With a nationally syndicated radio show, best-selling books, and a popular financial advice service, Dave Ramsey is one of the most famous names in the personal finance space. He’s so trusted that he’s also a mainstay in many churches as a guest lecturer preaching his own inspiring message of financial freedom. I’ve long admired his ability to help people work their way out of debt, and he’s doubtlessly touched more lives and improved them for the better than I can ever dream of reaching.
So as a fan of Ramsey’s message of self empowerment and snowball approach to debt elimination, I found it particularly painful to watch a recent episode where he goes on an extended rant about safe withdrawal rates. Long story short, he’s not only dangerously wrong but also angrily dismissive of an entire field of research on the topic. The reaction among financial types on social media has been equally swift and negative, with both professional investors and educated amateurs alike taking their own shots back.
Personally, I find the bickering on both sides to be mostly unhelpful because it distracts from the core issue — the truth. So for the benefit of Dave’s audience who just wants to properly understand the topic, I wanted to do something a little more constructive.
If you’re a Dave Ramsey fan who would like to understand why his advice is not the right way to approach retirement and how you can create a much safer plan, this article is for you.
One of the quirks of being an engineer who is still quite creative is that there’s always a natural tension when it comes to tidiness. For example, my desk is usually a chaotic collection of notes, sketches, and various new items that build up over time. But there eventually comes a day when I reach my breaking point and my left brain kicks in to remind me that it’s time for a cleanup to get organized and make space for new ideas.
At Portfolio Charts, that day is today.
The main thing that instigated the changes was the need to improve the organization to make everything easier to find. There were charts in the portfolio section, supplies in the charts section, and a lot of the documentation for how things work was buried deep enough that people had trouble finding it. It all made sense at the time, but just like my desk it eventually grew into a hot mess.
To fix all of that, I’ve been working behind the scenes recently on a bit of a reorganization. Here are a few updates to be aware of.
There’s no denying that the world is in an anxious place right now. No matter whether you look outside the window to war and politics or inside your home to increasing prices and shrinking account balances, there are frightening situations all around. Everyone has a pressure point, and it’s enough to make even the most stoic person flinch and start to feel as though they’re standing on the precipice of a bad situation.
An important thing to understand, however, is that while many of the things going on around us are not pleasant they are also not particularly new. Ask your grandfather about the stressful times when he was your age, and you’ll probably gasp at what he experienced. But I bet he also enjoys the time sharing with his grandkids more than you imagine.
That’s in no way meant to diminish the seriousness of the things we’re seeing today, but simply to put the world around us in proper historical context. Life isn’t always easy, yet it goes on. And our overall happiness is largely determined not by how we coast through the good days without worry but by how we productively deal with the hard times.
That’s easier said than done, of course. And I certainly don’t have all of the answers. But to contribute towards that goal in my own small way, here’s a collection of links to articles I’ve been thinking more about lately.
If it feels like I’ve been writing a little less lately, you’re not wrong. There are a few perfectly normal reasons. First, I just returned from a nice beach vacation where I very intentionally unplugged. And second, like many people after the much-anticipated release of Diablo IV in June I’ve been playing more than my share of video games.
With the benefit of that needed vacation away from the computer and both email and games alike, I realized this might be a good opportunity to write an article exploring the overlap of investing and gaming mindsets. There are certainly a lot of parallels in my own thought processes, and I imagine many of you may relate.
I’ve always been the type of person who can usually make do in any situation. But whenever you go on a long hike, it doesn’t take long to appreciate the value of the right gear. A nice pair of shoes or a good hat with proper protection from the sun can make all the difference in the world between a fun adventure and a painful slog. The little things really do help.
So in the spirit of supplying the right items for our individual financial journeys, I’ve just launched a new section of the site — Supplies. It’s not totally new, of course, as it’s really more of a re-launch of an old section that has been through a few iterations since I first rolled out the idea. But after a lot of work trying different things and refining the experience, I think it’s finally on the right track.
The best way to understand it is just to jump right in and explore. But here are a few high points to look for.
My news feed recently contained a trio of interesting articles that had little to do with finance but shared a theme that is quite universal — the failure of the best of us. But rather than the typical stories of deliberate fraud and tragic mistakes that are sadly all too common, these are a more nuanced grouping that taken as a whole offer an interesting perspective on something many of us take for granted.
So if you think you have everything figured out or have hired the smartest minds to do it for you, read on. You may learn something new about risk and adjust your expectations in the process.
One of the most rewarding things about working on Portfolio Charts over the years is how it has kept me on my creative toes. While building a few spreadsheets to answer my own financial questions is certainly a great motivator, designing them in such a way that anyone around the world can also put them to productive use is quite the challenge. That process of picturing your own ideas through outside eyes is educational in its own way and often exposes opportunities for improvement. So designing for both yourself and for others is a mutually beneficial exercise that’s hard to beat for progressive innovation.
I’ve been tinkering within that cycle a lot lately. It started with a simple cleanup of my own data collection that I use to power the site, which was admittedly rather complicated with several different spreadsheets that I used to pull everything together. After creating a brand new system from scratch, I was so happy with the results that I realized others might find it similarly useful.
Fast forward several months and more revisions than I care to count, and I’m excited to announce a very cool new product offering — the Portfolio Charts Toolkit.
The world lost a true investing legend recently when Harry Markowitz passed away at the wise old age of 95. Markowitz is widely known as the father of modern portfolio theory, and it’s impossible to overstate his significance not only to my own outlook on investing but also to the entire modern industry of portfolio management. He was a good man and a brilliant thinker, and his unique insights will continue to influence us for a very long time.
It’s interesting how the simplest question can sometimes cut straight to a complex reality that is deceptively difficult to explain. For example, I recently received a nice email from a new Portfolio Charts visitor that went something like this:
“I’m new to stocks, kind of. I know crypto decently. I’d love to know in layman’s terms what this site is about exactly? To buy stocks that are historically low and going to go back to its high someday?”
While that may seem like a softball on the surface, the thing that tripped me up is the phrasing. I recognize that the reference to buying stocks low is an important social cue that provides insight into the investing mindset of the writer. And I know from experience that it’s not good enough to reply with just any boilerplate summary, as presenting new information in terms people can relate to is critical to effective communication.
So we’ll need to go deeper. How deep? Lean back, relax, and let’s talk about the concept of investing personality types.
When you hear about something weird, that’s usually an indicator that it doesn’t follow the crowd. But whether that’s a good or a bad thing is a matter of perspective. So when a fellow blogger named Value Stock Geek first approached me a few years ago about referencing a few charts in an upcoming book about what he called the Weird Portfolio, I had an open mind. After all, sometimes the most compelling ideas are the ones that stand out from the sea of similar mainstream opinions passing as common knowledge.
Fast forward to today, and not only have the ideas behind the Weird Portfolio held up quite well but I’ve also found myself frequently thinking about them as answers to common questions. For example, what if you added international stocks to a portfolio like the Golden Butterfly? And how might other assets like real estate fit into the equation? Well, it turns out that someone has indeed thought about these things and documented it all quite well.
So in honor of a weird idea that I’m confident will speak to many interested investors, I’m happy to introduce a new portfolio on the site — the Weird Portfolio.