By failing to renew long term unemployment insurance Congress earned their Grinch status by making sure over a million Americans lose benefits three days after Christmas. Ho, ho, ho. 

For the world’s wealthiest nation to cast a blind eye with unemployment levels never seen in my lifetime I find disappointing. In my misspent youth I thought unemployment payments were a slacker scam but unemployment benefits efficiently stimulate the economy. 

Plus it is the humanitarian thing to do; read what the fellow whose birthday we celebrate in a couple of days has to say. I rarely work with unemployed people but when I have they eagerly wanted to work.

Dr. Wade Pfau is no Grinch but some may think so because he spoke an unfortunate truth, sorry to mention it during the holiday season. Pfau, Michael Finke and David Blanchett looked at current stock market valuations and current fixed income yields.

The data, “Asset Valuations and Safe Portfolio Withdrawal Rates” showed a 4 percent inflation-adjusted withdrawal rate for 30 years has less than a 50 percent survivability rate rather than the 90 percent plus planners generally use. 2013 is a stark anomaly; rarely have stock valuations been so high paired with fixed income yields so low.

Dr. Pfau and gang ran the numbers assuming more normal valuations for stocks and fixed income (mean reversion for statistics geeks).  Pfau, et al, also included a one-half percent portfolio fee in their study.  Don’t ignore fees like most people do.

Pay too much and you might run out of money before you run out of breath. The 4 percent initial withdrawal rate is still a good rule of thumb but you need to make sure you have a sustainable retirement spending strategy.

Speaking of spending, Walton County has the high sign for beach nourishment and, not to worry, TDC bed tax revenue will cover the costs with the state and federal government kicking in roughly 50 percent.

 I hate to be the Grinch of Christmas Future, but Walton County taxpayers will be on the hook sooner or later.  You see the federal government has promised to be our fiscal partner for 50 years … what could possibly go wrong? Go to and download your 2013 Social Security benefit statement.

 Mine says Social Security benefits “may change because, by 2033, the payroll taxes collected will be enough to pay only about 77 percent of scheduled benefits.” It also says Congress has changed its mind in the past, a factoid we should take to heart. 

Demographics will pressure government spending, and only the imprudent base long-term plans assuming the status quo. For retirement planning we adjust Social Security benefits depending on a client’s current age. No retirement planner worth their salt would do otherwise.

We also include additional healthcare expenses beginning when clients are in the 70s. Absent of any changes Social Security and Medicare, two essential programs, will be challenged by increased longevity.  Beach nourishment may be a hard sale when coupled with Social Security and Medicare cuts.  

Even in worse-case scenario current workers will get a Social Security benefit.  Ponzi schemes, on the other hand, leave zero dollars in their wake, correct Mr. Grinch? Merry Christmas!

Buz Livingston, CFP has a Blue Mountain Beach based fee-only, hourly financial planning and investment management firm. For more information, visit or come by our new office at 2050 Scenic 30A, M1-Unit 230, Redfish Village.