Author Topic: Firecalc success rate comfort level  (Read 8522 times)

freeatlast

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Firecalc success rate comfort level
« on: December 01, 2020, 12:44:00 PM »
Itís so hard to know how much we will need..... I especially think about this in the December spending period for holidays and giving when I see money going out the door.

I know how much I spend and how much I have.  I run Firecalc to see where I stand.

Just wondering - do folks on this board think that a 90 percent success rate on Firecalc is sufficient? Iím thinking thatís pretty good odds......

Thanks all and happy holidays!

secondcor521

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2020, 01:06:39 PM »
I waited until I had 100% in FIREcalc with actual expenses measured over a six month period (then annualized, of course) (*) plus 5 years of expenses accessible for my Roth conversion ladder.  I then waited until my job environment turned ugly, then FIREd.

I think 90% can work for some people, but I think it would be wise to have a contingency plan for what you will do if history rhymes and you end up in one of the 10% failure cases.  Will you go back to work?  Tighten your belt?  Start SS early?  Sell assets?  If you can identify enough reasonable contingency plans that you'd feel comfortable doing - no fair saying you'd sell grandma's diamond ring if you wouldn't actually do it - then knock yourself out.

(*) I chose six months partly because I watched my expenses over several years on a monthly basis and noted that they varied by month but didn't vary much over six months.  Decembers are high for me too (Christmas and property taxes), and it's not rational to retire based on expenses from March to August.

reeshau

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2020, 04:41:01 PM »
There are a lot of people content with much lower numbers.  I haven't done a model / simulation in a couple of years--when I got serious about doing it, I was much more interested in the real world angle: annual budgets, investment allocations, withdrawal order, health insurance, etc.  But that is a tactical view.

I may get a hankering to check back with a model in a few years.  I am coming up on 1 year fire'd and could see re-engaging with a planning phase as I approach 59 1/2, and again around SS and Medicare decisions.

FIRE 20/20

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2020, 05:20:36 PM »
Itís so hard to know how much we will need..... I especially think about this in the December spending period for holidays and giving when I see money going out the door.

I know how much I spend and how much I have.  I run Firecalc to see where I stand.

Just wondering - do folks on this board think that a 90 percent success rate on Firecalc is sufficient? Iím thinking thatís pretty good odds......

Thanks all and happy holidays!

I'm confused.  You say you know how much you spend, but you also say that somehow seeing money going out the door in December contributes to your uncertainty about how much you need.  Can you explain this apparent contradiction?

As for what success rate people want to see before pulling the plug, I've seen people FIRE anywhere from 30% to about 3 times an amount that would yield a 100% success rate.  I think this may be the most personal of the various aspects of FIRE.  There are a number of questions that factor into what number makes sense for each person, including but not limited to:

Do you have dependents who rely on you?  If so, then a much higher success rate is needed.
Does your budget include substantial fat you could trim, and would you and all who rely on that money be willing to cut those expenses if you suspect you're in a failure mode?
Are you willing and do you expect you'll be able to return to work if you suspect you're in a failure mode?  If yes, a lower success rate might be warranted.
Do you have a partner who could also return to work if needed?  If so, a lower success rate might be warranted because only one of you would need to find work to save a plan that requires unanticipated income.
How high is your income relative to expenses?  If it's very high, then working a bit longer can dramatically increase your odds.  If it's low, then a lot more work is required to get the odds up, and the more likely it is that you could pick up work that could bridge the gap if you find yourself in a failure mode.
How early are you considering FIRE?  The models are less valuable the further out they look.  It would be prudent to be a little more cautious if you're very young. 
Do you enjoy your work or not?  Are either your mental or physical health impacted significantly by working? You get the idea...

Everyone answers these questions differently.  I have a friend who has a child who will need support for her entire life.  My friend is very frugal and will probably FIRE, but he needs to be much more cautious than I do.  He must be very, very certain that he earns enough to support his daughter even after he and his wife are gone.  I have another friend who has a creative hobby that she could pretty easily monetize if she needed to, and she has no dependents.  She could probably FIRE with a 50% success rate and sell some of her work if it looks like things aren't going well.  I'd guess her annual expenses are about $30k, so just bringing in $10-20k from her hobby each year should easily bring her up to 100% success rate.

For me, I waited until I had a ~95% chance of success and then I worked an extra year.  And that success rate ignored my pension, my partner's pension, and both of our social security.  Why was I so conservative?  I was able to tailor the last year of my career to something interesting and low stress, and I essentially transitioned to part time in that easy role.  I also had a high paying job that would be impossible to re-enter after being out just a couple of years.  For me, just barely hitting 100% wasn't good enough because the percentages are based on the past and we don't know if the future will be enough like the past for the success rates to be valid.  If I had hated my job or if I thought I could re-enter my old career after 5-10 years or if I earned less money, then I would have quit earlier.  But in my case, the last year I worked was easy, fulfilling, low stress, about 32 hours a week, and allowed me to ease my way into FIRE while building up a substantial safety margin, and I knew I'd be locked out of high-paying work for good not long after I quit.  Your situation is different, so your answer will be different. 

sparkytheop

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2020, 02:52:52 PM »
I've run numbers for my MRA (57) and numbers for getting out early (hopefully around 51 or so for the best scenario for me, even though I'd be eligible at 46).  I aim to FatFIRE, because I want to travel frequently, hire household help (housekeeper, yard guy, handyman guy for maintenance and repair-- it would be really nice to hire all that out instead of having to continue doing it all myself).  I set spending to more than my current income, and I will need to spend a lot less for most retirement years (since I'll now longer be paying a mortgage or trying to get a house built at the same time).  I even up the spending again for late retirement years to account for in-home care or living in an assisted living or nursing home place.

My success rate at projected numbers is 100%.  I'm pretty happy with that.  If I had any other success rate, I'd need to know that I could easily reduce spending in lean years.

SwordGuy

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2020, 03:03:15 PM »
We have a mentally handicapped daughter and we're not young folks like some of you are.   So we had a need for a very high chance of success and with gobs of fallback positions that would protect us.    So I over-engineered our FI process.   Bigly.

The cost in extra years vs. the chance of leaving our daughter at the not-so-tender mercies and care of the government made that trade off really important to us.    We didn't want our mentally handicapped daughter to be a financial burden on our son, we wanted her to be a financial blessing instead.

I would have been happy to take higher risks without that.

Malcat

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2020, 04:05:06 PM »
The factors that influence a 90% vs a 100% are nothing compared to the factors that influence the numbers you set for yourself in the first place.

That's means that the percentages spit out by Firecalc mean very little. It's great for comparing the relative impact of various factors, but absolutely abysmal at calculating actual risk.

If you input 40K of annual spending and you've got 1.5M saved, then Firecalc will tell you everything is fine. But what if your estimate of 40K is unrealistic? Fails to account for things like "unexpected expenses", etc?

Meanwhile, if you input 40K and have only 800K saved, you may look like you are much less secure than the previous guy with 1.5M. However, what if your annual spending is closer to 15K, and you padded that number with every possible emergency you could think of happening every year.
Chances are you would rarely actually spend anywhere near 40K, and would be far more secure than the previous guy.

It's the assumptions that go into your initial spending estimates that matter most, not the marginal factors that alter the calculator outputs.

Basically, estimate what you think you need, multiply that by 25X, and then from there estimate what your real risks are and whether you need to be more conservative or less.

If your estimated spending has huge buffer in it and you're cool with spending less when the markets are down, you have enormous wiggle room.

If you have relatively high fixed costs and very little buffer, then saving only 25X and using a 4% withdrawal rate could leave you vulnerable.

Essentially, 100% "success rate" could mean that you're good to go, but it could also mean that you've failed to assess your own situation very well. Firecalc can't figure that out for you.

SwordGuy

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2020, 06:56:15 PM »
@Malcat, you nailed it!

2sk22

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #8 on: December 03, 2020, 05:14:05 AM »
It's the assumptions that go into your initial spending estimates that matter most, not the marginal factors that alter the calculator outputs.

Basically, estimate what you think you need, multiply that by 25X, and then from there estimate what your real risks are and whether you need to be more conservative or less.

If your estimated spending has huge buffer in it and you're cool with spending less when the markets are down, you have enormous wiggle room.

@Malcat hits the nail on the head. Estimating expenses is the hardest part of FIRE'ing. I love this relevant quote from the famous physicist Richard Feynman:

Quote
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.

If you really want to quit, it's tempting to ignore known expenses to come up with a sufficiently low expenditure.

Malcat

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #9 on: December 03, 2020, 05:24:13 AM »
@Malcat, you nailed it!

I've repeated this many times, but FIRE simulation calculators are real math with made up numbers.

They only give an illusion of accuracy because they cannot capture the really important variables, like what the hell your "spend" estimate is based on.

Also, as I've said many times, they're based on an assumption about withdrawals that's completely insane. Absolutely no one, upon no one will spend exactly their planned withdrawal rate plus estimated interest year over year with no fluctuation. That's ridiculous, but it's exactly how the math is calculated.

It's all just rough guidelines, very rough guidelines, so the outputs are only marginally better than meaningless.

Again, great tool for understanding the relative impact of things. I would not have been able to make responsible choices without spending hours and hours with calculators figuring out which factors had the greatest magnitude of impact on my possible outcomes.

That's how I figured out that I would end up a lot wealthier if I focused on part time work that I enjoy, because time does the heaviest lifting.

Everyone needs to figure out their own priorities and risks, and playing with calculators is incredibly helpful with that. But not with predicting the future, that's just silly.

Malcat

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #10 on: December 03, 2020, 05:33:05 AM »
It's the assumptions that go into your initial spending estimates that matter most, not the marginal factors that alter the calculator outputs.

Basically, estimate what you think you need, multiply that by 25X, and then from there estimate what your real risks are and whether you need to be more conservative or less.

If your estimated spending has huge buffer in it and you're cool with spending less when the markets are down, you have enormous wiggle room.

@Malcat hits the nail on the head. Estimating expenses is the hardest part of FIRE'ing. I love this relevant quote from the famous physicist Richard Feynman:

Quote
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.

If you really want to quit, it's tempting to ignore known expenses to come up with a sufficiently low expenditure.

It goes both ways, and there are far more ultra conservative be over estimators here than the other way around.

But yes, what's sad about the burnt out people is that well before FI, they have ample resources to leave their jobs, but they don't feel comfortable doing so until a calculator spits out a number that makes them feel safe, even though it's largely nonsense.

jeroly

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #11 on: December 03, 2020, 06:14:46 AM »
The biggest risk to success isnít assuming a lower than actual spending pattern.
Itís assuming a lower than actual inflation rate.
I ran firecalc with a set of assumptions on savings and spending. With an assumed 3% inflation rate it had 86% success. With the same assumptions except for a 6% assumed inflation rate, it had a 12% success rate.

Malcat

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #12 on: December 03, 2020, 06:20:18 AM »
The biggest risk to success isnít assuming a lower than actual spending pattern.
Itís assuming a lower than actual inflation rate.
I ran firecalc with a set of assumptions on savings and spending. With an assumed 3% inflation rate it had 86% success. With the same assumptions except for a 6% assumed inflation rate, it had a 12% success rate.

Ah, but it's the same nonsense.

In what world will inflation remain the exact same 6%, year over year, for decades on end?

And in what same world does a person *not* adjust their discretionary spending when the cost of things sky rockets?

You've shown it's a great tool for understanding the relative impact of inflation, but not much more.

jeroly

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #13 on: December 03, 2020, 06:34:25 AM »
The biggest risk to success isnít assuming a lower than actual spending pattern.
Itís assuming a lower than actual inflation rate.
I ran firecalc with a set of assumptions on savings and spending. With an assumed 3% inflation rate it had 86% success. With the same assumptions except for a 6% assumed inflation rate, it had a 12% success rate.

Ah, but it's the same nonsense.

In what world will inflation remain the exact same 6%, year over year, for decades on end?

And in what same world does a person *not* adjust their discretionary spending when the cost of things sky rockets?

You've shown it's a great tool for understanding the relative impact of inflation, but not much more.

If youíve created a budget with a lot of fat in it, sure you can cut inflation-adjusted spending.  But how can you eat less bread when the cost of bread is $10,000/loaf if youíve set out a lean FIRE budget and your stash hasnít kept up with inflation?

The assumption that inflation is a constant 6%/year, year after year... yes that is unrealistic, but thatís not really the point.  If you take a geometric average of a 6% rate you (probably) mostly wind in in the same place. It would be an interesting study to look at the inflationary equivalent of sequence of returns risk.

reeshau

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #14 on: December 03, 2020, 06:54:47 AM »
The assumption that inflation is a constant 6%/year, year after year... yes that is unrealistic, but thatís not really the point.  If you take a geometric average of a 6% rate you (probably) mostly wind in in the same place. It would be an interesting study to look at the inflationary equivalent of sequence of returns risk.

There is no inflationary equivalent of sequence of returns risk.  You should be considering your real rate of return, which is net of inflation anyway.  It's baked in.  I do admit, people mostly think of it as "lousy markets," but that's a mental shortcut, not a gap in the definition.

In fact, it's the defining moment of the 4% rule.  The minimum withdrawal is not defined by the 1929 crash + Great Depression.  It is actually retirees in the late 1960's, who then faced the stagflation of the 1970's.

swashbucklinstache

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #15 on: December 03, 2020, 07:59:09 AM »
I'd agree that anything above 90% is good enough that you should be focused on the other factors. The big one mentioned is how accurate are your expenditure estimates. I'd further include thinking about how lumpy those estimates are, particularly in the early years against a backdrop of sequence of returns risk. Most people will naturally do this, e.g. work an extra x months and replace their roof.

The other thing to consider is emotion. It's easy to believe in the obvious 4% successes. Will you be enjoying life if your stash is down X% three years into FIRE, if the odds of firecalc success have dropped 8% to a still really high percentage? It might be worth working one more year rather than biting your nails for ten, if you're the type. Only you can know that answer.

Another option is VPW, particularly for those with a budget with fat to trim.

freeatlast

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #16 on: December 03, 2020, 11:31:17 AM »
Thanks!!!

Seems like most people do wait til 100 percent.... but I burned out before I made it quite there....

Since I have already FIREd, tried part time and not for me. So I am going to have to make 90 percent Firecalc work. Biggest unknown is healthcare and length of life. My 90 percent includes nothing for social security (I donít think FirecCalc includes SS) and I do think there will be a little there when I reach it (Iím turning 52 shortly). So, I guess that is my ďfatĒ in my picture. Also, part of my savings is in a single family rental. So for Firecalc, I used the market value of that rental, but in actuality it throws off income while the market value(hopefully) stays stable or increases. I havenít found a good calculator that takes real property into account.

Thank you again for the input.

sparkytheop

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #17 on: December 03, 2020, 12:12:21 PM »
Firecalc does include social security if you input info.

I find it more useful than other calculators because I can add my pension (many don't have that function), I can change spending in later years (I play with needing extra care around age 75 or 80 and beyond, which is going to cost a lot more than living in a paid off house), and can also account for extra money I'll be receiving between ages 57 and 62 ("snowflake money").

My pension will, for the most part, cover all my bills and regular expenses (until I end up with poor health, can't live on my own, whatever). 

I use it to see more than "can I eek by with leanFIRE dreams", but "can I aim for extravagant travel and other spending in the early years, covering extra expenses of old age, and not be a financial burden to my son?"  My retirement budget has a lot of "fluff" spending (again, retirement spending of more than I make now, while I currently make six figures and have a mortgage and other expenses that will be eliminated before retirement.)

It's a great tool to add to an arsenal of tools, but I wouldn't rely on it if I was trying to make a slim retirement budget "work".  No retirement tool can predict the future, so I'm not concerned about that argument against it (otherwise, you could jump into "retirement calculators are worthless!" and I'm not there.)  It's definitely a fun tool to play with when you are looking at a large retirement income and decently long life expectancy.

Malcat

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #18 on: December 03, 2020, 01:56:31 PM »
The biggest risk to success isnít assuming a lower than actual spending pattern.
Itís assuming a lower than actual inflation rate.
I ran firecalc with a set of assumptions on savings and spending. With an assumed 3% inflation rate it had 86% success. With the same assumptions except for a 6% assumed inflation rate, it had a 12% success rate.

Ah, but it's the same nonsense.

In what world will inflation remain the exact same 6%, year over year, for decades on end?

And in what same world does a person *not* adjust their discretionary spending when the cost of things sky rockets?

You've shown it's a great tool for understanding the relative impact of inflation, but not much more.

If youíve created a budget with a lot of fat in it, sure you can cut inflation-adjusted spending.  But how can you eat less bread when the cost of bread is $10,000/loaf if youíve set out a lean FIRE budget and your stash hasnít kept up with inflation?

The assumption that inflation is a constant 6%/year, year after year... yes that is unrealistic, but thatís not really the point.  If you take a geometric average of a 6% rate you (probably) mostly wind in in the same place. It would be an interesting study to look at the inflationary equivalent of sequence of returns risk.

I mean...c'mom, you can't give me the example of bread and not expect me to be cheeky and say that you could learn to bake bread.

Point being, if someone is working on a very lean and very tight budget, then yeah, they're going to have enormous risk of having to generate more income at some point in their retirement, but that brings up a whole other factor that the simulation can't account for, which is just how easily the person can generate income and willing they are to do it.

Now, if you believe that inflation will average out to 6% for the next several decades, then yeah, you should plan for that.

People should plan for whatever risks they are most concerned about, and those who will have the hardest time generating income in the future if needed should be building more resiliency and buffers into their plans.

Again, it all comes down to the individual picture, which a calculator really can't capture. Your example of inflation beautifully points out how it can illustrate the relative risks though.

freeatlast

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Extra Info in ForeCalc? Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #19 on: December 04, 2020, 09:42:16 AM »
How do you input extra info into FIREcalc like social security?  I thought it only took amount needed, savings and years.....

Thanks!!!!!

FIRE 20/20

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Re: Extra Info in ForeCalc? Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #20 on: December 04, 2020, 09:47:30 AM »
How do you input extra info into FIREcalc like social security?  I thought it only took amount needed, savings and years.....

Thanks!!!!!

At the top, click the "Other Income/Spending" tab.  There is a section to input your SS, your spouse's SS, and things like rental income.  Make sure you input data for all the tabs, like the "Not Retired?" tab. 

rmorris50

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Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #21 on: December 06, 2020, 04:50:12 PM »
Skimming this thread reminds me of two sayings:

ďAll models are wrong, but some are usefulĒ

ďPlans are useless, but planning is invaluableĒ

Also, one of our greatest strengths as humans is adaptability.

If youíre close enough to fire to have 90% success, youíll be ok. Youíll see failure coming long before it happens and adapt. Your worse case scenario will be most other peoplesí norm. Cut expenses, go be a Starbucks barista to supplement cash, sell the house and get a smaller place, etc.

Adapt.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Much Fishing to Do

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #22 on: December 08, 2020, 06:05:17 AM »
At 90% I think there is a lot more chance of potential failure due to unforeseen changes in expenses going forward and/or longevity.

In the end I would feel the need to hit 100% only if I was lean firing.  Maybe plug in a lean fire expense number just to make sure that's hitting 100%.  For better results with this (given you're gonna be spending more and then at some point realize you might need to cut) I really like the spending flex/threshold number option in the "Will My Money Survive Early Retirement?" calculator.  In the end if I FIREd in a year like 2000 I think I would have cut back at some points to keep the portfolio in good shape, and if there's fat to cut so be it.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2020, 06:11:38 AM by Much Fishing to Do »

MasterStache

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #23 on: December 08, 2020, 06:35:38 AM »
I absolutely agree with @Malcat as well. In fact I ran simulations a couple of times years ago, but haven't looked at it since. Calculators are great at numbers. Unfortunately real life, ehhh not so much. Variables are just that. Flexibility really is the key. 

Discussing Firecalc always reminds me of a couple quotes from Murphy's Laws of War:
- No plan survives the first contact intact
- Perfect plans aren't

xbdb

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #24 on: December 11, 2020, 11:24:27 AM »
I absolutely agree with @Malcat as well. In fact I ran simulations a couple of times years ago, but haven't looked at it since. Calculators are great at numbers. Unfortunately real life, ehhh not so much. Variables are just that. Flexibility really is the key. 

Discussing Firecalc always reminds me of a couple quotes from Murphy's Laws of War:
- No plan survives the first contact intact
- Perfect plans aren't

Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth - Mike Tyson

ysette9

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #25 on: December 11, 2020, 03:30:08 PM »
More than just be happy with a success percentage, I did modeling to understand how tweaking different variables by little bits impacted success. I wanted to understand how robust my 90% success rate (or whatever) really was. That gave me more confidence in our plan than anything else.

For example, my plan has extra robustness because: we will get a small amount of SS, Iíll get a small pension, we are willing to cut our spending by up to 10% in a down market, and we are employing a reverse equity glide path for our asset allocation, starting at 40% bonds and then slowly increasing our stock back upwards of 90% after the first ten successful years of retirement.

Being willing to be a little flexible with spending combined with the reverse equity glide path add a lot of robustness to the overall picture.

norajean

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #26 on: December 11, 2020, 03:43:25 PM »
Each person must make their own assumptions. But given the criticality of retirement funding, most people are conservative. A 10% chance of running short of funds at age 85 is too high for most. Age 85 can be when you need the most cash flow if you end up in an assisted living situation. And no, you are not going back to work at that point.

Malcat

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #27 on: December 11, 2020, 05:05:20 PM »
Each person must make their own assumptions. But given the criticality of retirement funding, most people are conservative. A 10% chance of running short of funds at age 85 is too high for most. Age 85 can be when you need the most cash flow if you end up in an assisted living situation. And no, you are not going back to work at that point.

Sure, but FIRE calculators can't actually tell you if you have a 10% chance of failure. That's not how they work.

markbike528CBX

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #28 on: December 11, 2020, 09:02:22 PM »
For those wringing your hands about 10%  chance of failure, @CCCA from this forum has put a calculator that includes your very likely (at some point) death.

http://engaging-data.com/will-money-last-retire-early/

FWIW if you are male then at 85 you only have a 1/3 chance of still being alive to worry.

If you toggle the "death" off, then you get answers similar to all the other calculators that assume will live to an exactly specified age.

Malcat

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #29 on: December 12, 2020, 08:09:51 AM »
For those wringing your hands about 10%  chance of failure, @CCCA from this forum has put a calculator that includes your very likely (at some point) death.

http://engaging-data.com/will-money-last-retire-early/

FWIW if you are male then at 85 you only have a 1/3 chance of still being alive to worry.

If you toggle the "death" off, then you get answers similar to all the other calculators that assume will live to an exactly specified age.

I repeat though, what calculators spit out is NOT a prediction of 10% chance of failure. That is an ENTIRELY nonsense concept.

What they produce is a percentage of incidence where a plan will fail under a specific set of circumstances based on market performance in the past. The assumptions in those circumstances don't mimic any actual human being's spending patterns, so it's not even remotely accurate.

Think about is from the reverse, if someone gets a 100% safe result, does that represent the level of risk that they'll never run out of money? Of course it doesn't! That conclusion would be insane. Utterly and completely irrationally insane.

There is so much that the calculator can't account for, and that's not even touching that it can't predict future market behaviour.

Let's assume that future markets behave, because that's the fundamental leap of faith we all need to make to retire. So let's assume they fluctuate exactly in line with the existing historical models. Cool.

Okay, what's still not accounted for is that spending can change, that the more money you spend, the more security you have baked in because you have the ability to dramatically cut costs.

If I'm living bare bones on a sub 20K budget, but I have enough buffer to generate a 100% success result, am I more secure than someone living a ridiculously lux life on 200K, but generating a 90% success rate?

Well, if shit hits the fan, my 20K budget has a few grand wiggle room here and there. Meanwhile, on my 200K budget, I can sell my McMansion at a major loss and one or two of my sports cars and end up with an additional lump sum a few times larger than my 20K budget self retired on in the first place.

All I have to do in my 200K life is give up my champagne and caviar lifestyle and drop my expenses down to a still luxurious sub 100K spend, and I'm suddenly drowning in more money than I could possibly need.

Now, let's look at personal risk, which is FAR more realistic than market risk anyway. Let's say I have a stroke that significantly compromises my function. This is a far more likely risk for most people than the markets doing something truly out of whack.

On my 20K budget, I don't have a huge ton of wiggle room to afford care, or maybe even more accessible living quarters, and could very easily end up bankrupt. On my 200K budget, I can sell all the cars, the McMansion, cancel the club memberships, skip the international first class travel, and divert my resources to securing what I need, while possibly even lowering my overall spending, despite buying the Porsche of wheelchairs.

I'm being extreme to make a point, but the point matters. People change their lives according to their financial circumstances, and they change their finances according to their life circumstances. This is the MOST predictable of human behaviors, and yet, the calculator has no capacity to account for it, and therefore no capacity to account for budget flexibility, which is ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE larger a factor in predicting success than most of what the calculators factor in. 

Let's also examine the concept of the 10% failure as presented above. Let's say the calculator does predict the future and that somehow magically leads to a scenario where the person ends up 85 and out of money.

What kind of person just passively sits back and let's that happen? Certainly not the kind of person who runs their finances through a FIRE sim calculator.

Are we imagining that our mathematically inclined Mustachian retires with a tight budget because an online calculator spits out 90% and they shrug and say "good enough" and then never ever run those numbers again?

They just peacefully spend 4% +estimated inflation for years on end never checking their account balances or market performance until one day at 85 they try to pay for their blood pressure medication only to see "insufficient funds" on the machine, and then finally after decades login to their accounts and say "WTF?!!! An online calculator once said I would probably be fine! Holy shit, I guess this is that 10% I should have worried about!!!"

It's nonsense. Pure nonsense.

Mmm_Donuts

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #30 on: December 12, 2020, 08:20:44 AM »
There was a really great thread a while back from Sol (I think ) about how it's safe to retire on anywhere above a 50% success rate, if you believe the future will be anything like the past was, on average. It's been a while since I've read it so may be misremembering, does anyone else know what I'm talking about, or remember this thread?

I'll try to find it.

ETA this might be it? not sure, but there's still some helpful info here:

https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/firecalc-and-cfiresim-both-lie/
« Last Edit: December 12, 2020, 08:35:23 AM by Mmm_Donuts »

shuffler

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #31 on: December 12, 2020, 10:56:40 AM »
There was a really great thread a while back from Sol (I think ) about how it's safe to retire on anywhere above a 50% success rate ... does anyone else know what I'm talking about, or remember this thread?

Maybe this?


Of course, that assumes that the future will be no worst than the past.

If you assumed that the future would be no worse than the past, then you would target a 50% success rate.  Targeting 80% success means that you are expecting the future to be as bad as the worst 20% of historical periods.  Targeting 100% success, like many here do, means you expect the future to be worse than anything that has ever happened, including world wars, oil embargoes, presidential assassinations, and global catastrophic economic collapse.  All of that has happened.

Mmm_Donuts

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #32 on: December 12, 2020, 01:45:58 PM »
Shuffler - thatís the one. Thank you. That whole thread is really enlightening.

norajean

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #33 on: December 12, 2020, 02:11:01 PM »
4% assumes the worst possible historic scenario. If you are happy with an average scenario I think you can use an SWR of about 7%.

Mmm_Donuts

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #34 on: December 12, 2020, 02:16:28 PM »
Another way to think about it:

I would just note, however, that in addition to assuming the future is no worse than the past, this idea also assumes that every retirement has an equal chance of success regardless of what market conditions exist when the retirement commences

An 80% success rate never means that 20% of this year's retirees will fail, it generally means either 100% or 0% of this year's retirees will fail and you have an 80% chance of this being one of the good 100% years.  At least it's usually been pretty obvious when you're headed towards one of the 20% failure scenarios, so that's something to be glad about.


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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #35 on: December 12, 2020, 02:47:45 PM »
It's nonsense. Pure nonsense.

People play games with success rates. A good example is the ERE idea of getting your expenses really low and then getting to a 3% WR. Talk about having a plan that is completely choreographed to meet the math of ER. I feel that these plans have a high chance of failure because of the fact that they are dependent on really low expenses. What if your circumstances change ? The point being that a 3% WR with a 100% success rate may be built on quicksand. It's not a true representation of the risk within your ER plan.

I track my expenses accurately. I have a good feel for my expenses. I also have a couple of points of buffer. I should be fine without using some of my buffer but if I have too it's cool.

I was continually increasing my budget because I'd continually come up with new potential expenses. At some point I just said I've got enough and I'm going to retire. I figure I'm going to be fine but I'll just adjust if I have too.

Another thing that changes is that your expenses go down. I went out this week and saw a friend. We had a hamburger and some beers. It cost $50. This is crazy stuff for me. I don't even enjoy it that much. I would do stuff like this more when I was working. Guys would state let's go and get chicken wings and beer. It was a $50 lunch time event easily. Then there are work clothes. Then there are transport costs. I also was a low spender on these categories.

Expenses aren't so easy to manage especially when you have 3 kids.

« Last Edit: December 12, 2020, 02:58:58 PM by chevy1956 »

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #36 on: December 12, 2020, 02:58:32 PM »
I think most people who end up on a site like this one do a fairly deep dive on their personal situation and what their numbers say before FIREing.

Most also seem to naturally build in as much buffer as they need to in order to feel comfortable pulling the trigger.  Some ignore SS, or ignore an asset, or add in extra expenses that they can do without, or overestimate inflation or underestimate returns.  Some do all of those.

Some people are desperate to leave (or have to leave due to medical reasons or other reasons) and thus don't build up as much of a buffer as others would, or as much as they might in a different situation.

MasterStache

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #37 on: December 13, 2020, 06:37:01 AM »
"60% of the time, it works every time"
« Last Edit: December 13, 2020, 06:41:06 AM by MasterStache »

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #38 on: December 13, 2020, 09:44:44 AM »
4% assumes the worst possible historic scenario. If you are happy with an average scenario I think you can use an SWR of about 7%.

This seems extremely optimistic to me, if one uses a high SWR like this, depending on one's age and proximity to SS, one must be willing to go back to work to generate income if needed.

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #39 on: December 13, 2020, 10:02:41 AM »
4% assumes the worst possible historic scenario. If you are happy with an average scenario I think you can use an SWR of about 7%.

This seems extremely optimistic to me, if one uses a high SWR like this, depending on one's age and proximity to SS, one must be willing to go back to work to generate income if needed.

*Sigh*

Yes, if they blindly spend 4% +estimated inflation year over year with total disregard for market conditions even if the market performs poorly for years on end and they chip away at their principle with reckless disregard for what's happening to the state of their savings.

Which is behaviour that no one here would do.

It is fair to say that the higher your WR, the more flexible you need to be either in terms of reducing spending or adding earning of both when needed.

Simply put, the more money you have and the more money you spend on unnecessary luxuries that you can comfortably give up, the less likely you will need to generate more income in retirement.

The lower your savings and the leaner your expenses, the more likely you are to need to generate more income at some point.

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #40 on: December 13, 2020, 10:24:11 AM »
I agree with the theme that firecalc probabilities are only a rough guide but I do find them quite useful for planning.

The effort required to move from 90% to 100% is significant and has diminishing returns as you get closer and closer to 100%. I am targeting a 90% success rate, using the withdrawal plan of consistent inflation adjusted withdrawals, and that feels plenty conservative for me.  In reality I will vary my withdrawals based on market conditions and achieve the 100%.

I still need to research and select a variable withdrawal plan.  I see there are a number to choose from.

Being too conservative can cost years of my precious life.

tj

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #41 on: December 13, 2020, 11:54:51 AM »
4% assumes the worst possible historic scenario. If you are happy with an average scenario I think you can use an SWR of about 7%.

This seems extremely optimistic to me, if one uses a high SWR like this, depending on one's age and proximity to SS, one must be willing to go back to work to generate income if needed.

*Sigh*

Yes, if they blindly spend 4% +estimated inflation year over year with total disregard for market conditions even if the market performs poorly for years on end and they chip away at their principle with reckless disregard for what's happening to the state of their savings.

Which is behaviour that no one here would do.

It is fair to say that the higher your WR, the more flexible you need to be either in terms of reducing spending or adding earning of both when needed.

Simply put, the more money you have and the more money you spend on unnecessary luxuries that you can comfortably give up, the less likely you will need to generate more income in retirement.

The lower your savings and the leaner your expenses, the more likely you are to need to generate more income at some point.

We obviously have no idea what behavior the variety of people here would have. How many people were invested through 2000-2002 and 2007-2009?  Everyone is different. Behaviorally, a lot of people sell at the bottom which is irrational. Would people here know better? Hopefully, but not necessarily.

I personally found it very hard to spend money when I was not working because I know I did not have enough to be permanently retired, and I did not know when more money would come rolling in. My recollection is that when I decided to take a career gap, I had one year of cash, one year of bonds plus other investments.

The whims of the markets did not have much of an influence.  My prediction was that I would get bored before I ran out of cash, and that was mostly true. Actually the first job I found wasn't a good fit, so I quit that one and had another gap, I initially enjoyed having the free time again, but then I was bored again and it was some months before I got another job offer. I regret that I did not do more traveling during those gaps because I had the time then and now I don't (and now even if I had the time, I wouldn't be traveling because there is a pandemic). There was also some guilt that my dad was still working so should I really be not working in prime earning years? Now that my dad has retired, perhaps it would be different in the future.

I'm hopeful that life would be different in a true retirement scenario when I have enough money to not work in perpetuity, or even that it would be different in a gap scenario where I have someone else to share the time with and don't have to rely solely on myself 24/7 for life planning.

Regardless, I think it can be a very big mental shift to go from accumulation phase to the decumulation phase, which has nothing to do with finances, SWR's, money, or any of it. When you are a natural saver, and your hobby is optimizing your personal finances, that's not going to be a fulfilling retired life. I found it to be very odd to to go from saving to spending.

Would I feel comfortable financially chucking a career the day that I hit 25x expense? Yes, I probably would, with the caveat that the expenses were inflated to account for ACA going away, and taxes on the income that needed to generate to pay the expenses, and big ticket replacements. I think too many people just go based off their current expenses which might under-predicts the future expenses. On the other hand, it really will depend at what age I am at when that occurs. Because, If I stay until 57,  I get the retiree health insurance and the immediate pension. It works out that the longer i am willing to work, the less I need to invest for retirement.  But I think it also doubles that the longer I am willing to work, the longer I have to kick the can down on the road on designing a retirement life. Is it financial question or is it really something else?

I think @Nords post from almost 12 years ago still rings true. For me at least. I found it very difficult to develop a retirement life at a very pre-retirement age, particularly when my personal life had not been established in the way that I would prefer:

https://www.early-retirement.org/forums/f30/the-fog-of-work-42328.html

I think a 7% SWR is too risky, but then again,  there's a 150+ page thread of people who retired on very little by default, not by design, and certainly the average retiree does not have the luxury to math it out:  http://www.city-data.com/forum/retirement/653489-retiring-literal-shoestring-support-group.html

Villanelle

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #42 on: December 13, 2020, 12:46:20 PM »
Itís so hard to know how much we will need..... I especially think about this in the December spending period for holidays and giving when I see money going out the door.

I know how much I spend and how much I have.  I run Firecalc to see where I stand.

Just wondering - do folks on this board think that a 90 percent success rate on Firecalc is sufficient? Iím thinking thatís pretty good odds......

Thanks all and happy holidays!

I'd be good with 90%.  That's based in large part because I plan for a fairly fat, or certainly overweight, FIRE.  So in a very down year, I wouldn't continue to blindly withdraw 4%.  I'd downgrade travel plans for the year, cut back on holiday gifts, push off a new sofa or new (to me) car purchase another year, etc.   And suddenly, I'm spending $5000 less.  Easy day.  In a horrifically down year, maybe I also cut back on charitable donations and supporting local artists and small businesses and that's probably another $1000+.  Add some meatless Mondays and a few other hacks, and probably another $1000.

Humans are not robots.  We can adapt and adjust.  We can see that the markets is down and decide to withdraw 3.5% instead of 4%.  If someone has a very lean FIRE planned, then coming up with $7000 in cuts clearly won't be easy.  But for us, it wouldn't be an issue and likely wouldn't feel like deprivation for a couple years. 

So that 90% likely edges closer to 95% or 99%.

Nords

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #43 on: December 13, 2020, 01:08:45 PM »
We obviously have no idea what behavior the variety of people here would have. How many people were invested through 2000-2002 and 2007-2009?  Everyone is different. Behaviorally, a lot of people sell at the bottom which is irrational. Would people here know better? Hopefully, but not necessarily.
[...]
Humans have to deal with the emotional aspect (behavioral finance) of financial independence as well as the math & logic part.

The 4% SWR is all about math & logic.  It doesnít bolster self-confidence or help people sleep better at night.  It does not help someone shift from an attitude of scarcity to one of abundance. 

However Iíve invested through 2000-02 and 2007-09, as well as 1981, 1987, 1998, and 2020.  By the time youíve been through those experiences (with an asset allocation plan and perhaps a Bogleheads Investment Policy Statement) youíre either gaining confidenceó or youíre permanently terrified into staying in the workforce.

At what point do you shift from scarcity to abundance?  Reaching exactly 25.0000x annual spending?  Deciding that 20x offers some sabbatical time?  26x for FI with even more margin?  33x?  50x? 

After 18 years of retirement, my spouse and I are >60x and itís still going up.  Weíre working hard on legacy and philanthropy.

I think my abundance shift happened after 2012, and by then we were back above 30x.  At that point it was more about being comfortable with volatility rather than worrying about the 4% SWR.  Ironically during that first decade of retirement we were always well within the bounds of the 4% SWR.  Even though our withdrawal rate might have risen to 7% in 2002, 2008, and 2009, there was still plenty of portfolio to support a recovery.

Ironically, the 4% SWR doesnít guarantee 100% successó that can realistically only be done with an annuity.  For most Americans, Social Security (and its COLA!) may be all the annuity income thatís necessary. 

For others (American or the rest of the world) a single-premium immediate annuity might add to their comfort level.  Even then weíll have people who are far beyond the 4% SWR and still wondering whether 2% is conservative enough or whether the stock market will implode or whether <insert extinction event here>.

My prediction was that I would get bored before I ran out of cash, and that was mostly true.

Actually the first job I found wasn't a good fit, so I quit that one and had another gap, I initially enjoyed having the free time again, but then I was bored again and it was some months before I got another job offer.

I regret that I did not do more traveling during those gaps because I had the time then and now I don't (and now even if I had the time, I wouldn't be traveling because there is a pandemic).

There was also some guilt that my dad was still working so should I really be not working in prime earning years? Now that my dad has retired, perhaps it would be different in the future.

I'm hopeful that life would be different in a true retirement scenario when I have enough money to not work in perpetuity, or even that it would be different in a gap scenario where I have someone else to share the time with and don't have to rely solely on myself 24/7 for life planning.

Regardless, I think it can be a very big mental shift to go from accumulation phase to the decumulation phase, which has nothing to do with finances, SWR's, money, or any of it.

When you are a natural saver, and your hobby is optimizing your personal finances, that's not going to be a fulfilling retired life. I found it to be very odd to to go from saving to spending.

... with the caveat that the expenses were inflated to account for ACA going away, and taxes on the income that needed to generate to pay the expenses, and big ticket replacements.

I think too many people just go based off their current expenses which might under-predicts the future expenses. On the other hand, it really will depend at what age I am at when that occurs. Because, If I stay until 57,  I get the retiree health insurance and the immediate pension.

It works out that the longer i am willing to work, the less I need to invest for retirement.  But I think it also doubles that the longer I am willing to work, the longer I have to kick the can down on the road on designing a retirement life.

Is it financial question or is it really something else?
Iíve broken your quote into smaller chunks to highlight how little this is about the finances... and how much itís about moving from the workplace toward a different (still fulfilling) life.  If you canít design a more fulfilling life then you might as well stay in the workplace.  You might not be happy but you could be less unhappy.

I think @Nords post from almost 12 years ago still rings true. For me at least. I found it very difficult to develop a retirement life at a very pre-retirement age, particularly when my personal life had not been established in the way that I would prefer:

https://www.early-retirement.org/forums/f30/the-fog-of-work-42328.html
Weíre going on 13 years now!  I wouldnít have picked that post to be the most popular lifestyle post on the blog.
https://the-military-guide.com/the-fog-of-work/

I think youíve hammered the financial part into the ground, and youíre ready to refocus on the lifestyle.  Your mental/emotional shift has to go from leaving the workforce (and then being bored) to designing a lifestyle which still offers autonomy, complexity, challenge, and fulfillment.  If you canít make the time to do it during your working years, at least you could take a look at Ernie Zelinskiís Get-A-Life Tree:
https://the-military-guide.com/one-year-syndrome/
http://bestretirementquotes.blogspot.com/2009/10/get-life-tree-great-retirement-planning.html

Finally, although Iím only halfway through Designing Your Life, Iím very impressed with what Iíve read so far.  Itís a process, not a goal line.
https://www.amazon.com/Designing-Your-Life-Well-Lived-Joyful/dp/1101875321/

tj

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #44 on: December 13, 2020, 01:44:51 PM »
Quote

Finally, although Iím only halfway through Designing Your Life, Iím very impressed with what Iíve read so far.  Itís a process, not a goal line.
https://www.amazon.com/Designing-Your-Life-Well-Lived-Joyful/dp/1101875321/

Thanks for this recommendation - I checked and there's even an eBook loan available from the library.

I did read one of Ernie Zellinski's books before i took my career break - and I remember it being quite helpful.

For me, there was a disconnect in between the preparation of my career break and then the actual career break.  The preparation was all very exciting and very fun. It created this epic idea that was something to look forward to. The plan was to do all this solo travel for all this time and do all these things, but then I very quickly learned that I did not enjoy solo travel at all. It felt extremely lonely.  And I did not have a plan B lined up and so it very much felt like failure.

I obviously did do some sightseeing in new places, which was great, but I also spent a significant amount of time alone in a room, and that was no bueno.

markbike528CBX

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #45 on: December 13, 2020, 03:36:37 PM »
Quote

Finally, although Iím only halfway through Designing Your Life, Iím very impressed with what Iíve read so far.  Itís a process, not a goal line.
https://www.amazon.com/Designing-Your-Life-Well-Lived-Joyful/dp/1101875321/

Thanks for this recommendation - I checked and there's even an eBook loan available from the library.

I did read one of Ernie Zellinski's books before i took my career break - and I remember it being quite helpful.

For me, there was a disconnect in between the preparation of my career break and then the actual career break.  The preparation was all very exciting and very fun. It created this epic idea that was something to look forward to. The plan was to do all this solo travel for all this time and do all these things, but then I very quickly learned that I did not enjoy solo travel at all. It felt extremely lonely.  And I did not have a plan B lined up and so it very much felt like failure.

I obviously did do some sightseeing in new places, which was great, but I also spent a significant amount of time alone in a room, and that was no bueno.

It is a little late now for sightseeing suggestions, but I did a solo tour that I called my "Ultra-Mega-Geeky Tour".  I had no significant other and wasn't planning on one anytime soon, so I saw all the places that _I_ wanted to check out and realized virtually _no one_ else would want to do.
New Mexico:
National Atomic Museum: https://www.nuclearmuseum.org/
The Very Large Array, Socorro NM : https://public.nrao.edu/visit/very-large-array/  - just as spooky in person as in the movies
Trinity Site: https://www.wsmr.army.mil/Trinity/Pages/Home.aspx   - only open 2 days a year
Roswell: https://roswell-nm.gov/348/Robert-H-Goddard-Dreamer-Tinkerer-Pionee  at which museum I met self-described aliens
 (the security guy said he had only been there 20 years, so he thought that made him an alien -- close enough for me)
Los Alamos Museum: https://www.lanl.gov/museum/   
What you say?   Of COURSE I borrowed a Geiger counter from work to take along on the trip.

Learned:  I finally understood why Goddard ran his motors really rich (black smoke out the back) as he had  continual problems with throat burnout. 
Half a Megaton of woop-ass fits into an overgrown coffee can. 
The dose rate at 30,000ft is 5 times the dose rate at a 60 year old nuclear ground zero.

Also, never say never, as my wife might want to do this trip :-)  Although we might have to include the artsy stuff in Santa Fe.

tj

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #46 on: December 13, 2020, 03:44:46 PM »
Quote

Finally, although Iím only halfway through Designing Your Life, Iím very impressed with what Iíve read so far.  Itís a process, not a goal line.
https://www.amazon.com/Designing-Your-Life-Well-Lived-Joyful/dp/1101875321/

Thanks for this recommendation - I checked and there's even an eBook loan available from the library.

I did read one of Ernie Zellinski's books before i took my career break - and I remember it being quite helpful.

For me, there was a disconnect in between the preparation of my career break and then the actual career break.  The preparation was all very exciting and very fun. It created this epic idea that was something to look forward to. The plan was to do all this solo travel for all this time and do all these things, but then I very quickly learned that I did not enjoy solo travel at all. It felt extremely lonely.  And I did not have a plan B lined up and so it very much felt like failure.

I obviously did do some sightseeing in new places, which was great, but I also spent a significant amount of time alone in a room, and that was no bueno.

It is a little late now for sightseeing suggestions, but I did a solo tour that I called my "Ultra-Mega-Geeky Tour".  I had no significant other and wasn't planning on one anytime soon, so I saw all the places that _I_ wanted to check out and realized virtually _no one_ else would want to do.
New Mexico:
National Atomic Museum: https://www.nuclearmuseum.org/
The Very Large Array, Socorro NM : https://public.nrao.edu/visit/very-large-array/  - just as spooky in person as in the movies
Trinity Site: https://www.wsmr.army.mil/Trinity/Pages/Home.aspx   - only open 2 days a year
Roswell: https://roswell-nm.gov/348/Robert-H-Goddard-Dreamer-Tinkerer-Pionee  at which museum I met self-described aliens
 (the security guy said he had only been there 20 years, so he thought that made him an alien -- close enough for me)
Los Alamos Museum: https://www.lanl.gov/museum/   
What you say?   Of COURSE I borrowed a Geiger counter from work to take along on the trip.

Learned:  I finally understood why Goddard ran his motors really rich (black smoke out the back) as he had  continual problems with throat burnout. 
Half a Megaton of woop-ass fits into an overgrown coffee can. 
The dose rate at 30,000ft is 5 times the dose rate at a 60 year old nuclear ground zero.

Also, never say never, as my wife might want to do this trip :-)  Although we might have to include the artsy stuff in Santa Fe.

I'm pretty sure I went to that very National Atomic Museum! I spent a month in Albequerque, so I went to a bunch of museums and such.

Some of the stands outs were White Sands National Monument, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, and Flagstaff Observatory. Also a Star Wars concert in Albequerque was fun. I did a couple month-long stays in for the purposes of monthly discount on AirBNB, in retrospect, if I did more of a rapid speed travel adventure, I may have enjoyed it more (less time sitting bored in a room) but also would have been pretty exhausted from all the traveling.

markbike528CBX

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #47 on: December 13, 2020, 04:10:22 PM »
Quote

Finally, although Iím only halfway through Designing Your Life, Iím very impressed with what Iíve read so far.  Itís a process, not a goal line.
https://www.amazon.com/Designing-Your-Life-Well-Lived-Joyful/dp/1101875321/

Thanks for this recommendation - I checked and there's even an eBook loan available from the library.

I did read one of Ernie Zellinski's books before i took my career break - and I remember it being quite helpful.

For me, there was a disconnect in between the preparation of my career break and then the actual career break.  The preparation was all very exciting and very fun. It created this epic idea that was something to look forward to. The plan was to do all this solo travel for all this time and do all these things, but then I very quickly learned that I did not enjoy solo travel at all. It felt extremely lonely.  And I did not have a plan B lined up and so it very much felt like failure.

I obviously did do some sightseeing in new places, which was great, but I also spent a significant amount of time alone in a room, and that was no bueno.

It is a little late now for sightseeing suggestions, but I did a solo tour that I called my "Ultra-Mega-Geeky Tour".  I had no significant other and wasn't planning on one anytime soon, so I saw all the places that _I_ wanted to check out and realized virtually _no one_ else would want to do.
New Mexico:
National Atomic Museum: https://www.nuclearmuseum.org/
The Very Large Array, Socorro NM : https://public.nrao.edu/visit/very-large-array/  - just as spooky in person as in the movies
Trinity Site: https://www.wsmr.army.mil/Trinity/Pages/Home.aspx   - only open 2 days a year
Roswell: https://roswell-nm.gov/348/Robert-H-Goddard-Dreamer-Tinkerer-Pionee  at which museum I met self-described aliens
 (the security guy said he had only been there 20 years, so he thought that made him an alien -- close enough for me)
Los Alamos Museum: https://www.lanl.gov/museum/   
What you say?   Of COURSE I borrowed a Geiger counter from work to take along on the trip.

Learned:  I finally understood why Goddard ran his motors really rich (black smoke out the back) as he had  continual problems with throat burnout. 
Half a Megaton of woop-ass fits into an overgrown coffee can. 
The dose rate at 30,000ft is 5 times the dose rate at a 60 year old nuclear ground zero.

Also, never say never, as my wife might want to do this trip :-)  Although we might have to include the artsy stuff in Santa Fe.

I'm pretty sure I went to that very National Atomic Museum! I spent a month in Albequerque, so I went to a bunch of museums and such.

Some of the stands outs were White Sands National Monument, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, and Flagstaff Observatory. Also a Star Wars concert in Albequerque was fun. I did a couple month-long stays in for the purposes of monthly discount on AirBNB, in retrospect, if I did more of a rapid speed travel adventure, I may have enjoyed it more (less time sitting bored in a room) but also would have been pretty exhausted from all the traveling.

Yep, my trip was probably a little _too_ quick, but it was predicated on the Trinity Site opening for 1 day in the spring.
Also learned, that people who visit the Trinity Site specifically, as in you can't casually visit, are still freaked out by a Geiger counter clicking around where they are walking.   I felt like Moses parting the Red Sea of people.

Maybe DW and I can incorporate your stuff into our future trip.  It's pretty. I'm into geology and astronomy.  We're retired, so we don't have to rush. 

FIRE Artist

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #48 on: December 14, 2020, 09:16:48 AM »
I think that it will depend on your FIRE level.  My number includes a healthy lifestyle buffer, so I can ride the waves of market downturn simply by tightening my belt on the down years and drop down to basic expense spend only. 

Someone who is Lean FIRE does not have the wiggle room, so 100% would be necessary. 

Mmm_Donuts

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Re: Firecalc success rate comfort level
« Reply #49 on: December 14, 2020, 01:18:06 PM »
I think I'm at about 93% success rate right now. I like the idea of a variable spend, but the interesting thing about getting to the ~90% situation is that the "bad start years" in the calculation are those around 1966, and those lean stagflation years lasted over a decade IIRC. So it's one thing to tighten the belt for a couple of years, but I'm not sure I'd want to tighten the belt for 10-20 years straight.

That said, if that was the ONLY situation in the past that caused failures at my stash level, I'm ok with FIREing below 100%. Who knows what the future holds but if that one scenario were to happen again and throw things off course, well, I think there's other ways of being flexible and that our future selves will figure it out.