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Posted by on Oct 24, 2014 in ETF Strategist

What ‘Yukon Men’ Teaches Us About Retirement Planning

By: Roger Nusbaum, AdvisorShares ETF Strategist

Over the last couple of years I’ve joked about everyone in Alaska having their own reality show. One show I watch is Yukon Men (hey, one of them is from Boston and is the volunteer fire chief). It captures the busy lives of a handful of the residents of Tanana, Alaska.

Before getting to the meat of today’s post I realize that many so called reality shows aren’t so real. I have no idea how much of Yukon Men is real, made up or somewhere in between.

None of the featured people in the show have 9-5 career-type jobs. They all are depicted as doing several different things for income ranging from trapping to logging, various business involved dogs and dog teams, bartering service for items needed, one guy took temporary work on the new road coming into the town another does some part time work for the town’s public works department (term used loosely) but it is not clear whether he is paid or not and so on.

The concepts of independence, resourcefulness and adaptability used to get by financially are intriguing and intellectually appealing on some level. To be clear I am not arguing for the lifestyle these folks have but at a higher level we could all benefit from a little more independence, resourcefulness and adaptability not just for when we retire but to help us when we have the occasional bouts of financial uncertainty that will come along at least a couple of times over our working years.

In the middle of writing the above I had an email exchange with someone I’ve known for a long time who told me he is about to retire. For long time he and his wife have had a side business that could be thought of as being a monetized hobby. While I don’t know the particulars of his business’ financials or his financial plan I do know he has put years into this and I take him at his word that net net his side business very fun for him.

I was going to work the Yukon Men attributes around toward hobby monetization. If you believe financial markets have become more uncertain (this is actually a behavioral thing, they are no more or less uncertain but we can work on that in a different post) and safety nets like Social Security are not the sure bets they once were for people below a certain age then these attributes and ideas become important.

I’ve been writing about this topic for many years because it seems obvious to me but also because I’ve seen a lot of people live this out (chances are we all know people doing this successfully).

No one knows what will happen but most of us can take steps, right for our own interests and peculiarities, to minimize the consequences of below plan investment returns and reduced entitlement benefits.

I don’t think this should change the manner in which people invest, it is more like safeguard for a plan that needs 8% compounded growth but only gets 6%. That is not a ruinous situation but one to be accounted for nonetheless.

Hopefully you have some concept of what your lifestyle costs and don’t forget to bump that figure up to account for taxes and I would also add something for one-off expenses like a heating system, transmission or painful vet bill.

You’ll likely pay for that with some combo of Social Security, pension, income from assets/retirement accounts and income earned from a job or monetized hobby. A given individual may have access to all of these or just a couple of them.

If all in you need $5000/month (remember taxes and new tires) and Social Security is due to give you $2500 (and that actually happens) then the remainder needs to come from somewhere else. Maybe your IRA will comfortably generate that $2500 (don’t forget the taxes) but maybe it won’t and even still would it be better if you didn’t have to get the entire $2500 from your IRA. It builds in more options for the future and that will resonate with many people.