The Essential Retirement Guide: A Contrarian's Perspective

The Essential Retirement Guide: A Contrarian's Perspective

by Frederick Vettese


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Retirement planning is difficult enough without having to contend with misinformation. Unfortunately, much of the advice that is dispensed is either unsubstantiated or betrays a strong vested interest. In The Essential Retirement Guide, Frederick Vettese analyses the most fundamental questions of retirement planning and offers some startling insights. The book finds, for example that:

  • Saving 10 percent a year is not a bad rule of thumb if you could follow it, but there will be times when you cannot do so and it might not even be advisable to try.
  • Most people never spend more than 50 percent of their gross income on themselves before retirement; hence their retirement income target is usually much less than 70 percent.
  • Interest rates will almost certainly stay low for the next 20 years, which will affect how much you need to save.
  • Even in this low-interest environment, you can withdraw 5 percent or more of your retirement savings each year in retirement without running out of money.
  • Your spending in retirement will almost certainly decline at a certain age so you may not need to save quite as much as you think.
  • As people reach the later stages of retirement, they become less capable of managing their finances, even though they grow more confident of their ability to do so! Plan for this before it is too late.
  • Annuities have become very expensive, but they still make sense for a host of reasons.

In addition, The Essential Retirement Guide shows how you can estimate your own lifespan and helps you to understand the financial implications of long-term care. Most importantly, it reveals how you can calculate your personal wealth target - the amount of money you will need by the time you retire to live comfortably. The author uses his actuarial expertise to substantiate his findings but does so in a jargon-free way.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781119111122
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 12/14/2015
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 522,395
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

FREDERICK VETTESE is the Chief Actuary of Morneau Shepell, one of the largest human resources consulting and technology companies and one of the top five defined benefit pension plan providers in North America. Fred has spent his entire career providing retirement consulting and actuarial services in respect of workplace pension plans. Much of his professional time these days is spent in the public eye, speaking at professional conferences and writing on retirement issues for the national newspapers and other media. In his spare time, Fred struggles enthusiastically with both his golf game and his piano. He was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, where he continues to reside with his wife Michelle.

The Essential Retirement Guide is Fred's second book. In 2012, Bill Morneau and Fred co-authored The Real Retirement, a book that explained why Canada was not suffering a retirement crisis. Fred can be reached at

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Table of Contents

Preface xiii

Acknowledgments xvii

PART I The Retirement Income Target

Chapter 1 The Road to Retirement 3

Detours 6

Chapter 2 Doubts about the 70 Percent Retirement Income Target 9

Niggling Doubts 10

Saving for Retirement Is a Two-Dimensional Problem 14

The Macro Case Against 70 Percent 15

Low-Income Workers 16

Conclusions 16

Chapter 3 Homing in on the Real Target 19

Setting the Ground Rules 19

Howard and Barb 21

Steve and Ashley 1.0 23

Steve and Ashley 2.0 27

Expressing Consumption in Dollars 29

Conclusions 30

Chapter 4 A New Rule of Thumb 33

Guiding Principles 34

Retirement Income Targets under Different Scenarios 35

General Rule of Thumb 38

Conclusions 40

PART II The Wealth Target

Chapter 5 Quantifying Your Wealth Target 43

A Rough-and-Ready Estimate 43

A More Actuarial Approach 46

Chapter 6 Why Interest Rates Will Stay Low (And Why You Should Care) 53

The Rise of the Savers 54

The Japan Experience 57

Applicability to the United States and Canada 58

Possible Remedies 59

Implications 61

Chapter 7 How Spending Decreases with Age 65

Doubts 66

Quantifying the Decline in Consumption 68

Why Does Consumption Decline? 72

Next Steps 73

Chapter 8 Death Takes a Holiday 75

Present-Day Life Expectancy 77

Dispersion of Deaths 78

Who Is Benefiting the Most? 79

Why Is Mortality Improving? 80

The Future 82

Conclusions 85

Chapter 9 Estimating Your Own Life Expectancy 87

Conclusions 93

Chapter 10 Is Long-Term Care in Your Future? 95

Long-Term Care (LTC) 95

What Does LTC Entail? 96

What Are the Chances You Will Need LTC? 99

How Long Is LTC Usually Required? 101

Conclusions 102

Chapter 11 Paying for Long-Term Care 103

Typical LTC Insurance Contract 103

Does the Math Work? 105

The Verdict 108

The Consequences of Not Insuring LTC 112

Chapter 12 Putting It All Together 115

New Wealth Targets 120

Buffers 122

Conclusion 123

PART III The Accumulation Phase

Chapter 13 Picking a Savings Rate 127

Historical Performance 127

Lessons Learned 129

What the Future Holds 131

Generalizing the Results 133

Chapter 14 Optimizing Your Savings Strategy 137

The Goal 138

Strategy 1: Simple 138

Strategy 2: Simple Lifecycle Approach 139

Strategy 3: Modified Lifecycle 140

Strategy 4: Variable Contribution 141

Strategy 5: The SMART Approach 142

Conclusion 143

The Third Lever 144

Methodology 144

Chapter 15 A Gentler Approach to Saving 147

Path 1: Pain Now, Gain Later 148

Path 2: Smooth and Steady Improvement 150

A Comparison in Dollar Terms 153

Conclusions 154

PART IV The Decumulation Phase

Chapter 16 Rational Roulette 159

Call to Action 161

Watch Out for Your Children 163

Chapter 17 Revisiting the 4 Percent Rule 167

The 4 Percent Rule 167

Problems with the 4 Percent Rule 169

A More Rational Spending Rule 173

A Monte Carlo Simulation 176

Conclusions 177

Chapter 18 Why People Hate Annuities (But Should Still Buy One) 179

Why Annuities Should Be Popular 180

The Psychology Behind the Unpopularity 183

Tontines 184

The Insured Annuity Strategy 185

Indexed Annuities? Forget It 188

Conclusions 189

PART V Random Reflections

Chapter 19 How Workplace Pension Plans Fit In 195

Why Employers Offer Workplace Plans 196

Getting the Most out of Your Workplace Plan 198

How a Workplace Pension Plan Affects Your Dollar Target 202

Online Forecast Tools 203

Chapter 20 Bubble Trouble 205

Why Worry about Financial Bubbles? 206

Examples of Recent Financial Bubbles 207

Common Characteristics 211

The Everything Bubble 212

Chapter 21 Carpe Diem 215

The Numbers 217

Healthy Life Years 219

Trends 221

Personal Genome Testing 222

Chapter 22 A Life Well Lived 225

Retirement and Happiness 225

Final Thoughts 229

Appendix A Similarities between the United States and Canada 231

Social Security Programs 232

High-Level Comparison of Retirement Vehicles 235

A Tax Comparison 238

Appendix B Social Security in the United States and Canada 241

Name of Social Security Pension Plan 241

Purpose of Social Security 241

Earnings Base for Pension Calculation 242

How Pension Is Calculated 243

How the Plans Are Funded 243

Normal Retirement Age 244

Early Retirement Age 244

Delayed Retirement 245

Indexation 245

Other Government-Sponsored Pension Plans 245

Taxability 246

Appendix CRetirement Income Targets under Other Scenarios 249

Appendix D About the Assumptions Used in the Book 255

Thoughts on Conservatism 255

Assumptions Used to Estimate Personal Consumption 256

Assumptions Used to Calculate Future Retirement Savings 258

Assumptions Used to Estimate the Historical Accumulation of Savings 260

Couple Contemplating Long-Term Care Insurance 260

Assets Needed to Cover Long-Term Care (LTC) 262

About the Author 263

Index 265

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