READER COMMENTS on one of my blog posts prompted me to dig deeper into my thinking about asset allocation. A trip to the HumbleDollar archive led me to a Charley Ellis article where he emphasized that readers should incorporate Social Security, pensions and annuity payments into any analysis of their asset allocation and portfolio risk.
A guaranteed stream of income is clearly valuable. I knew this, but I had missed the obvious conclusion—that the net present value (NPV) of these income streams should be considered part of a portfolio. Specifically, they’re bond substitutes but without the interest rate risk of true bonds.
I used the NPV function in Excel to value the three income streams I’m due, so I could then evaluate each as part of my portfolio’s asset allocation. This required some assumptions:
By building this model in Excel, it was easy to see the impact of changes in assumptions. What if we both live to 100? What is the impact of a 5% discount rate versus 3%? What if Social Security cost-of-living adjustments average 3% instead of 1.88%? I was also able to model the difference if I opt to defer Social Security until age 70.
Incorporating the three present value calculations into my portfolio added 25% to its worth. Treating them as bond substitutes led to a key conclusion: I could move considerable bond and cash investments into stocks, and still sleep at night.
This is a reversal of the quandary I discussed in my earlier blog post. One revelation: Because my three income streams aren’t subject to interest rate risk in the same way an investment in bonds would be, I already enjoy downside portfolio protection, and don’t need to shift money into bonds at a time when interest rates may rise. At the same time, this exercise highlighted how the cushion provided by regular income payments can help my wife and me weather a big stock market decline.