My Story about the Luck Factor:

I started investing in 1977. I wrote my first book ("Commission-Free Investing") in 1996 about Canadian DRIPs and SPPs, to share my personal strategies and experiences with this form of low-cost investing (before the invention of ETFs). I also started writing articles regularly for a local personal financial planning magazine called Canadian MoneySaver and met many great people at their onshore and offshore conferences.

In 1999, my wife asked me a very simple question: “Do we have enough money for retirement?”. I replied, “Let me check”. Nothing happened for a few weeks. That is because I could not find much about the mathematics of retirement. Most experts then were recommending investing all in stocks. All have been touting the “miracle” of asset allocation. So, when she asked me a second time if we have enough savings for retirement, I realized that I had to come up with an answer.

I came across two sources that made sense to me: 1. Mr. William Bernstein’s “Retirement Calculator from Hell”, 2. Mr. William Bengen’s papers on sustainable withdrawal rate. Other than these two, everything else appeared to be superficial.

For about a year or so, I concentrated on understanding the math of distribution and how it differs from the math of accumulation. I tried Monte Carlo simulators and soon after, I discovered the perils of the Gaussian mindset that comes with it. Then, I developed my aftcasting technique, which reflects how retirement portfolios would have performed based on actual market history and the correlation between the behavior of stocks, conventional bonds, inflation-indexed bonds, and cash. That is when I discovered the concepts of Sequence of Returns and Inflation, Time Value of Fluctuations, The Luck Factor, and so on. I was on a roll, writing one article after another expanding on these concepts.

In 2000, I started writing my first book on retirement income planning, “High Expectations and False Dreams - One Hundred Years of Stock Market History Applied to Retirement Planning”, which I published in 2001.

My first article on the sequence of returns was published in the Canadian MoneySaver magazine in 2000, with the title “Roadmap to Where?”. It got the attention of the CFP-Board in Denver. They liked it and gave me their article award for that year:


I developed my “zone strategy”; segmenting the outcomes into “green” and “red”  zones. I rewrote this article; this time, lines in charts were in color. The “lucky” outcome was designated in green and the “unlucky” was in red. It was published in the Financial Planning (U.S.A.) magazine with the title “Right Road, Wrong Map”:



That second year at the CFP board, perhaps they had different reviewers evaluating articles. Or, perhaps it was the same people, but they forgot about reading this article the year before. It does not matter; they liked my article (again) and gave me their article award for a second time. It gave me the encouragement to continue writing.

The concepts of the sequence of returns, the luck factor, and pooling the risk (annuities) were all too new for many in this field. I thought I was the only village idiot with my funny concepts. Meanwhile, I was traveling across the country and introducing advisors to the math of retirement.

It took several years before mainstream academics started understanding these concepts. About six years after my first publications about the sequence of returns, I started seeing articles "introducing" strikingly similar concepts and strikingly similar graphs (except in the example below; the color scheme of the lucky and unlucky lines appear to be misplaced):


Finally, I stopped feeling like the only idiot as others were joining the bandwagon. In 2009, I completed and published my 525-page book "Unveiling the Retirement Myth - Advanced Retirement Planning based on Market History".

Nowadays, most financial professionals are aware of these concepts. However, far too many academics are still prisoners of their own Gaussian mindset and they still promote retirement calculators based on Monte Carlo simulators or derivatives of it. So sad, because any calculator based on Gaussian math (with or without fat tails, normal or log-normal) is great in modeling random events, but not black swan events, which are fractal. No wonder, the better-known names in the simulator manufacturing space, tweak their models after every "unforeseen" market event - one day it might indicate that you have enough money for retirement, after the tweak, not.

In the meantime, since making my aftcast spreadsheets available to others in 2004, and after years of feedback from early-adopter users, my aftcast model is now as complete as it gets. It displays all random and fractal events exactly the way they happened.

Here at my website, you can read all my articles, white papers, and CE pieces. You can also download trial version of my aftcast retirement calculators. I hope that the research that I am sharing with you here, helps you make more informed decisions for your or your clients' retirement planning.

I gave close to eight hundred talks and presentations since 1997; almost exclusively to other advisors. I should also add that, because of my paranoia about being late, I was always a couple of hours too early for almost all of them, and I never missed one. After 2013, I slowed down. In 2018, I retired from the financial business. 

Nowadays, in addition to giving CE courses to CPAs, I am learning creative writing, and doing a little painting. 

This is my story in a nutshell. I was (and still am) blessed with an abundance of good luck. Thank you for reading it. 

Final word: My friend Kerry Pechter at the Retirement Income Journal summarized my life from a different angle which I loved. It is a great place to visit for retirement knowledge from different experts in the field. I highly recommend it.

I hope you too are blessed with good luck throughout the remaining of your life.