and assumptions and hovering and clicking on results will help you to really gain a feel for how withdrawal rates and market returns affect your chance of retirement success (i.e. making it through without running out of money).

Inputs You Can Adjust:

  • Spending and initial balance – This will affect your withdrawal rate.  The withdrawal rate is really the only thing that is important (doubling spending and retirement savings will still yield the same success rate).
  • Asset allocation – Raise or lower your risk tolerance by holding more or less stock vs bonds
  • Adjust retirement length – This affects the number of historical cycles that are used in the simulation, but also increases risk of failure.
  • Add tax rates and investment fees – these will put a drag (i.e. lower) market returns and lower success rates

Options for Visualization:

  • Display all cycles – this is the mess of spaghetti like curves that show all historical cycle simulations
  • Display percentiles – this aggregates the simulations into percentiles to show most likely outcomes
  • Hover/Click on legend years – this will allow you to highlight a single historical cycle (you can also use the arrow keys to step through historical cycles)
  • Bottom graph can show either the sequence of returns (with average returns in 5 year periods) for a single historical cycle or distributions of returns in our historical data (1871 to 2016) and a single historical cycle.  You can choose to look at returns for stocks, bonds or your specific asset allocation.
  • The graph on the right shows a histogram of the ending balance of each historical cycle and color codes them to show percentiles.
 

What is the 4% Rule?


The 4% rule is a “rule of thumb” relating to safe retirement withdrawals.  It states that if 4% of your retirement savings can cover one years worth of retirement spending (an alternative way to phrase it is if you have saved up 25 times your annual retirement spending), you have a high likelihood of having enough money to last a 30+ year retirement. A key point is that the probabilities shown here are just historical frequencies and not a guarantee of the future. However, if your plan has a high success rate (95+%) in these simulations, this implies that retirement plan should be okay unless future returns are on par with some of the worst in history.

The overall goal of this rule and analysis is identifying a “safe withdrawal rate” or SWR for retirement.  A withdrawal rate is the percentage of your money that you withdraw from your retirement savings each year.  If you’ve saved up $1 million and withdraw $100,000 each year, that is a 10% withdrawal rate.

The “safe” part of the withdrawal rate relates to the fact that if your investments generally grow by more than your annual spending, then your retirement savings should last over the length of your retirement.  But average returns do not tell the whole story as the sequence of returns also plays a very important role, as will be discussed later.

One way to test this is through a backtesting simulation which forms the basis for the “Trinity Study”.

What is the Trinity Study?

The “Trinity Study” is a paper and analysis of this topic entitled “Retirement Spending: Choosing a Sustainable Withdrawal Rate,” by Philip L. Cooley, Carl M. Hubbard, and Daniel T. Walz, three professors at Trinity University. This study is a backtesting simulation that uses historical data to see if a retirement plan (i.e. a withdrawal rate) would have survived under past economic conditions.  The approach is to take a “historical cycle”, i.e. a series of years from the past and test your retirement plan and see if it runs out of money (“fails”) or not (“survives”).

How do you test withdrawal rate?

Given modern equity and bond market data only stretches back about 150 years, there is some, but not a huge amount of data to use in this simulation.  One example of a 30 year historical cycle would be 1900 to 1930, and another is 1970 to 2000.  The Trinity study and this calculator tests withdrawal rates against all historical periods from 1871 until the present (e.g. 1871 to 1901, 1872 to 1902, 1873 to 1903, . . . . 1986 to 2016).  Then across this 115 different historical cycles, it determines how many of these survived and how many failed.

The thinking is that if your retirement plan can survive periods that include recessions, depressions, world wars, and periods of high inflation, then perhaps it can survive the next 30-50 years.

The 4% rule that comes out of these studies basically states that a 4% withdrawal rate (e.g. $40,000 annual spending on a $1,000,000 retirement portfolio) will survive the vast majority of historical cycles (~96%).  If you raise your withdrawal rate, the rate of failure increases, while if you lower your withdrawal rate, your rate of failure decreases.

The goal of this tool is to help you understand the mechanics of the a historical cycle simulation like was used in the Trinity Study and how the 4% rule came to be. This understanding can help you better plan for retirement with the uncertainty that goes along with planning 30+ years into the future. If you want to also see how longevity and life expectancy play a role in retirement planning, you can take a look at the Rich, Broke and Dead calculator.

This post and tool is a work in progress. I have a number of ideas that I will implement and add to it to help improve the visualization and clarity of these concepts.

If 4% is a conservative rate, what is the maximum withdrawal rate?

The future is unlikely to be identical to any of the set of historical cycles that are used in this simulation. And yet, there are enough years of data that there are a fairly large set of possible outcomes from running a simulation with this input data. One way to understand this variation is to see in the main graph above that the ending balance can potentially vary by more than $5 million dollars on an inflation adjusted basis on a starting balance of $1 million.

Another way to see this same variation in market returns is by looking at maximum withdrawal rate. This is the highest amount that you could withdraw annually over your retirement and (just barely) not run out of money by the end of your retirement.


This graph shows the maximum withdrawal rate for a given historical cycle (i.e. 1871 to 1901). For example, in the 1871 to 1901 30 year historical cycle, you could have used an 8.8% withdrawal rate (inflation adjusted $80,000 withdrawal annually on a $1 million initial investment balance) and not run out of money. This is because the sequence of market (stock and bond) returns in this historical cycle were able to (barely) outpace the rate of withdrawals at the end of the 30 year retirement period. Many other cycles show lower successful withdrawal rates, because those cycles had poorer sequences of returns, while some had higher maximum withdrawal rates.
The graph also highlights those cycles that show a maximum withdrawal rate below 4% in red, while all others are shown in green. Most of these withdrawal rates are well over 4%, with some quite a bit higher. This again shows that if the future is somewhat like one of these historical cycles, most likely a 4% withdrawal rate will be enough for you to retire without running out of money and that it is likely that you could end up with more money than you started.

Data source and Tools Historical Stock/Bond and Inflation data comes from Prof. Robert Shiller. Javascript is used to create the interactive calculator tool and the create the code in the simulations to test each historical cycle and aggregate the results, and graphed using Plot.ly open-source, javascript graphing library.

4% rule trinity study

How do Americans Spend Money? US Household Spending Breakdown by Education Level

Posted In: Money
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How much do US households spend and how does it change with education level?

This visualization is one of a series of visualizations that present US household spending data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This one looks at the education level of the primary resident.

This visualization focuses on the education level of the primary resident. This is defined in the BLS documentation as the person who is first mentioned when the survey respondent is asked who in the household rents or owns the home.

I obtained data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), based upon a survey of consumer households and their spending habits. This data breaks down spending and income into many categories that are aggregated and plotted in a Sankey graph.

One of the key factors in financial health of an individual or household is making sure that household spending is equal to or below household income. If your spending is higher than income, you will be drawing down your savings (if you have any) or borrowing money. If your spending is lower than your income, you will presumably be saving money which can provide flexibility in the future, fund your retirement (maybe even early) and generally give you peace of mind.

Instructions:

  • Hover (or on mobile click) on a link to get more information on the definition of a particular spending or income category.
  • Use the dropdown menu to look at averages for different groups of households based on the education level of the primary resident. This data breaks households into the following groups:
    • All
    • Less than HS graduate
    • High school graduate
    • HS grad + some college
    • Associate’s degree
    • Bachelor’s degree
    • Master’s, professional, doctoral degree

    The composition of households and income change as the education level of the primary resident changes, which in turn affects spending totals and individual categories.

As stated before, one of the keys to financial security is spending less than your income. We can see that on average, income tends to increase with education level. Those with the highest incomes and greatest spending have advanced degrees, but they also save the most money.

The group with the lowest education level (not finishing high school) have the lowest income and on average needs to borrow or draw down on savings to live their lifestyle.

How does your overall spending compare with those that have the same education level as you? How about spending in individual categories like housing, vehicles, food, clothing, etc…?

Probably one of the best things you can do from a financial perspective is to go through your spending and understand where your money is going. These sankey diagrams are one way to do it and see it visually, but of course, you can also make a table or pie chart (Honestly, whatever gets you to look at your income and expenses is a good thing).

The main thing is to understand where your money is going. Once you’ve done this you can be more conscious of what you are spending your money on, and then decide if you are spending too much (or too little) in certain categories. Having context of what other people spend money on is helpful as well, and why it is useful to compare to these averages, even though the income level, regional cost of living, and household composition won’t look exactly the same as your household.

**Click Here to view other financial-related tools and data visualizations from engaging-data**

Here is more information about the Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the BLS website:

The Consumer Expenditure Surveys (CE) collect information from the US households and families on their spending habits (expenditures), income, and household characteristics. The strength of the surveys is that it allows data users to relate the expenditures and income of consumers to the characteristics of those consumers. The surveys consist of two components, a quarterly Interview Survey and a weekly Diary Survey, each with its own questionnaire and sample.

Data and Tools:
Data on consumer spending was obtained from the BLS Consumer Expenditure Surveys, and aggregation and calculations were done using javascript and code modified from the Sankeymatic plotting website. I aggregated many of the survey output categories so as to make the graph legible, otherwise there’d be 4x as many spending categories and all very small and difficult to read.

household spending

How Much Does Each State Pay In Taxes?

Posted In: Money
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Given that tax day has just passed, I thought it would be good to check out some data on taxes. The IRS provides a great resource on tax data that I’ve only just gotten into. I think I’ll be able to do more with this in the future. This one looks at how taxes paid varies by state and presents it as a choropleth map (coloring states based on certain categories of tax data).

You can choose from a number of different categories:

  • Mean Federal Tax Paid
  • Mean Adjusted Gross Income
  • Mean State/Local Tax
  • Mean Combined (Fed/State/Local) Tax
  • Percent Income from Dividends and Capital Gains
  • Percent of Returns with Itemized Deductions
  • Number of Tax Returns
  • Mean Federal Tax Rate
  • Mean State/Local Tax Rate
  • Mean Combined (Fed/State/Local) Rate
  • Total Federal Tax Liability

I may add more categories in the future, so if you have ideas of tax data you want to see visualized let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

For other tax-related tools and visualizations see my tax bracket calculator and visualization of marginal tax rates.

**Click Here to view other financial-related tools and data visualizations from engaging-data**

Data and Tools:

Data on tax returns by state is from the IRS website in an excel format. The map was made using the leaflet open source mapping library. Data was compiled in excel and calculations made using javascript.

How much each state paid in taxes

How do Americans Spend Money? US Household Spending Breakdown by Age

Posted In: Money
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How much do US households spend and how does it change with age?

This visualization is one of a series of visualizations that present US household spending data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This one looks at the age of the primary resident.

This visualization focuses on the age of the primary resident. This is defined in the BLS documentation as the person who is first mentioned when the survey respondent is asked who in the household rents or owns the home.

I obtained data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), based upon a survey of consumer households and their spending habits. This data breaks down spending and income into many categories that are aggregated and plotted in a Sankey graph.

One of the key factors in financial health of an individual or household is making sure that household spending is equal to or below household income. If your spending is higher than income, you will be drawing down your savings (if you have any) or borrowing money. If your spending is lower than your income, you will presumably be saving money which can provide flexibility in the future, fund your retirement (maybe even early) and generally give you peace of mind.

Instructions:

  • Hover (or on mobile click) on a link to get more information on the definition of a particular spending or income category.
  • Use the dropdown menu to look at averages for different groups of households based on the age of the primary resident. This data breaks households into groups (under 25, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64, 65-75 and over 75). The composition of households and income change as the age of the primary resident changes, which in turn affects spending totals and individual categories.

As stated before, one of the keys to financial security is spending less than your income. We can see that on average, income tends to increase with the household primary age up to the 45-54 group, then declines from there.

The youngest group (under 25) tends to borrow or draw down on savings to live their lifestyle, while the same is true of the over 75 age group. This is probably because seniors tend to draw down savings that were built up specifically for this purpose, and college students borrow to go to school. Social security also makes up a big portion of income for the older age groups.

How does your overall spending compare with those in your income group? How about spending in individual categories like housing, vehicles, food, clothing, etc…?

Probably one of the best things you can do from a financial perspective is to go through your spending and understand where your money is going. These sankey diagrams are one way to do it and see it visually, but of course, you can just make a table or pie chart or whatever.

The main thing is to understand where your money is going. Once you’ve done this you can be more conscious of what you are spending your money on, and then decide if you are spending too much (or too little) in certain categories. Having context of what other people spend money on is helpful as well, and why it is useful to compare to these averages, even though the income level, regional cost of living, and household composition won’t look exactly the same as your household.

**Click Here to view other financial-related tools and data visualizations from engaging-data**

Here is more information about the Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the BLS website:

The Consumer Expenditure Surveys (CE) collect information from the US households and families on their spending habits (expenditures), income, and household characteristics. The strength of the surveys is that it allows data users to relate the expenditures and income of consumers to the characteristics of those consumers. The surveys consist of two components, a quarterly Interview Survey and a weekly Diary Survey, each with its own questionnaire and sample.

Data and Tools:
Data on consumer spending was obtained from the BLS Consumer Expenditure Surveys, and aggregation and calculations were done using javascript and code modified from the Sankeymatic plotting website. I aggregated many of the survey output categories so as to make the graph legible, otherwise there’d be 4x as many spending categories and all very small and difficult to read.

household spending

Size of California Economy Compared to Rest of US

Posted In: Maps | Money
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California is one of the world’s largest economies (as measured by gross domestic product), currently ranking 5th in the world (if it were judged as it’s own country). This map divides the rest of the US economy into 6 more or less equal parts (each the size of California’s) and they are all within about 10% of each other.

Instructions:
You can hover over a state with your cursor to get more information about the GDP of that state and the group of states that equal California’s economy.

Gross domestic product is a measurement of the size of a region’s economy. It is the sum of gross value added from all entities in the region or state. It measures the monetary value of the goods produced and services provided in a year.

The main sectors of the California economy are agriculture, technology, tourism, media (movies and TV) and trade. Some of the world’s largest and most famous companies contribute to the California economy, like Apple, Google, Facebook, Disney, and Chevron.

Data and Tools:
Data for state level GDP is obtained from Wikipedia for the year 2017. The map data is processed in javascript and then plotted using the leaflet.js mapping library.

california gdp

How do Americans Spend Money? US Household Spending Breakdown by Income Group

Posted In: Money
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
How much do US households spend?

This visualization is one of a series of visualizations that present US household spending data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This one looks at the income of the household.

One of the key factors in financial health of an individual or household is making sure that household spending is equal to or below household income. If your spending is higher than income, you will be drawing down your savings (if you have any) or borrowing money. If your spending is lower than your income, you will presumably be saving money which can provide flexibility in the future, fund your retirement (maybe even early) and generally give you peace of mind.

I obtained data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), based upon a survey of consumer households and their spending habits. This data breaks down spending and income into many categories that are aggregated and plotted in a Sankey graph.

Instructions:

  • Hover (or on mobile click) on a link to get more information on the definition of a particular spending or income category.
  • Use the dropdown menu to look at averages for different groups of households based on income. This data breaks households into quintiles (groups of 20%) by income. The lowest quintile group is the group of 20% of households with the lowest income (and spend on average ~$25,500/yr).

As stated before, one of the keys to financial security is spending less than your income. We can see that on average, those in the lowest quintiles may be borrowing or drawing down on savings to live their lifestyle, while those in the highest quintiles are saving money and contributing to wealth. This fairly high level of borrowing/drawing on savings from the lowest quintile households may be deceptive because it includes seniors who are drawing down savings that were built up specifically for this purpose, and college students who are borrowing to go to school. These groups generally don’t have significant incomes.

How does your overall spending compare with those in your income group? How about spending in individual categories like housing, vehicles, food, clothing, etc…?

Probably one of the best things you can do from a financial perspective is to go through your spending and understand where your money is going. These sankey diagrams are one way to do it and see it visually, but of course, you can just make a table or pie chart or whatever.

The main thing is to understand where your money is going. Once you’ve done this you can be more conscious of what you are spending your money on, and then decide if you are spending too much (or too little) in certain categories. Having context of what other people spend money on is helpful as well, and why it is useful to compare to these averages, even though the income level, regional cost of living, and household composition won’t look exactly the same as your household.

**Click Here to view other financial-related tools and data visualizations from engaging-data**

Here is more information about the Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the BLS website:

The Consumer Expenditure Surveys (CE) collect information from the US households and families on their spending habits (expenditures), income, and household characteristics. The strength of the surveys is that it allows data users to relate the expenditures and income of consumers to the characteristics of those consumers. The surveys consist of two components, a quarterly Interview Survey and a weekly Diary Survey, each with its own questionnaire and sample.

Data and Tools:
Data on consumer spending was obtained from the BLS Consumer Expenditure Surveys, and aggregation and calculations were done using javascript and code modified from the Sankeymatic plotting website. I aggregated many of the survey output categories so as to make the graph legible, otherwise there’d be 4x as many spending categories and all very small and difficult to read.

household spending