Exploring the Retirement Consumption Puzzle

by David Blanchett, CFP®, CFA

Wanting to learn more about consumer spending in retirement? This article discusses the following topics:

  • Empirical research on retiree spending has noted a “retirement consumption puzzle,” where retiree expenditures tend to decrease both upon and during retirement. This decrease in spending is inconsistent with general economic theories on consumption, which suggest individuals seek to maintain constant consumption over their lifetimes.
  • Government data on consumption was analyzed in this study to understand how retiree consumption actually changes over time.
  • The results of the analysis suggest that although the retiree consumption basket is likely to increase at a rate that is faster than general inflation, actual retiree spending tends to decline in retirement in real terms. This decrease in real consumption averages approximately 1 percent per year during retirement. 
  • A “retirement spending smile” effect is noted. This finding has important implications when estimating retirement withdrawal rates and determining optimal spending strategies.

Viability of the Spend Safely in Retirement Strategy

Authors: Dr. Wade Pfau; Joe Tomlinson, FSA, CFP®; Steve Vernon, FSA

Abstract

This project explores various design and implementation details for the Spend Safely in Retirement Strategy (SSiRS), a strategy identified by the authors’ 2017 research project titled Optimizing Retirement Income by Integrating Retirement Plans, IRAs, and Home Equity: A Framework for Evaluating Retirement Income Decisions.

The SSiRS is intended as a baseline retirement strategy, to be used by middle-income workers and retirees to generate retirement income from their IRAs or employer-sponsored defined contribution (DC) retirement plans, such as 401(k) plans. It uses investment options commonly found in IRA and DC administrative platforms, and does not require the ongoing assistance of a financial adviser.

To access the full article, please go to https://www.soa.org/globalassets/assets/files/resources/research-report/2019/viability-spend-safely.pdf

Propriety Reverse Mortgage Products Could Eclipse FHA’s HECM Program in 2019

Written by Jamie Hopkins on July 2, 2019

The reverse mortgage market world heads in reverse away from the government created Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) and towards new propriety products. This is an encouraging sign because any healthy market needs competition, innovation, and variety. However, recently HECM program has been the driving force behind the reverse mortgage world, leaving many without an ideal solution to utilizing home equity as part of a sustainable retirement plan.

The article can be found here.

The Reverse Mortgage: A Strategic Lifetime Income Planning Resource

Tom Davison and Keith Turner

The Journal of Retirement Fall 2015, 3 (2) 61-79; DOI: https://doi.org/10.3905/jor.2015.3.2.061

There is little doubt that many older Americans are not well prepared financially. The reverse mortgage is a financial instrument that can brighten their financial prospects and reduce the chances of an old age in financial straits. This article explains how reverse mortgages work. Recent research shows that strategically combining reverse mortgages and investment portfolios can significantly boost sustainable retirement income. Moreover, in the last three years the regulatory framework has been revised to develop further the market for these instruments. Reverse mortgages are increasingly recognized as a valuable financial planning tool. They are now seen as well suited for retirees—not only underfunded homeowners who turn to a reverse mortgage as a last resort, but also those who enter retirement well-funded.

To view the full article, click here.

Livable Community Indicators for Sustainable Aging in Place

Livable Community Indicators for Sustainable Aging in Place cover image

Research for this report was conducted by Amanda Lehning, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, and Annie Harmon, PhD Candidate, University of Michigan School of Public Health in collaboration with the Stanford Center on Longevity.

Aging in place is the ability to remain in one’s own home or community in spite of potential changes in health and functioning in later life. Aging in place has received an increasing amount of attention in recent years. This is due to a number of factors, including the aging of the population, a potential increase in chronic disease and disability in future cohorts of older adults, and an inadequate U.S. long-term care system. Furthermore, a survey by AARP in 20031 and another survey by the AdvantAge Initiative in 20042 demonstrated that an overwhelming majority of adults would like to remain in their own homes for as long as possible.

Down load full PDF here

Integrating Home Equity and Retirement Savings through the “Rule of 30”

Figure 3: Ratio of initial home value to initial portfolio value

by Peter Neuwirth, FSA, FCA; Barry H. Sacks, J.D., Ph.D.; and Stephen R. Sacks, Ph.D.

This paper examines the effect of using reverse mortgage credit lines to supplement retirement income by two types of retirees that have not been addressed in the previous literature: (1) those whose retirement savings are significantly below those of the mass affluent; and (2) those who are “house rich/cash poor.”

Results of this analysis demonstrate an important contrast with the results of the earlier literature; specifically, the greater percentages of home value, when coordinated with the retirement savings portfolio, resulted in substantially greater percentages of the portfolio that can be drawn.

This paper suggests a new alternative to the 4 percent rule that can guide planners and retirees toward an optimal cash withdrawal strategy. This new rule takes into account the total of the retiree’s retirement savings plus his or her home value.

The quantitative analysis in this paper uses the same spreadsheet models and strategies first presented in the Journal by Sacks and Sacks (2012). This paper builds on that work by extending the analysis to a broader range of retirees.

Full paper here

Reversing the Conventional Wisdom: Using Home Equity to Supplement Retirement Income

by Barry H. Sacks, J.D., Ph.D., and Stephen R. Sacks, Ph.D.

Figure 1: Cash flow survival propability chart

This paper examines three strategies for using home equity, in the form of a reverse mortgage credit line, to increase the safe maximum initial rate of retirement income withdrawals.

These strategies are:

  1. the conventional, passive strategy of using the reverse mortgage as a last resort after exhausting the securities portfolio; and two active strategies
  2. a coordinated strategy under which the credit line is drawn upon according to an algorithm designed to maximize portfolio recovery after negative investment returns,
  3. drawing upon the reverse mortgage credit line first, until exhausted.

Full paper here.

Increasing the Sustainable Withdrawal Rate Using the Standby Reverse Mortgage

by Shaun Pfeiffer, Ph.D.; John Salter, Ph.D., CFP®, AIFA®; and Harold Evensky, CFP®, AIF®

This study investigates maximum real sustainable withdrawal rates (SWRs) for retirement plans that incorporate the use of standby reverse mortgages (SRMs). The SWR is defined as the maximum real withdrawal rate with a minimum 90 percent plan survival rate for a 30-year retirement horizon.

The SRM evaluated in this study is a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) reverse mortgage line of credit that is established at the beginning of retirement and is used for retirement income during bear markets. Outstanding loan balances are repaid from the Investment Portfolio (IP) in bull markets.

Monte Carlo simulations were used to estimate the success of the SRM strategy at various real withdrawal rates for a client who has a $500,000 investment nest egg and $250,000/$500,000 in home equity at the beginning of retirement. The $500,000 nest egg is split into a 60 percent stocks and 40 percent bonds IP and a six-month cash reserve.

Retirees who begin retirement in a low interest rate environment (2.3 percent yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury bond) with competitive lending terms and significant home equity relative to the IP stand to benefit the most from an SRM strategy. Interest rates and the size of the initial line of credit relative to the IP are the two factors that are shown to have a significant impact on the SWR for the SRM distribution strategy.

Click here for more information

The 6.0 Percent Rule

The 4 percent rule has come under scrutiny because of lower expectations about future security returns. Monte Carlo simulations using expected asset class risks and returns that reflect the current economy show that the first-year withdrawal can be 3.75 percent and increased for inflation each year. At 3.75 percent, portfolios with a 60 percent or higher equity exposure give a 90 percent chance of “spending success” over 30 years.

The cash proceeds from various reverse mortgage plans can be taken in different ways. Scheduled monthly tax-free advances reduce the need for portfolio withdrawals and can give better “spending success” levels than line-of-credit draws.

The increase in spending success levels depends on the relative value of the home and the portfolio. Given a portfolio value, higher home values raise success rates.

With a 30-year spending horizon and first-year withdrawal of 6.0 percent, reverse mortgage scheduled advances as a portfolio supplement give “spending success” levels of 88 to 92 percent. Even with a first-year withdrawal of 6.5 percent, success levels are still 83 to 86 percent. This paper provides financial planners with a review of the relative merits of using a reverse mortgage as a retirement spending supplement.
https://www.onefpa.org/journal/Pages/The%206.0%20Percent%20Rule.aspx