123: How a Professor of Finance Designed His Own Retirement
Today’s guest is David Littell. David is the Joseph E. Boettner Chair in Research at the American College of Financial Services, where he teaches and develops courses and textbooks. In fact, he’s the co-creator of the Retirement Income Certified Professional (RICP) designation and coordinates its course curriculum!
His work has helped countless financial advisors, including myself, better plan for retirement needs and understand how to work with older clients.
However, for today’s conversation, I’m catching David at a truly interesting time in his life: his own transition into retirement. He joins the podcast to talk about why he decided to do it at the age of 66, how he continues to bring value to his community as he builds a bridge to retirement, and the many decisions – financial and otherwise – that come along the way.
In this podcast interview, you’ll learn:
- Why David decided to make 2019 his last year of full-time employment – and how staying on part-time has allowed him to focus on the things he loves most about his work.
- Why so many retirees find themselves overwhelmed after they stop working – and what David is doing to avoid that feeling.
- What David did to cut back his risk and retool his finances as he retires – and why he recommends all retirees work with a qualified financial advisor.
- Why there is no single best investment asset to address all the unique challenges of retirement – and how to build a powerful patchwork of financial tools.
- When it’s appropriate and how to strategically make account conversions.
- Why retirement planning is all about eliminating as much uncertainty as possible.
- David’s advice for retirees looking to take investment withdrawals to supplement their income.
- What David has found most surprising about the retirement process
- “Advisors are supposed to be dispassionate. They’re not supposed to hate things. They’re supposed to help you think. You can hate things as a consumer but advisors shouldn’t hate things.” – David Littell
- Observations from the Brink of Retirement (Kiplinger article)
- How Much Can I Spend in Retirement?: A Guide to Investment-Based Retirement Income Strategies (The Retirement Researcher’s Guide Series)
- Safety-First Retirement Planning: An Integrated Approach for a Worry-Free Retirement (The Retirement Researcher Guide Series)
Casey Weade: Dave, welcome to the podcast.
David Littell: Thank you. I’m glad to be here.
Casey Weade: Dave, I’ve been looking for this conversation a long time. However, this is pretty darn timely because you are actually transitioning into retirement yourself. I think it’s kind of weird for me because I’ve seen you on screen many and many times. You’ve been my professor throughout the years and I’ve always just enjoyed learning from you. And now I get to actually see you face-to-face. It’s like you’re a real person all of a sudden.
David Littell: Thanks. This new video approach to education does make it more personal. It is different than writing a book. I like it.
Casey Weade: Well, we’re getting so online these days and we’re running so many of our appointments with people all over the country online like this. And so, technology has just delivered so much, I think, to everyone especially those in the retirement world, looking for the right advisor, looking for the right guidance. And you yourself are finally making that transition into retirement. You might say you’ve already made the transition into retirement. Can you just tell us a little bit about what’s a retirement day? When’s Dave going to finally be hanging up? What’s this look like for you?
David Littell: So, I think everybody has their own view of what retirement is. I talked to somebody recently that had gone from full-time to part-time and they saw themselves as still working. Now, I’ve done that. So, at the end of 2019, I went from full-time to part-time. I’m still working at the American College doing course curriculum like I was before, but in my mind, I retired. I don’t go in very much. I mainly work at home. I guess we’re all working at home right now during this situation we’re in. But I work at home. I’m not connected anymore to the politics or running of the organization. I’ve just sort of pursuing things I enjoy doing. So, there’s a big difference in my mind. I mean, so to me, I’ve retired and now I’m trying to spend my time doing things I really enjoy doing. And one of those things is working at the college building course curriculum.
Casey Weade: Now, give us an idea of the timeline. Where are you today? And what it looked like leading up to this? What do you expect in the future?
David Littell: Well, as I say, I ended full-time employment at the end of 2019. It definitely felt like retiring because I had to pick a Medicare supplement and join Medicare and I started by Social Security spousal benefits. I’m in that last group of people that can claim spousal benefits and then switch to their worker benefits at 70. So, I’m 66 is my age and I retired at this age partially because my spouse is 10 years older than I am. And so, we wanted to spend more time together and we do spend a lot of time walking the poodles. And so, I wanted to have time to do that and enjoy each other while we still are good health. I think age differences do matter in retirement planning because certain things happen to you as you get older. We’re both, fortunately, in very good health and very active at this point but that’s going to change. I know that from all the things that I’ve studied over the years.
Casey Weade: What are you looking forward to the most? Is it teaching? Is it spending time together? Is it the poodles?
David Littell: Well, one thing is that I want to start to find some new meaning in my life, but I’m sort of not in a hurry to do that. I think one of the things I realized was as this was happening to me, that we tell everyone that you need to figure out how you’re going to spend your time in retirement and the reality is you can’t really figure that out until you’re in retirement. You have the time to explore these various options. So, I feel like some of what I’m doing in the first year is I’m going to take my time and pursue different things and try some things and not try and overcommit to anything. Now, I feel like to me, there’s two types of people in the world. There’s people that are always bored and there’s the people that think the world is so filled with interesting things to do that they can’t get enough. And I’m in that second category. So, I’m much more worried about overcommitting to a whole new set of responsibilities and projects and so I don’t really want to do that.
So, I’m actually trying to kind of go slowly and just enjoy myself a little bit more. As I say, we do spend hours walking the poodles every day and I’ve taken a pickleball. This is what old people do is play pickleball. I’m a lifelong tennis player and I still do that as well. But it’s just pickleball is you don’t run as much and it’s just a little more relaxing. People aren’t as serious about it as they are their tennis games. So, it’s a way to socialize with people my age. I play tennis with people that are 30 years younger than me so I’m enjoying playing pickleball with sort of age-appropriate partners. And so, I feel like I’m getting to know my community a little bit better because of that. So, I’m enjoying that. That definitely feels like that’s a new activity and it feels like retirement. All of us playing pickleball at 9:00 on a Monday morning are retired.
Casey Weade: You say that you’re trying to be cautious not to just overwhelm your schedule. I find you hear it from retirees all the time and I’m busier than I’ve ever been. Well, I don’t have time to do this. I don’t have the time to do that. So, on your mind, as you made this transition, were there any specific strategies? Are you utilizing any specific strategies to make sure you don’t reach a point of overwhelm?
David Littell: Well, say, I’m just not taking on a whole lot of new activities all at once. I am doing one, an interesting volunteer activity, which is there’s a group. It’s a young entrepreneurs association where these high school kids and junior high kids start their own businesses. It’s just really cool. A 13-year-old starting their business is a cool kid, right? And we help them with their business plans. So, I’m in a mentoring role doing that and that’s great fun and I really enjoy that. But as I said, I’m trying not to take on too many things. Work is still filling up 15, 20 hours a week of my time. One of the things I definitely wanted to do when I switched from full to part-time, though, was I did want to get paid just for the hours that I work because I didn’t want to get paid some sort of a monthly stipend that required an ongoing commitment. I wanted to get paid if I worked and if I didn’t work, I didn’t want to get paid if I was doing other things. So, that sort of helps. I like that. Mentally, I do sort of like that. It’s like I say, “Okay, I’m giving up some of my retirement to work and I know exactly how much money I’m making when I make that choice each and every day.” So, when you’re in a kind of a consulting role, that’s helpful.
Casey Weade: Well, I think these bridges to retirement are so helpful. And part of that is that you’re really being deliberate about bringing some of your previous experience and utilizing that as an outlet to help people. And in working with young entrepreneurs, you’re able to, I’m sure, adds so much value to their lives because of your past experience, your education. So, you continue to add tremendous value in the world. I’m sure that brings you a lot of joy.
David Littell: Yeah. And I would say that I sort of haven’t quite figured out how I’m going to do this but when I sort of think of how I want to spend my time, I’d like to take what I know about retirement income planning and share it more with consumers. I’ve spent my life training advisors and I feel like I’d like to just help sort of ordinary people. And so, I’m sort of trying to figure out exactly how I’ll do that. I do that already through writing articles. So, I write a Kiplinger article periodically and that’s one way I do that. But I think I want to maybe teach in a local night school and really get to know some of my community. I do talk to some of my pickle ballers about their planning, which is fascinating. I mean, as we all know, people don’t know very much about this. And I try not to like make faces when they talk about how they chose when to claim social security or how much they’re taking out of their portfolio or whatever. I try not to react. Sometimes I’m horrified by what they’re doing.
Casey Weade: Well, why do you think…
David Littell: That’s part of my job.
Casey Weade: Why do you think that is? Why is it that many people just don’t know a lot about retirement planning? This is really why you created the RICP curriculum because it’s not just that the consumer or the client and the investor doesn’t know a lot about retirement income planning, but a lot of advisors haven’t had that formal education either.
David Littell: Yeah. When we started the program, the RICP program in 2012, really out of a need for advisors to learn more about this. I mean, we recognized at that point that the boomers were about to head into retirement, but advisors had learned much more about accumulating assets and knew about investing for people that weren’t going to be spending their money right now. But we needed sort of some new tools and we needed to train everybody to deal with people that were in the distribution process. And that process has become so much more complicated, as we all know because people don’t have defined benefit pension plans anymore. So, I think of all the decisions you have to make around how you’re going to invest your money, what do you do with the ups and downs of the market. I’ve talked to one of my neighbors recently who has a serious health issue and probably has a shorter than average life expectancy. And it has the ability, actually has a pension from work that they’re going to decide not to take a life annuity because of their life expectancy issue.
And I just sort of explained to her, I said, “What I like about just taking the life annuity isn’t simple.” I said, “If you’re going to do this now, you’re going to have to figure out how to invest it. You’re going to have to figure out how much you can afford to withdraw from it or you’re going to have to like not panic when the market goes up and down and you’re going to have to have some psychological some approaches that make you comfortable.” So, we talked about the idea of a bucketing approach where you buy laddered CDs for the first five years of expenses and then you feel better about the fact that your other investments are being used for those expenses later in retirement. So, if market goes up and down, you’re not as worried. That’s such an important issue is feeling comfortable. Like I feel like that’s what I’ve been learning myself as I’m going through this process is that you have this. I know a lot of the facts. I mean, I’ve been studying this and I’ve learned from a lot of experts and I know the facts but you also have to satisfy the emotional side of your brain as well. You have to feel comfortable.
So, I’m always encouraging people to make sure that they’re doing things that they feel like they can live with. I mean, I had a month-and-a-half ago I received a rollover distribution of an enormous amount of money from the colleges retirement plan. So, I rolled into an IRA and I sat there and I said, “Okay, should I invest this over time or should I just jump right into the market?” And I thought back to what I’ve learned from various people at the college and, remember, Walt or Heidi always telling me that the research shows that people that try and dollar cost average over time, they actually don’t do as well. Like, it’s just so hard to time the market. You’re better just jumping in. So, I jumped in. Now, today, a month later now that the market is down, it’s worth two-thirds what it was worth a month ago. Boy, I wish I had all that cash I could get it at a lower rate. But you know what, I’m not second-guessing that decision because I did it carefully. I thought it through. I knew the facts. Emotionally, I was comfortable with it.
I also have built a plan that has an income floor in it so I don’t need to spend much of my portfolio. So, that’s the other issue is if you’re going to invest, if you’re comfortable and I’m pretty comfortable on the portfolio side, investing fairly aggressively, I still have a lot of income to deal with the situation that’s going on right now. And I also have the ability to work a little bit more, a little bit less to supplement that income. So, I don’t have to spend much of my portfolio. And I was aware of that when I made the decision. So, I think that it’s like I really thought that decision through carefully whether I should jump into the market. I did. I’d be a little richer today if I hadn’t done that but I’m okay with it because I was careful. So, I think that what I’m suggesting to people is I think people often don’t fully own these decisions. They sort of don’t think about them very carefully and then they second guess them and they’re uncomfortable what they decided later.
Give it a lot of thought, make the decision, and then be an adult. Live with it. So, I feel like that right now. Now, if the market goes that much further, I’m not sure. I still feel like that but right now, I’m feeling okay with the decision I made.
Casey Weade: You know what you said there brings me back to something Dr. Daniel Crosby said in a previous episode of the podcast. He’s a behavioral finance expert and he’s also a very well-known asset manager at the same time. This guy knows what he’s doing in the market. And he said the reality is that it’s not about the best strategy. It’s about the one that you can live with. And in your article in Kiplinger, Observations from the Brink of Retirement, of which we sent out to all of those subscribers we have in Weekend Reading in that article, you said that the strategy has to appeal to both sides of the brain. And I think those two things really go hand-in-hand, right?
David Littell: Yeah. I think you want to know the facts but you also have to feel comfortable emotionally with it, with the decisions that you make. And there have been times before I retired, I had actually cut back my risk level for a number of years as I was approaching retirement. I had to feel comfortable with that and that decision might not have been optimal for my ultimate portfolio, but it set well for me. So, I do really think through these things from all different angles and I really try and own the decisions so that I know that several weeks later, I’m not going to feel uncomfortable with what I had decided.
Casey Weade: Well, you’re so well educated in this realm and you’ve done so much research. Many people just feel overwhelmed because they’ve been working, trying to accumulate, just trying to get by for the last 30 or 40 years or just trying to get to a point where they had enough. Now they have enough. They’re trying to make this transition. They’ve got one advisor telling one thing. Another one telling them another thing. They’ve got all of this stuff being thrown at them and they don’t know who to believe, who not to believe, which advice to take, which not to take. If someone’s feeling overwhelmed and they don’t really know what to do, how do they go about this process of educating themselves? And they’re probably not going to get to your level of education, but what are some basic steps they should take?
David Littell: Well, I think, one, if you’re going to have somebody help you with retirement income planning so this transition into retirement, you want to make sure that they understand what they’re talking about. And so, you need to know enough in order to pick the right advisor. So, one of the tools that maybe you can provide a link to the listeners of this podcast, too, is a link to I call it it’s a basic description of what retirement income planning is. And if somebody if you’re working with an advisor who says they’re going to do retirement income planning for you, if you listen to this, if you work your way through it, you’ll see all the things that should be involved. We’ve also built for the RSVP program a much more complicated tool I call the Retirement Income Roadmap. We also have a link to that and that just gives you all the details. So, if you have a sense of all the things should be done fairly quickly if you’re talking to an advisor, you’re going to know whether they’re going to do those things for you.
As I said, I was talking to my neighbor and we’re going through this process and I said, “Okay, if you’re going to get somebody to help you, now that you’ve decided that you’re going to basically live on Social Security and withdrawals from your portfolio, you’re going to need help with someone to, one, decide how you invest it, two, decide the tax issues for this person, the tax issues were a big deal like which account are you going to take your money out of, and then third, you’re going to have to figure out like the appropriate withdrawal rate, how much you can afford to withdraw from the portfolio. So, all those things, so I was suggesting if you’re going to talk to somebody, talk to people about it, make sure that they’re going to be able to help you with each of those things. It’s not just the investments. It’s all that other stuff.
So, I think if you read a little bit and you look at some of the information about what’s involved in income planning, then you can figure out which advisors know what they’re talking about, which ones don’t just by educating yourself a little bit. Those two things that I just mentioned, I think are really good to look at if you are in the process of selecting an advisor.
Casey Weade: Well, for those that are listening to this podcast, they are already on that education train so they’re probably not struggling with that too much. However, things like this, resources are so helpful. We’re going to make sure that we go ahead and throw those things in the show notes. And, Dave, I was going to wait a little bit until we got into this regarding your own personal strategy but it’s come up several times here now and I feel like we’ve got a dove a little bit deeper in your retirement income plan, your retirement income strategy. And I think we can kind of start this with a question we had from one of our fans. So, if you subscribe for Weekend Reading on our website, RetireWithPurpose.com, we invite you to ask our rock star guests like Dave here questions.
And we have a question from Michael Modder, who is actually a neighbor of mine many years ago and was excited to see his question come along. And Michael said, “As one approaches retirement with adequate retirement funds, what’s the most reasonable strategy for investments that are stable yet produce adequate retirement income and inflation protection?” I think that’s going to be a question that you are well equipped to answer because you’ve had to do this for yourself.
David Littell: Well, to me, you don’t have a single investment that addresses all those issues. You build a plan that addresses those issues. So, one, you want to make sure you have adequate resources for your entire life so you might be building an income floor with annuities or by deferring Social Security to get more guaranteed income. And then with your investments, usually, if you do that with some of your money, with the rest of your money, and your investment portfolio, well, now to deal with inflation, we’re usually taking more risks. We’re investing in something that’s more aggressive in order to get inflation protection. I feel like that’s one of those questions where you think we are all looking for an easy answer and I’m sorry, there isn’t any easy answers. It requires a patchwork, building a plan that has a number of different pieces to it in order to – you can address all that, but not – I wouldn’t say the answer is an investment or a particular investment.
Casey Weade: Well, and I don’t know your opinion is on this, but I think that’s just something that maybe this generation’s not used to. They’re living in a different environment today than maybe their parents did. We’ve got interest rates at all-time lows. Well, we did have market valuations at all-time highs. Right now, we’re having this conversation on March 17 so we’ve undergone some volatility. It will be yet to see what that turns into but market returns over last 20 years have been lower than average the last hundred years. Some market returns, equity returns have been lower, interest rate’s lower, and we’ve also had some changes just to the retirement system itself. And I think that that leads us into our second fan question here from Paulette Bentley and saying, “Has the experiment of the 401(k) system as a replacement for pension plans of the past really worked for those who were in mid-career when pensions dropped?” So, I see that as did this transition away from pensions to 401(k)s, did that work? And if it didn’t work, what did that change in retirement planning today versus in years past?
David Littell: Well, when you say, did it work, with 401(k) plans, you make your own decisions. So, like it worked for some people who decided to embrace 401(k) and make salaried full contributions that were significant into the plan. And it didn’t work for people who chose not to participate. So, I think one issue is that’s part of the problem with this shift from the DB World to the 401(k) world is now you have a lot of decisions to make that affect your retirement security. Now, it worked perfectly fine for me. I’m one of those like I think people of my age often have some modest frozen pension amounts. So, I had like a thousand dollars a month from a frozen pension that created part of an income floor for myself. But then most of my resources are in a nonprofit college that’s a 403(b) plan. But I contributed regularly over the years. I maxed out what I could. I always saved. I know I changed jobs a couple of times in my career. I always saved those amounts and roll them over. When I was 29 years old, I roll over $20,000 and that’s now $100,000.
So, these things really do add up as long as you don’t spend them. You just have to have good behavior. You can’t spend your pension when you change jobs. You have to contribute regularly. You have to choose to take some risk in your portfolio. It’s not really terribly complicated, but it is fraught with many ways that you can shoot yourself in the foot.
Casey Weade: So, you could say the 401(k) system served those well that were diligently saving, that were making reasonably good decisions over on the way to retirement. And then they transitioned into retirement. How has the elimination of pensions and those that say a retiring without a pension or retiring just with 401(k) or a very small pension. My grandmother’s pension was like $12 a month. If they’re making that kind of transition today, they don’t have the pensions of yesterday, how does the current environment affect their planning? How should they be planning differently today?
David Littell: Well, first off, you don’t have that guaranteed income for life if you’re not getting a monthly pension for life or if you’re married, in the past, you’d choose a joint and survivor annuity. So, people have less guaranteed income. They often have Social Security and maybe if they did well, they’ve got a big pile of money in their 401(k) or their 403(b) plan. And then they have to figure out what to do with that. Now, I always say, like in my planning, I wanted to have a really significant income floor. I’m 66 and I have probably about half of my income as a guaranteed income for now and then when I claim my full workers benefit at 70, I’ll have like two-thirds of my income guaranteed. So, I wanted a lot of guaranteed income. But if you want to have some guaranteed income for life, I always think the first place you look is deferring Social Security.
So, those people who retire, like I did at 66, who have a lot of money in their 401(k) plan, they’re better off starting to spend down some of that money in those first few years and deferring Social Security to 70 in most cases. There’s a fair amount of research but all that research is specific to the facts of a case but, every time I’ve seen a case that looks at that, should I take Social Security early and hang on to my 401(k) or should I start spending my 401(k) and hang on to my Social Security? In most cases, you’re better off deferring that Social Security and starting to spend down your 401(k).
Casey Weade: That’s what we hear, right? I mean, most of the common advice is you should defer your Social Security as long as you can. And for the average individual, yeah, I mean, for the vast majority of individuals, yeah, they should be doing that. I mean, because most people don’t even have enough money to save for their retirement in the first place. So, the only way they’re going to generate more income is to work longer and continue to defer Social Security. But as you said, that’s not the same for everybody. Before we go there, though, I’m just trying to get a picture of your retirement income strategy. And what I hear is we’ve got pension, we got a little pension, we’ve got Social Security income that’s going to be kicking in later. We’ve got some part-time work now that’s going to be replaced by Social Security. You’ve got some annuity income and that income, you said, is going to cover about two-thirds of your income needs. So, correct me if I got that picture wrong, but my next question would be where’s the other one-third come from then?
David Littell: Well, the additional one-third would be either from employment income, from work income, from my consulting income. So, two-thirds is covered without any work income. So, the difference will be work income or withdrawals from the portfolio.
Casey Weade: So, at some point, you do plan on taking withdrawals from your portfolio once you give up the consulting work.
David Littell: Right. Right. Absolutely. Yeah. And like most Americans, most of my money is in a tax-deferred plan. All of it becomes taxable when I take withdrawals. I’m subject to R&Ds that now we get to wait until 72. So, I’ll be facing having to take withdrawals and significant withdrawals from the amount that I’ve accumulated. Assuming I’m working and I don’t need to take withdrawals, what I will try and do over the next few years is do Roth IRA conversions to try and get some of that money out of a taxable account into a tax-exempt account, which requires paying some taxes now. But I’m definitely doing that. The other thing I would say is and I actually have done this in the last few weeks, that if you do a Roth conversion, when you do a Roth conversion, there’s two issues. One, you want to do it when your tax rate’s lower. That’s one issue. And the other thing is you want to do it when the value of the asset is low because if it suddenly dropped down and then it’s going to come spring back up, if you converted that moment in time, you pay tax at the lower rate and then when it springs back, that’s all tax-free growth.
So, I’ve actually done that a couple of times in the last couple of weeks. As I think we’re getting to the bottom, I’ve actually fired and converted. And I think at most, I mean, if you’re doing it yourself or you’re working with an advisor, this is simple these days. You can just take an asset like I could just go in and, say, “I want to do a Roth conversion of a particular asset,” and it’s just converted in kind to the Roth account. So, as long as you have the two accounts set up, it took me three seconds to make this transaction.
Casey Weade: Yeah. Well, I myself, I didn’t think we’d get in the tax discussion quite yet but I myself did a couple of Roth conversions, converted down what was left to my wife’s IRA and myself this past week, just because of the market pulling back and it made a lot of sense. I’m in a pretty high tax bracket and many would say, “Well, you’re going to be in a lower tax bracket in retirement. Why would you convert in such a high tax bracket?” Now, my personal view is that taxes will be higher in the future and whether they are or not, I don’t really like the idea of owing Uncle Sam money in the future, especially when the interest rates are known. So, I guess along those lines, how does the average individual know how much is appropriate to convert when they’re making this conversion? When is the appropriate time to make those conversions throughout the year? How do you kind of strategically do that? So, how much and when and how much of that is dependent on the future of taxation and your view on that? So, I have a lot of different questions in there.
David Littell: Yeah. Well, again, I feel like it comes back to like you need to just pick – you have to have a comfort level. In the end, there’s no perfect answer to that, to any of those questions. Some people end up, start off with a strategy and they say, okay, well, in my case, if you’re in early retirement, some of my income right now is not taxable. And so, I’m in a lower tax bracket now than I was when I was working full-time and lower than I’ll probably be once I start taking my required minimum distributions at 72. So, if you’re looking for a lower than normal tax rate, if possible is one situation and then as we were just talking about the other one is, is that you’re looking to convert when the market is down so that you’re essentially eliminating taxes on a portion of the account. And how much? Like I said, some people will say, “Okay, well, I’m going to try and convert until I maximize my 12% tax bracket or they might go to 22%. So, you have to sort of think that through and decide how you want to do it. I think one of the things that’s gotten harder, though, which I don’t see that much written about this issue is that you have to do a conversion for a tax year before the end of the tax year.
So, if you don’t want to do it in 2020, you have to do it by 12/31. Well, in the past, I could undo that transaction. I could do a recharacterization. If I wasn’t sure if I wanted to convert, I could convert and then undo it. Well, we can’t do that anymore. They got rid of that a couple of years ago. And so, now when you make a decision to do a conversion, it is final and if you guessed wrong on the market and it goes down further, you might be paying tax on something that’s now worth less than at the time you’re paying tax than when you did the conversion. So, you’re kind of stuck with your decisions. I mean, it makes it a little bit harder. I think it’s one of these things that you decide how much can you say to yourself, this how I talk to myself, too. It’s like I know this is a good idea. I know I don’t want to pay taxes. What’s my comfort level? Like what am I willing to do in order to take advantage of this opportunity but not feel like I’ve paid too much in tax. So, you kind of have to land somewhere.
Also, I feel like I think about the issue. When we talk about building an income floor and I said I have so much of my income is guaranteed income. And I think, in all the literature and all the research and the academic approaches to this, we think of like you try and build an income floor that covers your basic expenses, I didn’t do that at all. Like, basically, I bought an income floor but I just thought about how much of my portfolio was I willing to part with is really the answer. It’s how much was I willing to give up control. And it turned out to be about a quarter of it. So, I build as much income as I could buy within all the different ways that I did it. I did it in a number of different ways but I ended up using about a quarter of my portfolio to do that. And that’s what I was comfortable with. So, like I say, these decisions it’s a comfort level. There’s how much are you comfortable parting with? You know it’s a good idea like so it isn’t science kind of thing.
Casey Weade: Yeah. I feel like there’s this common theme that I’m hearing from you. It’s education, it’s knowledge, and then it’s comfort level. It’s whatever fits best for your unique situation. And sometimes you have to ignore the academic approach. Maybe not entirely, but just because it’s academically the best thing for you, it doesn’t mean the best thing for you as an individual because you might not be able to actually live with it in the first place. And so, the back half of that question was, I mean, we’re sitting here talking to an ex-professor of taxation. I would be remiss if I didn’t ask the question about the future of tax rates. And I think you’ll be able to tie in your answer to what your thoughts are on the future tax rates to another one of our fan questions. And this comes from Chris Creeps. I believe it’s pronounced correctly.
Chris says, “What are the tax spending scenarios that clients should be evaluating in their analysis of retirement income?” So, he goes on to say, “What are two to three scenarios that should be requested in a stress test of potential changes and taxation in the future?” So, what are a couple scenarios that you might use to stress test a portfolio from a tax planning standpoint? I think you’d kind of tie in that future of taxation expectation discussion in there.
David Littell: Well, that’s a very sophisticated listener. I’m impressed with that question. I’m not sure I actually stress-tested my strategy that carefully. But if you have the right software, you can do that and I guess I’m with you that I believe the tax rates have to go up. I mean, now we’ve been in this place where we had this tremendous deficit and now to get us out of our current crisis, we’re going to spend another trillion dollars. And it’s hard to imagine that we won’t have future tax rates that are higher. One of the things I put in the curriculum and I think about this a lot like you say, do we really know anything about future tax rates? When you’re talking about a retiree, someone’s approaching retirement and you say, well, you’d know a couple of things. If you’re a married couple, that at some time one of you is going to die and now you’re going to be a single taxpayer and suddenly your tax rate is going to go up a lot. if you have similar income, if your income goes down 20% and you go from a joint taxpayer to a single taxpayer, your tax rate is going to go up. There’s no question about it.
So, we know that. We know that if people are older, let’s say, in their 70s or 80s and they’re going to be leaving qualified money to their kids, they know where their kids are in terms of their tax rates and their kids might be in a higher tax rate than they are. So, there are some things we know about tax rates. And then if we do have a situation where you’re a retiree and you give a lot of money to charity for a year or you for some other reason, you have lower income than usual, you know that you’re currently in a lower than your average or your regular tax rate, that’s a good time to take action. But I mean, I have to think, I mean, most people I know I think believe the tax rates are probably as low as they’re ever going to be in the next 30 years, maybe. So, I think a lot of people are trying to take advantage of that. We do things now. They increase their income and pay tax at a lower rate in order to get to a tax-free environment. You said something earlier that I think about a lot is this idea that when you do a Roth IRA conversion and you pay some tax on it now, you sort of said, I like that I’m paying a tax obligation so I don’t have to pay in the future and it’s a known quantity right now. I know how much it’s going to cost me.
In the future, I don’t know. And so, I’ve just eliminating really a very, very important uncertainty that you face in retirement. I mean, when you get to retirement, if you have all your money in tax-deferred plans and tax rates go way up, something’s going to happen in your plan. This question was about stress testing the plan. You’re either going to have to live on less or you’re going to have to take more withdrawals from your portfolio to get the same taxable income. So, I feel like this idea of doing conversions is a good way to eliminate that getting at least some of your money in a tax-free environment is a really great way to deal with that fact that we don’t know where tax rates would be.
Casey Weade: I think that’s kind of the core of our planning process is just eliminating as much uncertainty as we possibly can. In one way we’re doing that is with taxation. Another way we can do that is a step you took, which is creating some guaranteed income, creating some kind of income floor. You did that through annuities and you’ve used that A-word several times here. Can you kind of talk through your annuity strategy? How did you select the right annuity? What type of annuities do you own? Are annuities good or bad?
David Littell: Well, it’s interesting. What I was looking for, and I think we’re all looking for this, I was looking for the lowest cost approach to building more guaranteed lifetime income. Now, everyone’s view of lifetime income is different depending usually their family’s history. And my father lived to 104 so I assume I’m going to live to 110. So, like to me, my father got a great deal by buying a life annuity. To me, it’s a good deal even as an investment because I’m going to live a long time. So, I have to say that I do have that bias. I have a bias to think that, but even for people who don’t know how long they’re going to live, I mean, I just keep saying to myself, like, why would you – the worst thing that can happen to you is that you don’t have enough resources later in your life when you don’t have any ability to creating more resources. You’re not going back to work when you’re 85 or 90 like you can’t do anything about it then. And the fact if you were to die young and have a lot of money like everybody’s worried about like what happens if they die young and they didn’t get their money’s worth out of annuity. It’s like, who cares? If you die, you don’t care anymore.
What you should worry about is what happens when you’re 90, you don’t have enough resources. That’s what keeps me up at night so like, one, I’m not going to let that happen. So, when I think of this job of building an income floor, it was like, “Well, how do I do that in a cost-effective way?” And step one is absolutely deferred social security. That’s the first place. That’s a cheapest place to buy more income. One of the other professors and I at the college a couple of years ago, we wrote an article about this. I’m not a real numbers, guy. This is [inaudible – 40:11]. He loves to run numbers. And we said, “I bet we can quantify that.” Like you say, “All right. I defer social security from 65 to 70. That’s going to cost me. I’m going to give up this amount of benefits. I’m going to give up so much a month.” And then we figure out if I bought a SPIA, a five-year term certain annuity, how much would that cost to cover that gap? And then we compare that to what if we went out and try to buy? Let’s take benefits in 65 instead of 70 and let’s try and buy that annuity. That’s an inflation-adjusted annuity that starts at 70 which is cheaper. Is it cheaper to buy an annuity or is it cheaper to defer Social Security? And I’m sure this won’t surprise you. The numbers were really different. I mean, like the commercial annuity was much more expensive than the Social Security approach.
And clearly, it was the best value for that married couple. For the person with the larger of the two benefits, it was by far the best value as opposed to defer. So, really, what we were testing is, is it the cheapest way to add income? And I think we proved that, yes, it was. I mean, it is fact-specific for each case. But it was over $100,000 difference if we were talking about someone eligible for the maximum benefit. It was $100,000 cheaper to defer Social Security than to try and buy an annuity that would replace that benefit. So, that’s the first place you start. And then I had a frozen pension and a lot of people don’t take. Everybody takes the lump sum. They don’t take the annuity. I took the annuity from the pension plan. So, that was the second place I built the floor from. And then I started thinking about annuity products. How would I do that and how would I do that in a cost-effective way? I had sort of almost forgotten that I had a fairly modest old variable annuity that I purchased many years ago, non-qualified annuity.
I got an inheritance from an uncle and I decided to save some of it for retirement. Well, that grew, of course, over the years. And when I went and checked, I thought, “Well, why don’t I look and see what the conversion rate and that deferred annuity would be if I actually knew at times?” Would I get a good payout rate compared to commercial annuities today? And it turned out that it was amazing. I mean, it was much better conversion rate and I was allowed to add to that. So, one of my strategies over the last couple of years was to add to that and I recently have turned that on that annuity and the error rate was 7.5% instead of probably 6.5% that it would be with commercial annuity. So, that wasn’t really in a high. I didn’t realize that that would be the case. So, you have to look around and see. So, I did that. And then my partner, my spouse is 10 years older than I am. So, we bought, a couple of years ago, a deferred income annuity just on his life only because we got a really good payout rate. So, I’ll replace that. If he were to die first, I’d replace that in other ways. So, that was a way to build income.
So, I’ve sort of done everything and I even have an indexed annuity with a guaranteed withdrawal benefit rider. So, we’ve done income annuities. I have a variable annuity. I have an indexed annuity. I think I probably started off this process thinking that income annuities were best and then I really learned that you just look for the best price and that they all have a purpose in different situations. And the other thing that happens is there’s a tax issue here too and an R&D issue that if you try to put an income annuity inside of an IRA. When you go to take out your required distributions, you don’t get to aggregate the withdrawals from that income annuity with your other IRA withdrawals. So, in the end, you end up having to take out more taxable money. You have to take out the annuity payment and still take out all your R&Ds from your other accounts, remaining accounts. But if you have an indexed annuity or a variable annuity with a withdrawal benefit rider that’s still treated like an individual account and you get to aggregate the withdrawals from that. It accounts towards meeting your RMDs from all your IRAs. So, that becomes a play. So, it’s complicated. As I say, I do have one of each of the major types of annuity products and they all fit nicely into the plan.
Casey Weade: Well, you say it’s complicated. And I think people hear that, they go, “Oh, well, annuities are complicated.” We talked about tax planning. We talked about income planning. We brushed the surface on investment planning. You talked about health care. I mean, the whole process is complicated. The stock market is complicated if you really start to think about it and get into strategies. And so, I’m just wondering from your point of view, as you do take an academic approach. I mean, yeah, I know in talking to Dr. Wade Fau, one of your colleagues previously, I asked him, why he wrote the investment-first approach to retirement income planning before he wrote the safety-first approach. He said he didn’t want to get crucified by the industry. He didn’t want to get marked in a certain way as if he was actually selling annuities in the first place. But why do you think there is all this? There’s just this line in the sand that seems like largely in the financial industry where you either you love annuities, you see their place, or there’s just this hate for the product, it seems, and it bleeds into the consumer.
David Littell: Yeah, and I feel bad for consumers having to see all that because it doesn’t make any sense. If we just took away the emotion and just looked at like, do these products and strategies have a place in the plan for many retirees? I think the answer is yes. And honestly, I think the advisor who doesn’t look at all investment in insurance solutions for retirement income planning is doing their client a disservice. So, I guess I’m in Wade’s camp. I mean, definitely, Wade is one of the people I’ve learned from and I definitely believe that you need to consider both. I mean, both things fit together and I think we talked about I said annuities are complex and I want to kind of finish that and you said, “Oh, yeah, it is as you’re thinking about buying them,” and it did. It was complex as you go through the process. But once you turn on an income stream, nothing could be simpler. I mean, I get a check going to my checking account every month for the rest of my life.
And I think that ultimately, I think a lot of Wade’s work finds that the best strategy is really just in the income stream through annuity products and Social Security, combined with a portfolio mainly of equities. So, the annuities are your bonds and the portfolio is your equity exposure. And that’s not actually all that complicated. You have an income stream and then you have a portfolio that you’re going to take some specified withdrawals from. Or if you can afford it, you take less than that and there you go. I mean, there’s your plan. There’s not a lot to change over time. So, annuities seem complicated to start off with. I think I kept being guided to and I think about having guaranteed income, all the research shows that people are happier when they have income. And that makes sense like you don’t want to spend down your portfolio. It’s terrifying, but do you want to spend your monthly annuity where you know you’re going to get another check next month? You can’t wait to spend it. It’s a totally different experience.
And I know Michael Fink has done some research on that and found that. And I’m like, I’m willing to take a lot of risk. However, once you move into retirement, like I have no intention of staying up at night worried about my investments. I want plenty of income to fall back on and I want it forever. I mean, the whole idea that it’s an insurance product that will last as long as I do, which I have no idea how long that will be is very appealing to me. So, I don’t know. When I hear that, the hate for annuities is it’s silly. It’s like the hate for reverse mortgages. It’s the same thing. They’re tools that are useful in some situations. If you got an advisor who hates a product or a solution, I’d go to another advisor. I mean, it’s just not appropriate. Advisors are supposed to be dispassionate. They’re not supposed to hate things. They’re supposed to help you think. You can hate things as a consumer but advisors shouldn’t hate things.
Casey Weade: And I think we’d be doing the listener a disservice if we didn’t. Maybe you can talk about the different types of annuities, just from a height. I think a lot of the confusion and a lot of issue that the consumer has is just confusion over the different types of annuities. The media kind of dumps them all into one bucket and there’s a lot of different types. You said you’ve owned all the different major types of annuities. And so, I want to wrap up this annuity discussion and move on. However, could you just give the listener an easy way to just to how do you understand basically what those different types of annuities are? What are they? And how do they work?
David Littell: Well, I think if you were tying them all together, I mean, when you talk about an older individual like who is planning for their retirement needs, so you’re in your 50s or 60s and you’re thinking of annuities, you’re looking for something that’s going to provide you an income stream, a guaranteed income stream. And there’s a couple and all the different types of annuities will allow you to do that in kind of different ways. So, we’ll talk about that in a second. If you’re a younger person, an annuity is sort of a – is a different thing. It’s a way to save for retirement. It’s got tax advantages. So, a deferred annuity for a younger person, that’s an accumulation vehicle that you’re using because you want to defer taxes. It’s a totally different thing. So, in income planning, I do tend to think of it’s not as complicated because whether we’re using an income annuity or an indexed annuity or a variable annuity essentially where in my mind, I’m using those products in order to generate a guaranteed income stream.
Now, it’s interesting in my own life, since I own all these products you take out, I bought a deferred income annuity for my partner. So, you buy this product. I don’t know what the premium was. Let’s say it’s $100,000. We give them $100,000. You get one page back that says, all right, this is the premium. Your benefit is going to be this much. It’s going to start in this date and that’s going to stop whenever. In our case, we bought a single life annuity. It’ll stop after the first death and that’s it. So, there’s absolutely no question that the contract involved in an income annuity, whether it’s immediate or deferred, is extremely simple and it’s easy to read what it is and it’s easy to keep track of. It’s got a premium, it’s going a start date, it’s got an annuity amount, and it’s got an end date. So, for a lot of people will buy an annuity that doesn’t just pay for life and also has guaranteed payments for 10 years or if they buy a joint survivor. So, if something happens after the annuitant dies. But that’s it. Those are the terms.
Now, I have an indexed annuity that has a withdrawal benefit rider that has about 300 pages in the contract of how that works.
Casey Weade: Looks like a mutual fund prospectus.
David Littell: It’s quite disturbing, actually, but in the end, it depends if you’re using these other products. They’re not that complicated if what you’re doing is trying to buy an income stream. So, like an indexed annuity, if you were using that as a way to participate in the market, but you want downside protection, that’s one way of using it. But in retirement income planning, I’m using an index annuity that has a promise that says, on a specified date, if you want to, you’re going to start receiving a benefit of a certain amount. So, withdrawal benefit rider allows me to find annuity that I know in some future date that I’m going to get X amount of income. And to me, because that’s the way I was buying it and that’s what I bought, I could compare the income with that approach to how much I would get with an income annuity or with a variable annuity with a rider. And then I could very easily decide which was the best deal because I was just looking for income.
So, I don’t think it’s that complicated in retirement income planning if you’re using the annuity primarily to build a guaranteed income stream. And then what’s nice about an income, I mean, income riders are so complicated that they really turn people off and people worry about how do they work and did I get ripped off and all that. But really, they were built to serve a purpose, which is, one, you don’t know when you want to start the income. Well, I’ve discovered this as I was planning for retirement, I kept changing my retirement date. Many people don’t know when they’re going to start their income. If I buy an income annuity, even that starts in the future, I have to pick a date. Now, those products sometimes allow you to change the date but with a rider product, you get to turn it on whenever you want to. The other thing is that these products with income riders, what they really were intended to do is that they were built to address objections that were coming up from consumers that would say like, “Well, wait. If you’re saying once I turn it into an income annuity, there’s no more account balance. What happens if I die tomorrow? I’m upset about that. I’d be concerned about.”
So, I said, “Well, let’s come up with a hybrid. Let’s come up with a product that says you can take out this amount each month from your annuity account and it will actually come out of your account but we’ll guarantee that if you if your account goes down to zero, that we’ll continue paying that amount for as long as you live. So, it’s the same kind of a promise. It’s a lifetime income promise, but it works in conjunction with a sort of a decrease in account balance over time. And in my own planning because my spouse is 10 years older than I am, what happens with this account that it’s in my name is that what if I were to die young? Well, do you still have the account balance? And it turns into a death benefit for him. So, actually, it works well for us. So, does that help? I don’t know.
Casey Weade: Yeah. Yeah. It kind of covered the different types. You’ve got just straight income annuity, guaranteed income, kind of the lose control part and you’ve got the fixed indexed which upside potential downside protection with an income guarantee that you turn on at some point the future. Variable annuities can work the same way. You just don’t have the downside protection on your account value. So, I think that’s the high level of understanding those different types.
David Littell: Yeah. And I think with variable annuities, if you’re buying it for income, even though there’s no downside protection, there can be a promised withdrawal amount over time. So, even though the account balance doesn’t have downside protection, the income portion could have some downside protection. They’re guaranteed an income amount, based on some phantom roll-up rate and all that complex stuff. But in the end, you’re just looking for an income stream. And really the difference with this rider approach versus the income annuity is this idea that you lose control of its account balance income type.
Casey Weade: So, let’s say that we take this approach. We do a flooring approach. As you’ve said, you’re using your securing about two-thirds of your income and then you’ve got this other third. You said at some point that’ll involve you generating that extra income from your investment portfolio. So, if someone’s going to use a strategy, what kind of strategy are you using or what kind of advice would you give somebody if they’re going to take withdrawals from their investment portfolio to supplement that floored income? Should there be a strategy there or is it just the old 4% rule?
David Littell: Well, so, when you look at the research, the research was all done. The 4% rule was saying, okay, let’s assume you’re going to take 4% of the portfolio value at the time you retire and then every year going to take that plus inflation. Well, I think we’ve all learned that that’s not a good idea like it’s probably a good idea if you’re going to pick a withdrawal rate, whether it’s 4% or 5% or whatever, it should be the percent. The way I’m going to do is it’s going to be a percentage of the value of my account currently. So, if the account goes down, I’m going to take out less. If the account goes up, I’ll take out a little more. So, I think one of things we’ve learned is that if your portfolio is likely to last longer, if you’re willing to make changes in how much you withdraw based on the value of the account. So, I think that’s actually almost simpler. You just say, okay, all right. The market’s down a lot. I should take out less. I think that’s intuitive. People kind of get that and I’ll take out.
And the thing is if you’re willing to vary your spending, you can afford to actually increase your withdrawal rate a little bit. So, maybe you can afford a 5% withdrawal rate. So, you can take out a little bit more as long as you’re taking it out of the current value and not this idea that you’re going to treat it like it’s an annuity and it’s going to be inflation-adjusted every year. You’re just going to take out the amount based on the value portfolio. And that’s actually a pretty simple thing. You just sort of have that in mind that each year you’re not going to take out more than 5% of the current value of the portfolio. That portfolio is going to last for you. I mean, it’s a really good approach. And if you’re going to be more aggressive and you’re investing, you got more volatility, well, you’re just going to have a little more volatility in your spending. That’s the role of the guaranteed income. That’s why you have the income floor to make sure you have some regular income. And then from the portfolio, you have variable income, which is fine. It’s kind of fun, right? Like you have a great year, you spend a little more. You go on a nicer vacation. Now, we all look forward to upside.
Casey Weade: Yeah. I think that’s one of the things that some retirees don’t get. You’re still going to be retired. You’re going to be investing for next, typically, 30 years at least. And so, you do have a time horizon to continue and invest in the markets, just maybe not on all the dollars that you stepped into retirement with. And, Dave, I know we run out of time, but I’ve got a couple of high level more general questions. Would you have some time for that?
David Littell: Uh-huh.
Casey Weade: Great. So, what has been your biggest surprise in this whole retirement transition?
David Littell: So, we talk about asking. I teach advisors how to do retirement income planning and we have all this material on how, “Oh, well, before they get to retirement, you should help them figure out what they’re going to do with their time and how much it’s going to cost their retirement and all these questions that I realize now that I’m actually going through it myself. You actually can’t do that. I mean, it’s really hard to do that. Like, it’s very hard to predict how you’re going to spend your time in the future. Should you have some general ideas of what your goals are. And, as they say, I want to get back with what I understand, about financial planning. I want to get back to consumers, but I don’t know exactly what that will look like. Even these issues about like when you’re going to retire, that’s really hard. Like, I changed my mind six times. So, I was in a work environment that I wasn’t very happy in and then it improved and I was willing to stay longer. I mean, those things happen to people.
So, I think it’s really hard to plan. That was a surprise, how hard it was to answer these questions that we ask people but I also have learned that I’m glad I did plan. You still have to plan for something, like you still need a baseline. And I think for a lot of people, when this is uncertain, just planning on having the same cost of living when after you retire that you had prior to retirement is not a bad place to start. I mean, that’s just a good baseline if you can’t exactly figure this out. So, I’m glad I did some planning for a certain amount of income and a certain retirement date but as you say, this stuff, it changes all the time and it’s really hard to do, to figure it out. It’s a constant process.
Casey Weade: In going through this process and asking yourself this question, you said, some were just really difficult to nail down an answer to. Is there one, in particular, that was the hardest question to answer?
David Littell: No, they’re all hard. I mean, just think of it like when I was going to – I mean, I just kept thinking that, like, when I’m going to retire, I’m not sure. Is it going to cost me more or less in retirement? Well, I don’t know because I’m thinking like we’ve been thinking about moving to Tucson. We like Tucson. Well, Tucson’s cheaper than Philadelphia. So, that would make my life cheaper but we haven’t decided to do that yet. We don’t think the poodles would like Tucson. So, we haven’t decided this yet. So, like I said, I mean, each and every one of these like really critical decisions that affect how much your life will cost in retirement were virtually impossible to make before I got here. And even in retirement, we still haven’t decided if we’re going to move at some point in the near future. So, it surprised me how hard all of them are.
Casey Weade: I guess that’s the value in getting ahead of the game, starting to think about this early and what you’ve done is made kind of a partial retirement transition. You gave yourself some additional time to kind of experience what retirement feels like.
David Littell: Yeah. And I think the hardest part, if you stay, if you do what I did, which is working full-time for American College, and then I go to basically, part-time, an hourly worker working for American College is how do you change your psychology like that? You don’t just feel like you’re living the same life. So, you want to make sure that, for me, I think about my day differently. Work doesn’t come first. I think about the part of the day that’s going to be with my family and with the poodles and how I’m going to have some fun and then I fit work into that. So, where I sort of think about my day is different. We have a gray at our retirement income website at the college. We did a video a long time ago that I love with a woman named Anna Rappaport, who’s an actuary. She’s very heavily involved in this, but she talked about like how to be successful in a phased retirement. And that’s what she was saying was some of these things like make sure that you rethink.
You’ve got to look at work differently. Now, for me now, you have to think about like work is now something I’m doing because I want to do it, not something that I have to do. Work doesn’t come first. It comes after these other things. One of the things I’ve tried to let go and I’m doing it pretty successfully maybe to my surprise, I’m not worried about the American College anymore. It’s not my business like that’s a big deal. Like, we all get so wrapped up in the places we work and how well they’re doing and your role in that, that it’s hard to let go of that. The politics and the concerns and the worries, it’s not my problem anymore. I hope they stay around so that I can keep getting some income from them, but that’s the extent of my concern about the American College at this point. But you have to kind of think about that. So, I feel one of my challenges has been how to sort of not change my life that much but change the way I think about my life a lot, which I really have done.
Casey Weade: And that takes some time, changing, you’re thinking, spending some time on your thinking. I think that’s a good takeaway there. Now, talking about your thinking so, Dave, you’re in your mid-60s now. You have partially transitioned into retirement. Retirement’s already occurred in your mind. If you were to rewind the clock, say you could go back, take yourself today and give 50-year old Dave some guidance, what would you say or what would you do differently?
David Littell: I don’t know. I’m not much of a regret kind of person. So, I can’t think of anything that I would do differently. I sort of like the trajectory of my life. It’s done pretty well and it’s been pretty interesting. There’s been a lot of phases. So, I think it’s going in the direction that I like it but I don’t think I’d go. I probably wouldn’t change it. I wish maybe I could change some things about the American College in the past, but I could have done that anyway.
Casey Weade: Well, if someone’s out there, they’re listening, let’s say they’re 10 years from retirement, what would your advice be to them at that stage versus those that are currently transitioning early in retirement?
David Littell: Well, you just do the best you can to prepare, which, as they say, it’s hard to know what that’s going to exactly look like. But the preparation at that phase really isn’t that complicated. It’s primarily saving as much as you possibly can, which, means using retirement plans, saving efficiently through tax-deferred plans or tax-exempt Roth vehicles. It’s trying to pay a little – starting to pay attention I think 10 years from retirement, you start to think a little bit about what you want that to look like and when you might want it to happen because that’s going to affect how much you need to save and so forth. So, I think that’s important. Yeah. I think the other thing is 10 years from retirement, you’re not doing a lot of other planning other than you start to deal with some of the risks you face in retirement. So, 55 is a good time to be thinking about long term care insurance or dealing with that kind of a solution. Remember, you can’t buy long-term-care insurance or even one of these hybrid life insurance products if you’re not healthy enough to buy it.
So, that’s a risk that you want to start taking off the table before you get to retirement. And then I do see more people thinking about annuities because they don’t have pension plans at work. Today, people are buying at 55, buying deferred income annuities that might start at 65 or 70 to take some risk off the table and start to build an income stream. And I think that’s another thing that people might think of doing.
Casey Weade: Awesome. Well, let’s wrap it up with one real philosophical question. What does purpose and retirement mean to you? How would you define purpose in retirement?
David Littell: I read, I’m not going to be able to tell you the title of the book, but I just found some book on like how to have meaning in retirement and it sort of takes you through the experience of thinking about what is important to you and how you want to spend your time. So, I think it’s like to me, having a meaningful retirement means having now I have control over my time and I want to spend it in a way that means something to me, that gives back. So, when I say I want to get back my knowledge about retirement planning, I’m a fencing coach. I was an Olympic fencer. I was in the 1988 Olympics in Korea and I coached fencing over the years and I like to get back that way. So, it’s like finding ways to have thinking through how you want to – it’s really starting to think about your legacy. What do you want to leave to the world when you’re gone? I think that’s a very exciting way to go into your retirement, thinking about what do you want to accomplish?
I mean, I’m excited about it. It’s a whole new phase of life, lots of opportunities, lots of time. I have oceans of time in front of me that now I have control over and I can do what I want with it. And so, I’m trying to spend the time this first year really kind of thinking through those things. What is it that I want to accomplish before I go try and do that?
Casey Weade: Well, that’s beautiful, Dave. And you are giving. You are serving others. You didn’t have to jump on this interview here today, but you did.
David Littell: Well, this fun. I really enjoyed it.
Casey Weade: So, thank you so much for joining us. I truly appreciate this. And I’ve got another conversation in mind. So, hopefully, we have the opportunity to do this again in the relatively near future. So, thanks again, Dave. We’ll talk again soon.
David Littell: Sounds good. All right. Bye-bye.