No question about it, A Simple Plan to Wealth by JL Collins is ideally suited for those of us who “have better things to do with their precious time than think about money.” This book grew out of a series of blog posts that were designed, in part, to enlighten the author’s kids, we are told. While a lot of the retirement saving messages are aimed at our friends south of the border, there is a lot of solid advice in these pages.
“Spend less than you earn – invest the surplus – avoid debt,” Collins begins. “Do simply this and you’ll wind up rich. Not just in money.” Collins adds that carrying debt “is as appealing as being covered with leeches and has much the same effect.”
Collins says even at age 13, he was a saver. “Watching my money grow was intoxicating.” And while savings first earmarked for a convertible ultimately were needed to pay for his college education, the important aspect of the story is having savings “in this fiscally insecure world.”
“To this day it stuns me to read about some middle-aged guy laid off from his job of 20 years and almost instantly broke. How does anyone let that happen? It is the result of failing to master money,” he writes.
Credit cards draw us in and then live in our pockets, he says. Early on, faced with a chance to put a $300 purchase on a credit card, he found that after paying the minimum he would owe 18 per cent on the balance of $290 that “they were hoping I’d let ride. What? Did these people think I was stupid,” he asks. But credit is not personal. “They think the same of all of us. And unfortunately, all too frequently they’re not wrong.”
Collins is a big proponent of stock investing, and notes that $12,000 invested in the U.S. S&P 500 in 1975 would be worth $1.07 million thirty years later. However, he says, most people lose money in the market because “we think we can time the market,” or “we believe we can pick individual stocks” or “winning mutual fund managers.”
Collins likes exchange-traded-funds (ETFs), specifically citing the Vanguard series. He also is quite aggressive in his personal portfolio mix – 75 per cent stocks, 20 per cent bonds, and five per cent cash, with stock and bond holdings all done via index ETFs. ETFs, he writes, have far lower fees than mutual funds, and there’s an argument for buying the entire index rather than trying to pick those stocks on it that are winners. He notes that Warren Buffett had similar advice for his shareholders – “put 10 per cent of cash in short-term government bonds and 90 per cent in a very low-cost S&P 500 index fund.”
Collins is also a “four per cent rule” skeptic, saying it is safer to draw three per cent per year from your retirement savings in order to live well without running out of money. “Stray much further out than seven per cent and your future will include dining on dog food,” he warns.
The key message throughout this easy-to-digest book is to stick to the plan and live within your means. Nothing, he concludes, “is worth paying interest to own.”
Be sure to earmark retirement savings in your plan. As the book suggests, the longer your savings have to grow, the more they will. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan has averaged growth of more than eight per cent annually since its inception in the 1980s, and the fee charged is currently about one per cent. Get your savings growing for you and consider checking out SPP today.
Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.