“What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You”

Reader QuestionMy husband and I both had living wills witnessed and signed by friends in 1994. Are these still acceptable (our friends have moved from the address shown on the forms) or should we re-do them with new witnesses?  C.H.

Answer:  These documents may be fine but I’d strongly recommend that you update them now (and again about every three to five years).  The good news is this is both relatively easy and free.  Go to www.WelchGroup.com; click on the ‘Resource Center’ at the Home Page; then click ‘LINKS’ and finally ‘Living Will- State by State’.  You can print out a copy of the Advanced Healthcare Directives form for your state.  Find two witnesses to sign and you’re back in business!  One important point for everyone.  You need to have signed Advanced Healthcare Directives handy to give copies to family members, particularly the person who you designate as your agent for healthcare decisions.  Due to strict privacy laws, hospitals and physicians very likely will be unwilling to give out information even to close family members without one.

Reader Question:  I read your column in the Birmingham News on Sundays and find your advice very helpful.

I have a question about allocation.  I am retired, so I am more interested in the amount of income my portfolio generates than any increase in capital.  I have set a retirement goal of 70% bonds and 30% equities.  My bonds are U.S. Government securities (Thrift Savings Plan “G” Fund) and Municipal Bonds.  My equities are comprised of mutual funds, individual blue-chip stocks (BCS), and power-company Class-A shares (CAS).

My question is regarding the dividend-producing individual blue-chip stocks and the power company Class-A shares.  These comprise a sizeable portion of my portfolio (about 25%) and if I think about them as equities, my portfolio is about 55% bonds and 45% equities, which seems high for someone who is retired.  Does it make since to think about these as a third “slice of the pie” that is somewhat like bonds (generates income), but is safer than a mutual fund?  My allocation would then be 55% bonds, 20% equities, and 25% BCS/CAS.

I can sleep better at night when I think of my allocation this way.  I have picked 10 blue-chip companies that are leaders in their fields and have never reduced their dividends.  The power-company shares have remained stable in price.  I am not concerned with capitalization of these holdings since I don’t have any plans to sell them and am only interested in their dividends.

Thank you for any advice you can offer.  F.R.

Answer:  Based on limited information, I like the way you have set this up.  I would think of it as 3 investment buckets:

  1. Fixed income: Bonds, money markets (and perhaps CDs). My caution would be that with the Trump economic plan, we may see both rising interest rates and inflation.  This spells potential headwinds for bonds so you should review your bond portfolio and consider shorter maturities and focus on higher quality.
  2. Equities- Part 1: Mutual funds comprise the more aggressive part of your equity strategy. I don’t know your choices but lower cost index-oriented stock funds are worth considering.
  3. Equities- Part 2: Blue Chip Dividend-Paying individual stocks + CAS’s which might be considered at the more conservative end of the equity spectrum. I’m assuming a well-diversified group of securities.

As a foot note, our approach for our retiree clients is typically something like a 60% allocation to a broad spectrum of US Blue Chip Dividend-Paying stocks and 40% to higher quality shorter-term bonds or bond funds (often Vanguard).  Our clients are typically taking money from their portfolio for cash flow at a rate of 4% per year (or less).  The source of cash flow is interest, dividends and periodic distributions of profits (when available).  We use the bond side as a ‘buffer’ against a temporary decline in the stock market.  At a 4% withdrawal rate, a 40% allocation to bonds would provide approximately ten years of cash flow before ‘having to sell stocks’ to raise money for cash flow.  This is a more ‘process-driven’ approach to managing client cash flow during retirement and has served our clients well over the volatile markets during this past decade.