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The Simplest Way to Guarantee a Comfortable Retirement

By Alexander Green, Chief Investment Strategist, The Oxford Club
Friday, July 8, 2016

My goal is to examine and explain every aspect of wealth creation.
Each day, we look at stocks, bonds, currencies, metals, or commodities. We discuss interest rates, inflation, economic growth, business developments, and government policies. We highlight asset allocation, security selection, investment costs, and taxes.
But in my view, we spend too little time discussing the first and most important step in the investment process – saving – and the indispensable habit that makes that possible: delayed gratification...
According to the 2016 Retirement Confidence Survey from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), Americans are woefully unprepared for retirement.
It's not that we don't know what we'll do with all that free time. It's that many of us never absorbed the lesson of the ant and the grasshopper.
This is likely to have dire consequences.
The average retired worker receives just $1,341 a month from Social Security. (If you include spousal benefits, it climbs to $2,212.)
According to EBRI, more than a quarter of Americans (26%) have saved less than $1,000 for retirement. Forty-two percent have saved less than $10,000. And the majority has saved less than $25,000.
Anyone who invested $190 a month for 40 years – and earned nothing more than the stock market's average annual return for the past 200 years (10%) – would have accumulated a sum of more than $1 million.
(If $190 a month is too ambitious, even $47.50 a month would have turned into more than $250,000.)
Yet the majority of us did nothing of the sort.
Some were too poor. (Let's be frank. You can't save what you don't have.) Others believed the government or their employer would take care of their retirement. (Hoo-boy.) Others were simply uninformed about the power of equity ownership and compounding. (A big reason we should teach basic financial literacy in high school.)
However, many of us were not indigent, ignorant, or wishful thinkers. We couldn't invest because we didn't save. And we didn't save because we chose immediate consumption over delayed gratification.
Unfortunately, delayed consumption is the essence of saving and investing. No capital means no investment benefits from capitalism.
No doubt some find these words heartless or judgmental. After all, who am I to suggest personal responsibility and thrift? Haven't I listened to Bernie Sanders? The economy is rigged. The system is set up to benefit the rich. The business model of Wall Street is based on fraud. The little guy doesn't have a chance.
I have been an avid saver since I was an indigent young man in my 20s. I worked a crummy job. I drove a beater car. I shared an apartment with friends. I had no health insurance. I had no employer-sponsored retirement plan.
But I saved. (Frankly, I was terrified of what might happen if I didn't.)
I did have a credit card, but I paid it off every month. I decided early on if anybody was going to earn 18% interest, it was going to be me... not the bank.
Yet many of my contemporaries found this behavior quaint or unrealistic, if not entirely misguided.
Millions of Americans believe that government should deliver the material happiness they deserve, sparing them the trouble and discomfort of striving.
It won't happen. There is no Social Security lockbox. Immediate benefits are paid out of current contributions. In the future, there will not be enough workers to cover the burgeoning entitlement rolls.
If you want to ensure a comfortable retirement, you need to save as much as you can, for as long as you can, starting as soon as you can.
And that begins with delayed gratification.
Good investing,
Alexander Green

Further Reading:

"If you're young and looking forward to decades of future 401(k) and IRA contributions," Alex writes, "you should get down on your knees and pray for a secular bear market." See why he says most investors shouldn't be afraid of a bear market right here.
In March, Alex explained why your No. 1 goal in retirement is to make sure your portfolio doesn't outlast you. Get the full story here: Four Keys to Sidestepping This Huge Retirement Risk.

Market Notes


Today, we take a look at one of the market's best-performing blue-chip stocks...
We're talking about Pepsi (PEP). The $150 billion food and beverage giant has more than 22 product lines that generate more than $1 billion each in annual sales... including Pepsi, Lay's potato chips, Gatorade sports drinks, Quaker Oats oatmeal, Tropicana juices, and more.
There's a good chance you have several Pepsi products at home in your refrigerator and pantry. It's no wonder that Forbes magazine rates it among the 30 most valuable brands in the world. Pepsi also has a long history of rewarding shareholders. It has raised its dividend every year since 1973 and is a member of the elite Dividend Aristocrats list (along with telecom behemoth AT&T and consumer-products giant Johnson & Johnson).
As you can see from the following chart, this has translated into big gains for Pepsi shareholders. The stock is up more than 20% over the last two years, and it just hit a fresh all-time high. It's boom times for this snack icon...

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