Investing With Time Remaining On The Clock

InvestingJo and I were watching an exciting hockey game between our favorite team (Tampa Bay Lightning) versus the Philadelphia Flyers. Tampa had a 3-0 lead with six minutes left on the clock. The referee sent a Tampa player to the penalty box. For those unfamiliar with hockey, the penalty box is an adult “time out”, the player is sent to a room.

We were surprised as the Flyers pulled their goalie, leaving their net unprotected. They had six attackers, matching up against four defenders in front of our goalie. Jo asked, “Why did they do that with so much time left?” Before I could answer, Philadelphia scored. They took a huge risk and it paid off.

Hockey Wildness reports on a study that concludes “… a goal is likely to happen 1 out of every 3 times a goalie is pulled for the extra attacker ….” They add, 70% of the time the goal is scored into the empty net – meaning the strategy backfires and you fall further behind. The risk is reasonable when you are behind late in the game, but the odds are stacked against you.

Tampa scored again and went on to win. Regardless of the outcome, there are times you are willing to take the extra risk.

Unlike baseball or football, which generally has deliberate changes from offense to defense (accompanied by a commercial break), a hockey game is constantly switching from offense to defense in a split second. Earlier in the game, Philadelphia had a one-man advantage, Tampa stole the puck and, in a matter of seconds scored a short-handed goal.

As we talked, I realized that hockey and investing strategies have much in common.

There is a game clock. A hockey game is 60 minutes long. If the score is tied, you go into sudden-death (I won’t go there) overtime. In life we have a biological game clock, however, most people don’t know when it will expire. We want to live a long healthy life and beat the longevity odds.

Sometimes we may take a big risk to stay in the game. When Jo and I were married, I was approaching 50. I was broke – but earned a good income. We bought an inexpensive home and had to pay mortgage insurance because we didn’t have an adequate down payment.

We learned of a bank that was a great takeover candidate. I said, “I’m either going to catch up with my age group, or we will probably live very frugally for the rest of our lives.” Like the hockey coach who pulled his goalie, it was very risky, but we felt we needed to get back in the game.

We bought as much of their stock as we possibly could. With each paycheck we bought a little more, and even some on margin. We anticipated holding the stock for around a year. After three years of worry and sleepless nights, it finally happened.

We were lucky, we paid off all our debts and had some investment capital left over. We vowed, “never again!” The risk and stress paid off but we knew we could never afford to take another risk like that again.

Long and short-term strategies are similar. While a hockey game has an ebb and flow as teams move up and down the ice, there is still a big picture overall strategy.

If you have a lead, you become more deliberate, content to let the clock tick while avoiding mistakes and unnecessary risk. If you are behind, you pick up the pace.

As we move along life’s timeline, those fortunate enough to accumulate investment capital certainly understand the old saying, “At this point in life I’m more concerned with return of my money, than return on my money.” You become a more cautious, defensive investor.

How do we know if we win?

Keep the goals of retirement investing in the forefront:

Whether you have a pension, 401k, IRA or a combination, most people want “guaranteed income” for the rest of their life. It breaks down into several components.

  • “Income certainty” – You know the money will be there on schedule. You don’t have to worry about the economy, stock market or other economic conditions affecting your monthly income. It’s guaranteed and safe!
  • “Enough income” – The ability to pay your bills for the rest of your (and your spouse’s) life. You never want to run out of “enough” money to cover your expenses or worry about inflation.
  • “Enjoy your current lifestyle” – The ability to not have to change your lifestyle, downsize, or worse yet – having to depend on others for financial support.

When life’s time clock expires for both spouses, if you can comfortably say all three objectives were met, you won – you did good – you stayed in the game and enjoyed life. While downsizing isn’t all bad, becoming dependent on others for financial support is terrifying.


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MarketWatch reports on recent studies:

“It’s not being bored, unable to travel or even death itself that scares older Americans most about retirement – it’s running out of money.

Some 43% said their greatest fear about retirement was outliving their savings and investments, making that the top fear – over loneliness, boredom and even declining health, … according to a survey … by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.

…. 57% of financial planners said that running out of money was the top retirement concern (based on) … a survey released … by the American Institute of CPAs ….

More than six in 10 baby boomers feared running out of money before they died more than death itself … (based on) a survey by financial firm Allianz.”

Building a solid retirement plan is a serious game that no investor wants to lose!

Developing a solid strategy

Strategies are constantly changing – most people must play the game prudently until the very end.

  • Set realistic expectations. While we may dream of a billionaire lifestyle, for most that is not realistic.

    Churchill QuoteMy daughter Dawn taught me a great lesson. She went to a personal financial management class and said her biggest take away was simple.

    If you want more “stuff” in life, work harder and earn more money.

    If you can’t, then you must learn to be comfortable; accept and enjoy what you have. The Winston Churchill quote sums it up well.

    One does not have to be ultra-wealthy to have an enjoyable life. Learn to enjoy what you have, not continually fret because others may have more.

  • It’s OK to protect a lead. While I took a huge risk as I approached 50, in retrospect, it was a lucky gamble that paid off. Once the bank was taken over, I was well aware of my age and how I must change strategy. We became debt free and had some capital we couldn’t afford to lose.

    In hockey, you may want to slow down, be more deliberate, avoid undue risks, however, you still must play offense and look to pad your lead.

  • Avoid risky investments. Investors are continually bombarded with stock tips touting huge potential returns. Gold mining stocks and startup tech companies are common examples. Look at the downside. If there is a potential for you to lose most, or all your money if the venture fails, is it worth it?

    All are nothing bets are for the casino. As life’s game clock moves along, keep them to a minimum. A hockey team with a lead defends and protects their goal.

  • Diversify prudently. Recently a friend confided he was now responsible for overseeing his aging mother’s investments. He was impressed that her young stockbroker had done very well. Over 50% of her money was in one stock – Apple!

    She has enough money to last for the rest of her life. While she still owns some Apple stock, he diversified her holdings for safety.Like a hockey team with a lead, his focus was to protect her nest egg.

  • Use stop losses or stop loss alerts. One of the most common arguments discussions I have with young people involves stop losses. The purpose is to limit your risk and avoid a catastrophic loss.

    They argue, “The market always comes back”, and can show statistics to prove it. Their fear is you will miss out on the upside.

    I counter with, “Can you guarantee it will come back in my lifetime?” As the discussion escalates, I hear, “You don’t understand!” To which I say, “NO, you don’t understand!”

    I chided my dad about his risk avoidance. He too said, “You don’t understand!”. As I got older I finally understood his voice of experience.

    Strategy changes over time. It may be better to control the puck while the clock ticks down as opposed to trying for another score. It’s unrealistic to expect younger people to fully understand our fears.

  • Be aware of constant threats. Inflation is the elephant in the room. High inflation can destroy the buying power of a retirement portfolio in the blink of an eye.

    My friend took some of the proceeds from his mom’s Apple stock and invested in gold and silver. While she may not have much time left on her clock, owning some metals helps insure her buying power is protected.

If you are reading this, you are still in the game – good judgment, prudence and some good old-fashioned common sense can positively affect the outcome. Never give up and enjoy the ride!


I’m committed to keeping our weekly letters FREE. When I recently updated readers on the financial state of our expensive hobby, I was surprised and overwhelmed with comments like the following:

“Your blog/column is golden – you ask so little in return for extraordinarily helpful information.

I buy everything on Amazon through your link, but that’s only 1 – 2 items/month. Candidly, Dennis, you might want to establish a link where readers can contribute. You might be surprised – just add it to the end of your column.

Your work is valued and appreciated, sir.” … Mike T.

“Mr. Miller, I have read your letters and articles for years and was even a subscriber to your investment newsletter when you were with Doug Casey.

I would like to contribute to your “On the Money”, without going through Amazon or buying another investment newsletter, because I think you provide valuable insight into various topics affecting retirees.

Do you have a mechanism that I can just donate to help you to keep “On the Money” available for free, especially to those that need the advice but cannot afford to pay for it?” (emphasis mine) … Respectfully, Doug H.

“I look forward to your emails – and would gladly pay for them. Thank you so much. I always forward them to friends and family.” … Judy B.

I asked my wife’s opinion. She said, “Make sure readers know it’s strictly voluntary, no pressure – no hassle!”

As of today, we will gladly accept and appreciate donations. You can click the DONATE button below for more information. No pressure – no hassle!

As Mike T. suggested, we’ll include a small ad each week and add a donation box on our website.

Thank you all for your kind comments and encouragement. How lucky I feel, at my age, to still be able to make a difference!

On The Lighter Side

Hot Air BaloonOur sky is filled with beautiful hot air balloons in the springtime here in the Arizona valley. We look to the west in the early evening and have seen more than a dozen at a time with their majestic colors and designs.

Friends Bob and Sarah O. took us out in the desert to a cool burger place called Wild Horse West. Jo took this shot from the car in the early evening as we were leaving the parking lot.

I really enjoy the solitude and beauty of hot air balloons. As a former pilot, it’s interesting to see vans pulling small trailers through the desert chasing them. The pilots always seem to avoid the cactus and find a clearing to land.

And finally…

As the clock ticks on, friend Courtenay W. shares this. Poof, go the words of our youth, the words we’ve left behind. Where have all those phrases gone?

  • Pshaw!
  • It’s your nickel
  • Don’t forget to pull the chain
  • Knee high to a grasshopper
  • Well, Fiddlesticks!
  • Don’t take any wooden nickels
  • Heavens to Murgatroyd!
  • There are more of these lost words and expressions than Carter Has liver pills.

I’ll close this week with one of my all-time favorites:

See ya later alligator!



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