Top positive review
18 of 19 people found this helpful
Most important book to read this year
on September 26, 2010
Pensionize Your Nest Egg is a must-read for anyone interested in securing a stable retirement income. Like the first reviewer, I make no pretense of objectivity. I know one of the authors from the Canadian Money Forum, and she's as gracious and insightful in print as she is online. The book is split into three sections.
The first section deals with pension basics such as defined benefit vs. defined contribution plans, the looming pension crisis, and the definition of pension. This section also deals with the major risks in securing retirement income: longevity risk, sequence of returns, and inflation. In defining pension (guaranteed, lifelong income stream), the authors ask a discomfiting, but necessary, question. If your employer/pension sponsor can renege on your pension benefits by declaring bankruptcy, do you actually have a pension? The authors' emphatic answer is no. Fortunately, the authors offer solutions for all of the above in part 2.
The second section deals with products that address the above problems. The authors do not endorse any particular company but introduce the concept of product allocation. Most are familiar with asset allocation, which determines the ratio of fixed-income to equities within a portfolio. Product allocation, on the other hand, refers to choosing types of financial products that address the risks cited in part 1. The authors describe 3 silos, or types of products, to purchase with your nest egg to deal with risks. One silo is composed of traditional investments like stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. Products in this silo can grow (if the market does well!) to provide inflation protection, liquidity, and a financial legacy. However, products from silo 1 may not provide sustainable lifetime income (unless you invest very well or have a large sum) and are subject to sequence of returns risk (early negative returns can reduce an investor's sustainable income). Silo 2 comprises products guaranteeing lifetime income i.e. address longevity risk. the risk of outliving your savings. CPP is an example of an annuity-type product. Defined benefit pensions are another form of lifetime income. Indexed annuities can also deal with inflation risk but at the cost of lower initial payments. These products also deal with sequence of returns risk. However, these products have disadvantages too. The annuity contract is irreversible (i.e. illiquid), and, if markets do especially well, future growth accrues to the insurance company, not you. Another problem is counterparty risk, the risk that the other party/ company won't live up to its commitments. However, that risk exists already in defined benefit plans (just ask former Nortel employees). Also, insurance companies are closely regulated in Canada. Silo 3 consists of hybrids like guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefit (GLWB) products, which are mutual/ segregated funds that guarantee a minimum withdrawal rate (usually 4-5%). As expected these products provide intermediate risk protection. They provide inflation protection and growth potential, but not as much as products from silo 1 (costs are higher for GLWB products). They offer protection from longevity risk, but not as much as an annuity.
Part 3 moves from theory to practice and gives the reader a step by step guide to pensionize retirement savings. The authors introduce the concepts of Wealth to Need ratio (WtN) and retirement sustainability quotient (RSQ). The WtN ratio is simply your needed annual retirement income divided into your total nest egg. The wealthier you are (or the lower your spending), the higher your WtN is. RSQ measures the likelihood your retirement will last your lifetime and is defined as fraction of pensionized income (e.g. annuity or DB plan) + fraction non-pensionized income X (1 - risk of portfolio ruin). Portfolio ruin is the risk that your portfolio will be exhausted. The higher your RSQ is, the more sustainable your retirement income is.
If you browse the finance category, you'll see tens of thousands of books on personal finance and thousands on investing, but I can think of only one that tells Canadians how to guarantee their retirement income - all for less than the cost of an average haircut! Do yourself a favour. Quit worrying about your future. Buy this book and plan it instead.