Posted on Sunday, 14th May 2017 by

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I’ve been working to place my wife’s and my life on auto pilot as much as possible. Each year I up my game and work to either consolidate, eliminate, or simplify another process, program, or function that will free up our time, space, and just make life less hectic and worrisome. We are preparing, while we are still capable and healthy, for whatever may come our way and at the same time consciously deciding not to leave things to chance or burden our children down the road.

My articles chronicle my personal journey and I thank those who have taken the time to follow me along the way through my newsletters and blog. I’ve talked about everything from starting out early in life, updating our estate plans to end-of-life planning and most things in between. It takes planning, like all things, to right size our life as we age and move on to the next stage of our lives.

It doesn’t matter where you are at in your life; just starting out, mid career, or retired. Anytime we can make changes to better suit our lifestyle and goals we are ahead of the game. I recall when my wife and I started out in Biloxi Mississippi we had literally nothing to our name; no car, no money, and living on a military salary of $98 a month! Life was so simple then with few world belongings and not a clue where life would ultimately take us.  When I completed my military training Mary and I transported all we owned to our next duty station in a used 1963 Chevy Impala that I purchased from an airmen in my squadron.

When we started out at age 20 we thought little about the future. At the time I could have just as easily been ordered to Vietnam after training instead of being blessed with a stateside assignment to Topeka, Kansas. Our life was driven by the desire to make a life together, work hard at whatever came our way, and hope for the best. Thankfully, we succeeded and built on those early years, one day at a time.  Even in those early years we started planning, our first goal was to purchase a car and to that end I landed a part time bar waiter job at the local NCO Club.

We collectively took risks, moved many times and struggled though those early years and yet without those struggles and sacrifices we wouldn’t be where we are today. It seems that today so many starting out insist on having it all even though they can’t afford it. They aren’t willing to do without and I believe that is why many fail.

Some of the tasks I’ve accomplished over the past few years were to restructure my company to streamline operations, update our estate plans, and evaluate investments to reduce risk and involvement. I’ve been retired 13 years this November and as age creeps up on us it’s a reminder that it’s a good time to downsize and prepare for whatever may come next.

I’ve completed the first two of the above list and the investment review is ongoing. Basically, I was tracking a good number of individual stocks, mutual funds, and bonds in our taxable and retirement accounts which consumed a considerable amount of time each week. After two years of research I moved much of our investments to lower risk managed and indexed mutual funds that are less susceptible to market swings.

I looked for funds like the Vanguard Wellesley fund (VWINX) investor shares that is 60% bond and 40% stocks and only charges an annual .22% management fee. The funds total gain since its inception in 2001 is 6.92% annually. Their Admiral shares(VWIAX) only charge a .16% annual expense ratio however they require a larger initial investment. This fund only dropped about 9% during the 2008 market collapse and recovered within a year. Another Vanguard fund that I researched and included was their Wellington Fund (VWELX). This fund typically invests 60% in stocks and 40% in bonds and has a .25% expense ratio, with a 8.23% average annual return. This fund has been around since 1929 and both of the Vanguard funds listed above are rated 5 Star by Morningstar. If you don’t buy them from Vanguard most other brokers charge a fee and you can only buy the Wellington through Vanguard right now.

I also found a number of the American Fund F1 shares desirable. American Fund A Shares carry a hefty 5.75% front end load fee, however the FI class does not charge a sales fee. I was able to purchase the class F1 shares through Fidelity and only pay the annual expense ratio which is reasonable for a high rated managed fund. In particular I like the American Funds Income Fund of America (IFAFX), another 5 star rated fund, with a .65% annual expense ratio. It invests 60 to 70% of their assets in mostly dividend paying stocks and 30 to 40% in fixed income securities to generate a moderate level of income.  Currently this fund invests 54.7 % in U.S. stocks, 16.3 % in non-U.S. stocks, and 22.8 % in bonds with 3.4% in cash and 2.8 % in other investments.

My goal was to have one third of all investments in mutual funds, one third in cash or cash equivalents, and one third in high quality stocks that are rated # 1 for safety. This mix worked out for me to a conservative 55% stock and 45% bond or cash equivalent mix. I’ll discuss some of the mutual funds I researched in an upcoming article.

Another facet of our streamlining initiative was to go through our entire home, one room at a time, and purge all things no longer used, or desired. We asked our children what they wanted and the rest I have sitting  in my garage waiting for a good weekend to sell it at Trader Jacks, a local flea market; still working our way through the home, garage, and backyard shed.

Mary and I moved 11 times during our 47 year marriage and have always been fairly organized and prepared for the next move so it hasn’t been a traumatic experience going through our belongings. I can imagine it might be a challenge for anyone who has stayed in the same home for 30 plus years.  My son and I frequently go to estate sales and many home are full top to bottom with things I’m sure the original occupants haven’t needed or used for decades.

I also watch the series American Pickers and am amazed at homes they visit that are filled to the gills as they say. The collection (mostly junk from my perspective) overflows to out-building, storage sheds, attics, basements and you often find the entire home stuffed full of anything and everything. An heirs nightmare.

My streamlining initiatives are working and I now have a reduced work schedule. This is a good time to contemplate what needs attention in your life and set a time table to work on YOUR PLAN. I’m no longer spending most of my Sunday mornings reviewing individual investments and our home is basically in order. I’m now able to spend more time with our precious grandchildren. A goal worth achieving.

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Disclaimer: Opinions expressed herein by the author are not an investment or benefit recommendation and are not meant to be relied upon in investment or benefit decisions. The author is not acting in an investment, tax, legal, benefit, or any other advisory capacity. This is not an investment or benefit research report. The author’s opinions expressed herein address only select aspects of various federal benefits and potential investment in securities of the TSP and companies mentioned and cannot be a substitute for comprehensive investment analysis. Any analysis presented herein is illustrative in nature, limited in scope, based on an incomplete set of information, and has limitations to its accuracy. The author recommends that retirees, potential and existing investors conduct thorough investment and benefit research of their own, including detailed review of OPM guidance for benefit issues and for investments the companies’ SEC filings, and consult a qualified investment adviser. The information upon which this material is based was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but has not been independently verified. Therefore, the author cannot guarantee its accuracy. Any opinions or estimates constitute the author’s best judgment as of the date of publication, and are subject to change without notice. The author explicitly disclaims any liability that may arise from the use of this material.

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