Don’t Forget Your Spending Policy – Doctors
By Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA CMP™
If you are economically literate – or read the ME-P regularly – you may be tired of hearing the familiar saw, “the single most important determinant of investment results over time is asset allocation.”
But, as most of us realize, this glosses over critical obstacles to building personal wealth—taxes, inflation, and spending policy. A doctor’s spending policy itself is as critical as asset allocation in preserving wealth, as well as for all investors who understand the trade-offs: there are both allocation and spending strategies that stand to preserve wealth and insulate against excessive equity risk at the same time.
Income versus Security
In proving his point a decade ago, the author—Roger Hertog in “Income Versus Security”— traced the growth of a $1 million portfolio during the period of 1960–1994. He showed that while an all-stock portfolio would have experienced a compound growth rate of 10.1%, an all-bond portfolio of 7.4%, and an all T-bill portfolio of 6.1%, these growth rates dropped to 8%, 5%, and 3.7%, respectively, after taxes and conservative transaction costs. When further reduced by inflation, they dropped to 3.1%, 0.2%, and -1%, respectively. Stocks still nearly tripled in real value after taxes.
Next, Hertog factored in spending. He showed that the greater the equity exposure, the more likely investors will preserve or increase their levels of real spending and wealth. Also, he demonstrated how a spending policy of a fixed percentage of the portfolio; or of spending all the income is ill-suited to estate building. He arrived at an optimum allocation of 60% stocks and 40% bonds with a policy of spending all stock dividends but only spending interest to the extent it exceeds inflation. This latter spending policy adjusts for the fact that in – unlike today but perhaps again in the near future – an inflationary environment a portion of bond interest is a return of principal. This type of asset allocation and spending policy resulted in the greatest amount of growth over the years and gained on inflation. Hertog contends that the 60/40 allocation provides an appealing combination of growth and protection.
IOW: It gives investors a milder ride.
Over the 35-year period studied, a 60/40 mix returned almost as much as the all-stock portfolio both before taxes and after taxes and achieved some 75% of its real after-tax growth. Also, the portfolio’s worst year was only half as bad as the all-stock portfolio. Hertog believed that balancing with bonds softened the downside. But – what about the “flash-crash” of 2008-09?
Note: “Income Versus Security: Do You Have To Choose?” Roger Hertog, Trust & Estates, March 1997, pp. 44–62, Intertec Publishing Corporation.
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