To retire, you need a regular income stream. For a lot of Americans, that’s Social Security. But many will tell you it’s not enough; plus you only get it in your 60s. What would it take for a person to retire on their own, today?
For that, you need investment income. Hopefully, you invest capital safely and live off the proceeds. Let’s take a lottery-ticket approach. Say you’re young (no Social Security for decades, and your principal needs to last, so no dipping into that). How much do you need to win in the lottery, to get $50,000/year of investment income?
This will be verrrry quick-and-dirty. Let’s simply assume that you keep your lottery winnings half in 5-year bank CDs, and half in a U.S. stock market index fund. I won’t bore you with the math. In brief, currently you’d get 1.55% from the 5-year CDs (per bankrate.com), and 1.88% from the S&P 500. It comes out to your needing roughly $2.9 million.
$2.9 million, just to yield $50,000/year. But what’s interesting is how this compares to times past.
- 5 years ago (2009): the 5-year bank CD rate was around 3.5% (again per bankrate.com), and the S&P dividend yield was around 2.5%. You would have needed roughly $1.7 million.
- 10 years ago (2004): the bank CD rate was around 3.5%, and the S&P dividend yield around 1.8%. You would have needed roughly $1.9 million.
Again, these numbers are just for a long-lived person to get themselves a $50,000 annual yield. A person in their 60s, collecting Social Security and/or dipping into their principal, would need rather less money. Especially if the stock market goes well (we know that always happens, right?) so they get some capital appreciation.
But here’s the point that applies to everyone: the kind of change we can see in the numbers.
- Between 2004 and 2009, the cost of a $50,000 yield stayed roughly the same (going down 10% or so).
- Between 2009 and today, the cost of a $50,000 yield has skyrocketed (up over 60%).
And that’s why tens of millions of Americans now feel like they can never retire. They can’t retire because the cost of getting X amount of retirement income (from bank CDs or stocks) has skyrocketed, in the last five years. Whatever their own “retirement number” was, big or small, suddenly they need much more. So they can’t retire, and keep working.
This is one dark side of market bubbles. The Federal Reserve’s ZIRP and “QE” policies are designed to make the financial markets go higher. A stock market bubble means, among other things, everyone paying more money for small (or nonexistent) yields. Higher bond markets mean lower bank CD yields. High real estate markets mean higher housing costs. The financial markets are roughly like your price tag for retirement. In the last few years, Obama/Bernanke/Yellen have pumped some giant inflation into them. It’s not a good thing.
And all of that is aside from the question of inflation in general: the fact that $50,000 today won’t buy you what it did 5 years ago. (Gasoline and medical costs, for example, are way up.) “Thanks, Obama!”