The idea of an orchard is useful in illustrating some of the basic concepts we use in investing and planning. (The metaphor is even among our greatest hits on the blog!) Orchards are long-term endeavors. The payoff from planting trees now arrives years in the future—not unlike retirement contributions.
During our working years, we tend to focus on our account balances—the value of our orchard, so to speak. But in retirement, the key factor is probably the size of the fruit crop, not the value of the orchard. We pay our bills in retirement with monthly cash flow from our accounts, not the statement value.
After all those years of watching the value of the orchard, this is a big shift in thinking. In our working years, the fruit of the orchard goes to plant more trees. When we retire, it is okay to live on the fruit crop.
Further, if we are living on the fruit crop, it doesn’t matter what the neighbor would pay for the orchard, or if the latest offer is higher or lower than the one before. The orchard is not for sale. This is the same way an investment portfolio works. Regular cash flow can come out, even as statement values go up and down.
We were reminded of this story recently, in working with retired clients who are considering a change in lifestyle. Their idea will take a lump sum of capital, plus an increase to their monthly expenses. They wondered whether their financial security would be impaired by the outlays.
The answer for them: the size of the remaining orchard should easily provide a fruit crop large enough to meet expenses. And in retirement, there is no compelling reason to plant more trees every year, to continually reinvest the fruit crop. It is okay to live on the fruit crop—and leave the orchard for the kids.
Clients, if you would like to talk about your orchard, please email us or call.
Want content like this in your inbox each week? Leave your email here.
Play the audio version of this post below: