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Benchmarking Retirement Withdrawal Strategies

The Economy After the Elections

Winners and Losers in Trump’s Electoral Surprise

Why Consistency of Dividend Growth Matters

The Making of a Passivist

Benchmarking Retirement Withdrawal Strategies

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Philip Murphy

Managing Director, Global Head of Index Governance

S&P Dow Jones Indices

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Capital market benchmarks are, of course, widely used yardsticks of investment performance. For the production of the S&P STRIDE Index, in addition to providing performance data we also calculate hypothetical retirement income for vintages of the index that are at, or past, their target date. Hypothetical retirement income is expressed in index points, and can be used as a yardstick for systematic withdrawal strategies – expanding the role of S&P STRIDE from wealth accumulation benchmark to decumulation benchmark.

Each January we determine the level of hypothetical retirement income for the upcoming year in every STRIDE Index whose target date is current or past. For example, in January 2015 we began calculating hypothetical retirement income for the S&P STRIDE 2015 Indices, and we continued updating it for the S&P STRIDE 2005 and 2010 Indices. Hypothetical retirement income is derived from the proportion of index value in the TIPS-LDI allocation for each target date by dividing that figure by then-current cost of income.

Below are 2015 values of hypothetical retirement income, called “Decumulation Points”, for the S&P STRIDE 2005, 2010, and 2015 Indices. These values are available on S&P STRIDE Index websites in the “Additional Info” menu. The file is called S&P STRIDE Metrics. The January 2015 Decumulation Rate is equal to [January Decumulation Points / January STRIDE Index Level].

STRIDE Vintage 2015 Monthly Decumulation Points January 2015 Decumulation Rate
2005 0.6453 5.64%
2010 0.6763 4.30%
2015 0.6818 3.46%

Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices, LLC

As explained in Waring and Siegel (2015), it is imperative to take the cost of income into account in development of systematic withdrawal policies. Doing so scales withdrawals for changes to income cost in addition to account value. However we could still be left with a lot of volatility in the periodic withdrawal a portfolio can support. To mitigate that volatility, a portfolio can be managed to offset changes in income cost with changes in account value (and vice versa) – exactly what S&P STRIDE does. For portfolio allocations pursuing strategies similar to STRIDE, our calculation of hypothetical retirement income therefore provides a sound basis for estimating how much can be withdrawn from that portfolio in a conservative, sustainable way.

The data in the above table can provide a useful comparison between one’s personal withdrawal strategy and the benchmark. For example, suppose I had $500,000 invested in TIPS at the end of January 2015. I’m pursuing an LDI strategy similar to S&P STRIDE, I retired in 2010, and I seek for my TIPS withdrawal strategy to last 25 years from retirement until 2035. In January 2015 I observe that the benchmark calculated a sustainable 2015 withdrawal rate of 4.3%. I can apply that percentage to my $500,000 TIPS-LDI portfolio to determine that the benchmark decumulation, when applied to my account, would be $21,500 for the year. Amounts greater than that may imperil the length of time my withdrawal strategy can last, and amounts less than that would potentially lengthen the time it can last. So S&P STRIDE can be used as a way to gauge sustainable withdrawals just as readily as it can be used to compare month-to-month investment performance.

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.

The Economy After the Elections

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David Blitzer

Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee

S&P Dow Jones Indices

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Right Now:  The economy is in better shape than what many incoming presidents face. GDP is growing, unemployment is 4.9% and inflation is about 1%. Interest rates are already rising with the 10 year treasury topping 2% yield and the Fed is signaling a December increase in the Fed funds rate.  US stocks are enjoying a turnaround in earnings and are responding positively.

What Next? The Press is comparing Donald Trump to Ronald Reagan. Both are Republicans from outside the party establishment, both plan big tax cuts and changes in economic policy.  Both are hailed as being in touch with voters. Reagan’s economic policy was tight money and increased federal spending. Combined with Paul Volcker’s inflation fighting at the Fed the economy emerged from a deep recession and grew. Stocks rose, interest rates fell as the bond market began a 30 year bull market.

Donald Trump’s approach to policy may be similar – he has said the Fed should raise rates and end its easy money approach; he wants to cut taxes and he speaks about a massive infrastructure spending program and increased defense spending

However, the economy today is not the economy of 1980. Inflation is about one percent today versus 13% on Election Day in 1980; yield on the ten year T-note is 2% now versus 12% in 1980; GDP was up 2.9% in the third quarter and the last recession ended seven years ago. In 1980 we were in a brief pause between two recessions and the one that lay ahead was second only to the Great Recession in severity.  There is at least one similarity: in 1980 and in 2016 there is a budget deficit which many people feared. Ronald Reagan promised to cut taxes, raise defense spending and balance the budget. He accomplished the first two – batting .667 may be a good score for a politician.

If Donald Trump follows a somewhat similar program, what might we expect?

  • Interest rates are likely to rise – both the Fed and the President seem to be looking in that direction. But the rate increase is likely to be limited and the ten year Treasury note, now about 2%, will probably be 4% or less 18 months from now.
  • Inflation should stay low. It has barely moved in a few years, expectations of future inflation, usually based on recent experience, are a key determinant of future inflation.
  • Tax cuts are likely – Republican Congresses rarely raise taxes, although taxes did rise during the Reagan years.
  • The stock market advance has further to go; it is supported by earnings, not politics, for the next six months.
  • We will see a large infrastructure program. Almost as attractive to Congress as cutting taxes.
  • The federal deficit will rise. Ronald Reagan preached supply side economics and the idea that cutting taxes would create so much growth that the budget would be balanced. It didn’t work then.

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.

Winners and Losers in Trump’s Electoral Surprise

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Tim Edwards

Managing Director, Index Investment Strategy

S&P Dow Jones Indices

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Donald Trump’s unexpected success initially threatened to send the U.S. equity markets into steep decline.  Yet as I write, the S&P 500 has moved very little since yesterday’s close (it is up a little), while the VIX has fallen dramatically.

So why (or how) has volatility remained so low this morning when everyone expected it to rise?  One reason may be that stock-level volatility has risen, but correlations have dramatically fallen.

A quick calculation using sector data suggests the higher dispersion in stock-level returns.  The chart shows the standard deviation among the 11 sectoral daily returns, So far today (as of 1pm EST) it is at the highest level this year.  There is volatility, but the winners are cancelling out the losers.

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Higher dispersion – which was already rising in advance of the election, means a greater difference between winners and losers.  Today’s increase in dispersion – which may well prove temporary – is an indication of the degree to which Trump’s presidential victory, and continued Republican control of the Senate, were not appreciated by yesterday’s market consensus.

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.

Why Consistency of Dividend Growth Matters

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Kieran Kirwan

Director, Investment Strategy

ProShares

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With anemic global economic growth, investors have become leery about U.S. companies’ ability to grow earnings and increase dividends.

Indeed, S&P 500 earnings declined for the fifth consecutive period in the second quarter of 2016 and even if the third quarter results are positive, the growth rate is likely to be very small. A potential consequence of this “earnings recession” is that future dividends could be at risk. Earnings are an essential driver of dividends, and ultimately returns, so there is good reason for concern.

But there’s an exclusive group of companies that may provide an answer. The S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats® Index includes high quality companies that have increased their dividends every year for at least 25 consecutive years. How are these companies able to continually grow dividends? One answer is by delivering earnings growth. The S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats have delivered positive annual earnings growth for the first two quarters of 2016 in amounts that were substantially higher than the broad market.

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Source: Morningstar, ProShares, May 2, 2005–June 30, 2016. Index performance is for illustrative purposes only and does not reflect any management fees, transaction costs or expenses. Indexes are unmanaged and one cannot invest in an index. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

The Take Away
Historically, the Dividend Aristocrats have grown their dividends on a more consistent basis and at a higher compound rate than the broad market, underscoring their quality and potential for strong performance. Since inception of the index, the Aristocrats have delivered higher returns with lower volatility than the S&P 500.

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.

The Making of a Passivist

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Craig Lazzara

Managing Director and Global Head of Index Investment Strategy

S&P Dow Jones Indices

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I have few memories of my school French, but one of the fondest is of Moliere’s Monsieur Jourdain, who was delighted to learn in middle age that he had been speaking prose for the last 40 years.  Similarly, I did not realize until recently that I was a “passivist,” as the Wall Street Journal has now anointed the advocates of passive investment.

Upon reflection, I’ve concluded that passivists are made, not born, and they’re made not by theoretical argument but rather by a series of empirical observations.  The first of these is that most active managers fail most of the time, at least if we define “success” as active outperformance of passive benchmarks.  This is powerfully illustrated by our SPIVA scorecards, but the observation that most active managers underperform is not new and is hardly original to us.  Charles Ellis identified active management as a “loser’s game” more than 40 years ago, and more than 40 years before that, Alfred Cowles made a similar argument.

Second, when active success occurs, it tends not to persist.  Our persistence scorecards demonstrate that an investor has a better change of flipping a coin and getting four heads in a row than he does of identifying a fund manager who will be above average four years in a row.  This observation about the population of active managers does not mean that individual managers cannot be exceptions; famous examples like Warren Buffett and Peter Lynch come immediately to mind.  But Buffett and Lynch are famous precisely because they are exceptional.  If most active managers could outperform consistently, we wouldn’t know the names of the handful that do.

Third, a new generation of index products makes it possible to indicize strategies which were formerly the exclusive preserve of active managers.  Smart beta or factor indices provide exposure to a wide range of additional factors which investors may find attractive.  Importantly, factor indices make life more challenging for active managers.  Consider, e.g., an active manager who historically has tilted away from his cap-weighted benchmark in a systematic way (perhaps by emphasizing value, or small size, or low volatility).  The manager’s clients have had no way of disentangling how much of his performance is attributable to factor tilts and how much is attributable to stock selection beyond the factor.  Now, factor indices make it possible for the client to obtain access to the factor itself, without the manager’s stock selection, and to do so transparently and at low cost.

These observations mean that the ranks of the passivists are likely to continue growing.

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.