“Buckets of Money: How to Retire in Comfort and Safety,” by Raymond J. Lucia, CFP (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2004)
by Richard F. O’Boyle, Jr., LUTCF, MBA
“The Insider’s Guide to Retirement and Insurance Planning”
We’re taught to save throughout our working years to fund our retirement – diligently socking money into our 401(k)s and paying down our debt. But once we flip the switch and settle into a presumably worry-free retirement, how do we effectively and efficiently spend down our assets in those golden years? Ray Lucia, a Certified Financial Planner with a celebrity’s flair, helps us to answer this tough question with his “buckets of money” planning strategy.
The gist of “Buckets of Money” is that our nest eggs should be separated into three “buckets” of ultra-safe income streams, conservative medium-term assets and aggressive stock funds. Over seven-year cycles, the funds are depleted and shifted into the next immediate bucket to be used for current income. The buckets strategy leaps the key retirement planning hurdle by providing safety, growth, diversification, tax-efficiency and lifetime income. The book identifies which investments are appropriate for which buckets, along with guidelines for the proportions of each.
The book reads like a infomercial, but don’t let that turn you off. The general discussion of asset classes and products (stocks, bonds, annuities, etc.) is valuable for the novice and experienced investor alike. His comprehensive perspective honestly allows him to cover all potential investment classes. Mr. Lucia isn’t trying to sell you on anything other than his planning strategy (and he does that well).
Mr. Lucia’s website contains some notes on changes, but I’d like to see a fully updated edition of the book. For example, the buckets strategy recommends real estate holdings of as much as 20% of a portfolio in the form of real estate investment trusts. Given the 2008 mortgage meltdown, perhaps that should be reconsidered. Mr. Lucia only skims past the important backstop that life, disability and long-term care insurance provide as we switch our retirement portfolio from accumulation mode to distribution mode. Fortunately, the author takes into account the complexities of the tax code since intelligent tax planning can make or break a retirement plan. The book’s numerous statistical examples remain useful today.
The worksheets included in the book are quite easy to use. While the potential to “do it yourself” is there for the experienced investor who has a trusted advisor, I wouldn’t recommend that an individual adjust her portfolio without consulting a professional. I’m not sure if the buckets strategy is an “all or nothing” approach to investing. Any retirement plan can benefit from the non-controversial concepts presented here.