The Golden Albatross vs. The Insurance Industry (Part 2): Annuity Valuation Case Study

Insurance Annuity Valuation Question

Annuity Valuation
What me worry?

A reader, whom I’ll call Lady J, recently asked me if I could value her future insurance annuity scenarios vs. her current cash-out value. She wanted an annuity valuation done in the same manner as the Pension Lump Sum Case Study I wrote for the Pension Series. The question intrigued me. My initial reaction was, yes, I could. Since a Defined Benefit Pension (DBP) is just another phrase for an annuity; I didn’t think it would prove too hard if she could provide the appropriate details. I told Lady J as much, and she promptly supplied me with details I needed.

Surprisingly, the annuity valuation proved both easier and harder than I initially thought. Easier in the sense that based on the numbers provided by Lady J, my Master Pension Value Calculator spit out an answer to her question in no time. Harder in the sense that once I reviewed the terms of her annuity policy, and the facts surrounding her initial investment, it forced me to ponder numerous “what if’s”. Thus, consider this article in two parts. First, I walk through the facts surrounding Lady J’s situation and the process of annuity valuation. Second, I address a few different issues, both good and bad, I noticed with this annuity. Continue reading The Golden Albatross vs. The Insurance Industry (Part 2): Annuity Valuation Case Study

The Golden Albatross vs. The Insurance Industry (Part 1): Fees

What’s Your Opinion on Insurance Products?

Let me level with you up front: I don’t have a lot of experience with insurance products — especially the type that mirror investments. Prior to my experience related in the below story; the only other time I dealt with insurance investments was successfully extracting Mrs. Grumpus from one of the two products she invested in as a young worker in her home country. Up to now, I really hadn’t given them a lot of thought. As a result, I never held strong opinions about them in either direction. Maybe the most I ever felt was lucky for not getting involved with them — which I suppose is better than the regret I routinely express from other investment choices!

Of course, I’m not completely unaware of the arguments for and against such products. I hear them routinely denounced on several podcasts I listen to. Jill Schlesinger from “Jill on Money” is probably the most vocal, but certainly not the only one. The costs associated with such insurance “investment” products are often what draws the most negativity. Insurance sales people who push insurance products as a panacea to all money problems, is another issue that stirs emotion the wrong way.

Continue reading The Golden Albatross vs. The Insurance Industry (Part 1): Fees

The Pension Series (Part 13): The Master Pension Value Calculator

“Do You Expect Me to Talk?”

This post is something of a mash-up. Everyone loves a good mash-up, or at least that’s what Mrs. Grumpus tells me before she tragically dances and sings around the kitchen. She’s a great singer, but an awful dancer. As a result, her mash-ups are unique. Personally, I hear the word “mash” and think about my favorite part of the brewing process. Some may think of whiskey, but that’s distilling.

In any case, for this article, I combined the pension case study of a reader and the hard work of a ChooseFI listener. We’ll call the reader “Ms. Money Penny” and the ChooseFI listener “Q”.  Money Penny is the secretary in the older Bond films, always flirting with that “big man-slut” (a Mrs. Grumpus term) Bond, and wishing she could go on adventures with him. I always got the feeling that Money Penny was bored and that she lived vicariously through the stories Bond would tell her. Boring is exactly how my reader Ms. Money Penny described her finances to me in her email. In this case, boring is a good thing … make that a great thing. Sticking with the analogy, if I were Bond, I might want to live my financial life vicariously through her. Ms. Money Penny, as you’ll find out, is in a really good place.


In all the Bond films, old and new, “Q” is the guy with gadgets. Not just any gadgets, but THE gadget that always gets Bond out of whatever pinch he’s in. Q’s made it all, from a mini-helicopter with missiles to an exploding pen, and a mini-SCUBA canister Bond could carry in the pocket of his tuxedo. It’s convenient that Q always knows what to invent in advance of Bond’s dilemma. If we only had his prescience! Continue reading The Pension Series (Part 13): The Master Pension Value Calculator

The Pension Series (Part 12): More Pension Lump Sum Analysis

Nerd Alert!

This article is a follow-up on the lump sum case study I conducted for the ChooseFi listener, Tess, in Part 11 of the Pension Series. If you missed it, that case study also aired as Episode 58R on the ChooseFI Podcast. I mentally debated if I should make this Part 11a considering the links between the two articles.  However, given this article’s length, and the alternate pension lump sum analysis method it outlines, I decided it warrants its own part in the series.

I’ll warn you now, this article is another deep dive into the world of pension lump sum offers. It won’t be the last either. Pension lump sum analysis is a rabbit hole. As I pointed out in my previous article, there’s no one correct method. A lot depends on what the pensioner values and the questions they are trying to answer. Analysis is also condition dependent based on the strings attached to either the lump sum or the annuities.

pension lump sum analysis
Hello? Can anyone up there hear me? I got stuck down here analyzing my pension lump sum!

Fortunately, as a result of my appearance on ChooseFI 58R, several people reached out to discuss methods of calculating pension value and conducting lump sum analysis. We are currently in the process of compiling a spreadsheet with many of those methods compiled. It’s not quite ready though; so, for now, you have to put up with another wordy pension lump sum analysis from yours truly. Forewarned is forearmed. Continue reading The Pension Series (Part 12): More Pension Lump Sum Analysis

Mental Health: Sad Work And Stuff

I Am Grumpus Max-bob-bomb …

…and I am here to make you think about work and get sad and stuff.

Part of the side effects from my PTS means the wrong damn song, movie, book, or thought can be problematic from time to time. This happened recently. While I was typing an article about pensions and streaming some music, a sad song played over my headphones. That’s not always an issue, except I’d never heard this song before, so I didn’t know to skip it. The song’s subject related to one of the causes of my PTS. As a result, I scrambled for the volume control before tears erupted uncontrollably. Alas, I was too slow. As a result, I spent the next few hours trying to control the flood of emotions that washed over me.

Unlike my previous articles on my mental health and job struggles, this article isn’t about anger. It’s about sadness. In true Grumpus Maximus form though, the article is still relevant to the topics of personal finance, careers, and the Golden Albatross. Yet, much like my Worth vs. “Worth It” article, this story is raw and personal. Even more so than my previous article in fact. If that isn’t your thing, I completely understand and don’t hold it against you. Click away now.

For those who choose to stay, consider yourself warned… Continue reading Mental Health: Sad Work And Stuff

The Pension Series (Part 11) : Pension Lump Sum Case Study

Pension Lump Sum Case Study

Hello! If you are a ChooseFI listener who made their way here to read my response to a ChooseFI listener’s pension question in Episode 58R, you’re in the right place! You can probably skip the Context section and go straight to the case study if you want. Also, if you’re one of the many listeners and readers who reached out to me as a result of my interview in Episode 57, thank you. I’d like to thank Jonathan and Brad as well for providing me the opportunity to spread the Golden Albatross message!

Pension Lump Sum Case Study
ChooseFI … it does what the label says.

On the other hand, if you have no idea what I am talking about, read the context portion. I wrote it just for you…

Continue reading The Pension Series (Part 11) : Pension Lump Sum Case Study

The Pension Series (Part 5): Survivorship (Updated)

Substantive Correction

This is an updated version to my article originally posted 04 October 2017. This version includes a substantive correction. The previous version of the article failed to accurately describe all the calculations required when comparing a pension with an inflation-linked Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) to life insurance. I noticed my omission today and reworked the affected paragraphs. I also took the opportunity to clean up some grammar. You will see substantive changes noted in red text. I believe the changes make the comparisons between life insurance and survivorship more competitive.

The incomplete calculations I described in the previous version of my article appeared weighted towards survivorship. That was not my intent. Since the intent of the article changed, and I believe in full disclosure with my readers; I felt this mistake warranted a revision with new publish date.

This is a first for me in the blogging sphere, although in the military we routinely  strive for this level of transparency when an official report, memorandum, or instruction contains a major mistake. The primary purpose for issuing a correction is to prevent anyone from acting on erroneous information. It’s also important that the historical record reflect accurate information. I’ve decided to hold myself to the same standard on this blog.

As a result, I advise anyone who read and used the methods described in the previous version of this article to read this update and adjust your calculations accordingly. While I apologize for the inconvenience, and always strive for 100% accuracy in my articles; I would remind everyone I’m not a professional. Nor am I considering your case specifically. No matter how comfortable you are with your retirement numbers and plan; it’s always best to run your plan by a professional like a fee-only Certified Financial Planner who adheres to the fiduciary standard.  Again my apologies.

KJH, we honor the fallen in the Grumpus Maximus family.

Death Sucks

In late Summer 2003, a member of my unit and one of its seasoned mentors was killed in the early days of the Insurgency in Iraq. We were both part of a tight-knit group of young officers that worked and played hard. While I would not have called him a close friend, many in our group did, and I often sought advice and guidance from him. His death was a blow to everyone in our group and the unit as a whole. Nothing was the same after it. Most of us were not prepared mentally and we all took it personally. Each of us dealt with his death in our own way, and I am sad to say it splintered the group in ways I never could’ve foreseen. Continue reading The Pension Series (Part 5): Survivorship (Updated)

The Gap Number Method in … ACTION! (Part 1)

Click Bait

Like what I did there with the title? I created what’s called click bait. Most of the time my titles are boring, other times they are obscure. This time though I created an “action” title to capture readers’ interest in the Gap Number Method, because it gained some recent publicity. That’s about as creative as I get, adding the word “action” in all caps to a title.

Gap Number Method
How’s that for action? Mrs. Grumpus hiking in Kauai

Yes, I know. You’re wondering how, with only two readers who aren’t related to me, did I gain any publicity? Well, it turns out I have a face built for radio — or podcasting as the case may be.  Not so sure about the voice though.

In any case, on a recent (and so far my only) podcast interview on ChooseFI, the hosts asked me to explain my concept of the Gap Number. For those of you who need a refresher on the Gap Number, you can find the post where I coined the term here. In general, the Gap Number is the difference between your fixed income in retirement and your expenses. Expressed mathematically it looks like: Continue reading The Gap Number Method in … ACTION! (Part 1)

Track Your Money (Part 4): Mint All Breakdown

Hidy Ho (Math) Campers!

As a result of the problems identified in my previous article with’s annual “Net Savings Over Time” report, I decided to nerd out on money tracking again. Apologies to those of you who don’t enjoy these articles as much as some of my others. However, much like Darrow Kirkpatrick did with retirement calculators, I believe it’s important to understand the pluses and minuses associated with popular money tracking software. This is especially crucial considering the importance I place on tracking money, to begin with.

I spent several days prior to writing this article improving the fidelity of my data in my account. I also rebuilt my entire 2017 financial year in Quicken. Doing so allowed me to total my net savings for the year in Quicken and verify if I made any mistakes with my Mint calculations.

The now infamous Net Income Over Time report display

To refresh everyone’s memory, when I initially ran Grumpus Familias’s net savings for 2017 through Mint as part of my annual end of year fiscal review, it reported we saved $70.5K. However, I didn’t trust that number due to my inability to verify whether or not Mint accounted for our annual Roth IRA transfer. The program, as far I could tell, didn’t allow for that determination. After spending a few days double checking entries, modifying several transaction labels, and re-displaying reports; Mint now shows an annual net savings of $69.5K. Obviously, I had approximately $1K of transactions mislabeled in my previous report. However, I still cannot verify exactly how Mint determines expenses and income for this report. As a result, I don’t trust this number any more than the previous one. Continue reading Track Your Money (Part 4): Mint All Breakdown

Track Your Money (Part 3): Passive Tracking

A Passive Tracking Experiment

Passive Tracking
I’m ready to blow up this lab whenever you are!

In case you can’t tell from my title, this article is a follow-on to my previous two “Tracking Your Money” posts. In the first article, I reviewed my historical use of various software applications to track my money over the past 20 years or so. In the second, my brother (Grumpus Brotherus the Younger) reviewed the software application called You Need A Budget (YNAB).

If you did not read the first post in this series, you probably should. I don’t just say that because my brother’s post sucked (it did), and I think mine is much better (it was), or I want the extra site traffic (I do). No, I say that because I actually made a few worthwhile points in the post … if I do say so myself. However, if you’re unwilling or unable to go to the post, let me provide you a re-cap. Continue reading Track Your Money (Part 3): Passive Tracking