mark leibman

The Impossible Journey to Normal


The novel coronavirus is two years on, so what’s the deal with “the return to normal”? Some historical context and a few reminders.

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Research Team Q&A: Challenges and Opportunities in Rough Markets

Clients, what do we do when things get so churned up in the markets? We go bargain hunting, of course! In this special message, the team talks bargains, the long view, and keeping the faith through a downturn. Reach out with questions, anytime.


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Pump Up the Prices: Putting Inflation in Perspective

graphic shows a dollar bill inflated

We’ve been hearing plenty out of the Federal Reserve Board from the business news outlets in recent weeks. Every wiggle of the Consumer Price Index has been dutifully tracked and reported, for those on inflation-watch. With recent inflation measures above the FRB’s 2% target, the finger-pointing becomes bigger news than the numbers themselves.

While we have fingers that are capable of pointing, we know they have better uses. One such use is preparing your portfolio to account for inflation. And this may actually take less energy than pointing and wagging our fingers after all!

When inflation dominates headlines, straight-line thinking starts taking over: how will we afford to buy groceries when gas is $300 a gallon? (I’m going to guess that we would find cuts elsewhere, like our cable bill, well before we starved.) And investors sometimes hop out of the market because the cost of doing business gets higher.

And those high-growth, pre-profit darlings will take a hit because a rise in interest rates—nominally to combat inflation—means these companies will pay more for the money to continue their pre-profitable journey.

When we invest in individual companies, we’re able to spot those holdings that benefit from a position of strength, whose business gives them the pricing power to ride out inflationary pressures. We’re excited about these holdings, and since we’re investing for the long haul, we’re expecting to ride along through multiple periods of rising and falling rates.

When we stretch out our time horizon, these major events look more like occasional bumps on the road to wealth.

So, in a way, we’re already investing for times of higher inflation. We make no guarantees that our way is better than any other, but we recommend caution when anyone acts like they have a crystal ball for this topic.

Let’s zoom out even more. At its core, asking about “when to get out” means that an investor will also have to ask “when to get back in”: success would require the investor to be lucky twice. We don’t prefer any scenario that slashes our odds so unnecessarily.

Clients, when you have questions or concerns, please reach out.


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Pump Up the Prices: Putting Inflation in Perspective 228Main.com Presents: The Best of Leibman Financial Services

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Bumps on the Road to Wealth: How to Invest for Times of Higher Inflation

When inflation dominates the headlines, it can feel like prices are headed up and up and up forever! But it’s never really a straight line, is it? Putting inflation in perspective.


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If I Had a Million Dollars…

photo shows a road through a wooded area with "RETIREMENT" painted in yellow on the pavement

It’s a premise we’ve heard in songs and any number of written works. “If I had a million dollars…” It’s a great prompt—sometimes serious, sometimes humorous. I’ve decided to take a crack at my own entry into the million-dollar discussion!

I had the privilege recently of meeting a young person who shared their goal of retiring at age 30. I was struck by the ambition, shared by many in the FIRE movement: its mantra is “Financial Independence, Retire Early.” So here I am thinking about a million dollars. What I have to say is all about the numbers. Money and numbers are how we fund the life in which we act out our values, plans, and dreams.

Wondering what it takes to retire early? It’s not a universal formula, but we can take the idea of accumulating a million dollars of invested capital as a decent proxy. In this scenario, one has to be able to imagine someday living on, say, a $50,000 a year. But it also requires a willingness to endure the ups and downs of ownership. They are just part of any long ride in the markets. (And keep in mind it would take a far bigger number to retire on today’s low interest rates on stable forms of money!)

Two factors really affect the path to retirement. One is how we spend and earn along the way; the other is inflation.

First, because financial independence is all about our resources exceeding our needs—income exceeding outflow—reducing your needs is one way to get there sooner. The other side of the coin is finding ways to maximize your human capital in these working years, getting paid more for your labor. So the first best investment might be in yourself to improve your earning power. Fewer expenses, more income—more money to invest for retirement.

Second, inflation will affect how the path to retirement unfolds. Inflation risk is the extent to which our money loses purchasing power over time, so we have to take that into account as we plan for our future spending in retirement.

So let’s get back to the numbers. How much money would we need to invest each year in order to have $50,000 (in today’s dollars) as annual income in the future?

Let’s assume 3% inflation and 9% investment returns—neither of which is guaranteed—and 5% annual withdrawals in retirement. Starting from zero, we could be…

  • retiring in 7 years by investing $129,782 annually ($10,815 monthly)
  • retiring in 15 years by investing $51,529 annually ($4,294 monthly)
  • retiring in 25 years by investing $23,999 annually ($2,000 monthly)
  • retiring in 35 years by investing $14,349 annually ($1,196 monthly)
  • retiring In 45 years by investing $6,982 annually ($582 monthly)

These numbers are just one way to slice it. If you could live in retirement on $25,000 of today’s dollars a year, for example, take those amounts above and cut them in half. If you would want $100,000 a year, then double the figures.

We don’t know the future, and these calculations are not the future. But it’s a place to start toward a plan.

Clients, if you want to sort out your situation—or help a younger person get started—email us or call.


Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.


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22, 44, 66: My Life in Thirds

My birthday is approaching, and I’m ruminating about the meaning of another year in the life—but you already know how much I like to take a step back, get the big picture, and imagine the long view.


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A Birthday Approaches

photo shows a carousel with a city in the background

My birthday is approaching, and I’m ruminating about the meaning of another year in the life—but you already know how much I like to take a step back, get the big picture, and imagine the long view.

22, 44, 66—or, my life in thirds.

I’m thinking about my life in thirds: 22 years of getting ready, 22 years of gaining experience, and 22 years building this lovely enterprise at 228 Main. That’s right, I’m turning 66, wondering what the next 22 years will bring.

It feels like the years ahead will be about growing the team that runs the firm, building capabilities and capacity, putting the next generation in position to do better work than ever for you—and for the coming generations, too.

While we work to refine our methods and strategies and tactics, we’ll honor the same principles we always have, and we’ll live by the same values: the better off you are, the better off we will likely be. So the center of our work will always be about striving to grow your buckets, to focus on your outcomes.

I’m down to my last 26 years now… Mark your calendars for the retirement party: May 27, 2048!

I appreciate you for being with me on this journey thus far. Thank you. I would not trade my spot with any of the other 7 billion of us, it’s been so good.

Stop in and see us, anytime.


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Joining a New Club: Some Thoughts about Social Security

Claiming Social Security benefits is often talked about in formulas, as if it’s always straightforward. Nonmathematical factors—and feelings—should be given their due weight, it turns out. More in this week’s chat.


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Social Security: Facts and Feelings

photo shows a stack of Social Security cards

We have written from time to time about the role of Social Security retirement benefits in your plans and planning. I have new perspectives on the process, based on my new status: I’m a Social Security recipient! 

I’ve got two interesting and useful lessons from my process so far. 

First, in my separate discussions with two Social Security Administration employees, a piece of misinformation emerged. A written summary of a telephone appointment contained a major error, one that would have had negative consequences if left uncorrected. 

Second, working through the actual numbers, the arithmetic favoring one start date versus another was not nearly as compelling as I expected. Claiming benefits is often talked about in formulas, as if it’s always straightforward. Nonmathematical factors—and feelings—should therefore be given due weight, it turns out. 

Because of the first lesson, I feel even more committed to join each of you as you go through the actual application process. The information is murky, humans can make errors, we can lose pivotal details in the mix… But I would love to try to help make sure the process comes out as you would like it to. 

The second lesson underlines something we’ve always believed: your situation, your feelings, your preferences and vision for your cash flow needs absolutely must be part of the equation. Nobody knows the date going on their death certificate, so there is no way to “prove” in advance the “best” time to claim Social Security. 

What will work out best for you in your real life? That’s the question. 

Social Security is a significant fraction of retirement income for most people, so taking some time to examine and explore options well ahead of time makes sense. We’re here for that. If you are within a few years of retirement, keep watching this space: we will keep discussing what options are available in more detail and how we might approach the choices. 

Clients, if you are ready to talk about your retirement plans and planning, please email us or call. 


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Play the audio version of this post below:

This text is available at https://www.228Main.com/.