About Retire Certain
Retire Certain is a website that provides inspiration, strategies, and solutions for people to have the money to live how they really want, for life, from both alternative and traditional investments, as well as alternative income streams.
While I hold an AFC© (Accredited Financial Counselor) credential to support my work as a financial coach, most of what I write about is from my own research and lifelong experience as an investor in making, sustaining, and increasing that amazing, paradoxical, satisfying, and necessary thing we call money.
The bottom line is we now have a diversified and defensive core portfolio in ETF’s with historical returns that have beaten a traditional stock and bond (60/40) index portfolio with less risk (lower, shorter drawdowns) based on backtesting, and about 12 income streams from various endeavors including real estate, software, web properties, consulting, digital programs, joint ventures, dividends, options, and a few more adventures.
What we have learned and continue to learn from these various financial activities is the inspiration for this website.
The Inspiration for Retire Certain…
Following a major career disruption, a startling late midlife realization that we weren’t on track to support our comfortable lifestyle for life from traditional stock and bond investments, and the tech bust that saw the Nasdaq falling over 72%, my husband and I began a wonderful adventure to create diversified income streams from investments and alternative assets.
(I so naively asked: “Other people are doing it; why can’t we?” Oh, the things we’ve learned since posing that question over 17 years ago!:)
Eventually, this bold endeavor completely replaced job income and it also allowed us to “work” when and where we wanted. In this process, we pursued lifelong passions and capitalized on areas of expertise from previous careers while establishing long term income streams. As a result, it turned out to be both fulfilling and financially rewarding.
At first, however, we were really confused about how to begin paying the bills with something other than someone else’s paychecks, especially since there was a lack of reliable information on anything other than saving (cutting lattes, etc.), employment, and investing in stocks and bonds (for decades before retirement, which we no longer had).
Along the way, unfortunately, we made lots of mistakes, but we also, fortunately, learned a ton and finally succeeded in creating financial independence.
My mission at Retire Certain is to create the resource I wish we had over 17 years ago.
More Than You Would Ever Want to Know About Camille Gaines
At the urging of the smartest investor I’ve ever known, my dad, I made my first stock fund investment when I was twenty-two. I had chosen a Fidelity Select Utility Fund that had dropped in significantly in price, and I was thinking it would rebound.
Since then, I’ve personally invested in thousands of companies (mostly in public stocks, but a very few private offerings that have yet to hit the jackpot!), hundreds of funds of all types (ETFs, CEFs, hedge, index, mutual), hired and worked with multiple financial advisors, sold hundreds (thousands?) of covered calls, launched and run online businesses, and bought and managed multiple real estate properties.
I don’t say this to brag…because it sounds sort of crazy (but to me, normal:). I just want to demonstrate my degree of both passion and experience over the decades around the taboo topic of investing. (I just don’t get why everyone doesn’t LOVE finding new ways to invest and make money!)
While it may sound like I’m a bit over diversified, these strategies have all been huge learning (sometimes painful!) experiences done with lots of refining and pruning over the decades. Also, our retirement strategies have been done on a relatively small scale because I’m just a regular investor/now tiny entrepreneur, maybe much like you if you’re here.
As you may have guessed, I actually enjoy analyzing and making investments, and now also growing online businesses, and then writing about those experiences. This is more than a hobby because it helps pays the bills instead of creating more bills, yet I enjoy it every bit as much as my gardening, occasional oil painting, and snow skiing hobbies.
Larry, my husband, and co-conspirator is well known for his successful options trading education programs and trading software at our website, PowerCycleTrading.com. Years ago, we married my online business experience with Larry’s in depth expertise after his three decades plus as a professional commodities and options trader. (We met in the 1980s while I was working as the “avoid as much as possible” accountant for Larry’s energy trading group.)
Maybe like you, we were taught that financial independence would come from saving enough money for our investment accounts to allow us to withdraw 4% a year during retirement, thereby spending down our lifelong savings, while hoping we wouldn’t run out of money. This unappealing plan, plus social security, would (fingers crossed) allow us to retire comfortably IF we cut back our spending and slowly depleted our savings.
This has worked well for a lot of investors, but we didn’t want to count on it. Besides, who really wants to live on less as they get older?
While we still rely on a nice diversified portfolio in stocks, bonds, and commodities for a solid foundation for long-term wealth accumulation, we discovered that financial independence came from having income streams to fund our lifestyle, leaving our investments to grow as much as possible. This meant delaying if not avoiding entirely the popular plan for 4% “retirement withdrawals”; we simply weren’t rich enough to relax into that strategy, and we didn’t want to spend our investment savings to live, anyway, because it just felt wrong and limiting.
The reality is that even one or two million dollars in stocks and bonds don’t generate much income given still low real yields nowadays. Plus, investment capital in traditional asset allocation portfolios goes through unexpected bear markets every few years, adding to the uncertainty of having funds for life.
Long gone are the days of generous bond income that retirees lived on, along with a pension, to enhance social security in decades past. Yet few traditional financial advisors have appealing solutions for this new reality.
Plus, the Fed’s monetary intervention over the past two decades has led to high inflation, low or negative real bond yields, and over inflated stocks and real estate. This led us to personally implement stronger risk management strategies to protect both our assets and our lifestyle as these threats to investors play out over the decades ahead.
But, forgive me; here I go down a financial rabbit hole when you only want to know what Retire Certain is all about so you can see if it might offer something useful for you.
Here, I write about what we have learned and continue to learn daily on this financial independence and income stream adventure. If you would like to:
- Learn about stock and bond investing with something besides a fixed asset allocation model that says the same regardless of valuations, risks, or opportunities
- Discover doable ways to build wealth besides passively investing in stocks and bonds “long term”
- Want to enjoy life now (instead of later after you have finally saved “enough”)
- Be fulfilled and financially rewarded at the same time
- Feel more confident in your knowledge and financial plan…
…Then I’ll go so far as to say that you’re going to love it here! Welcome. Check out my articles, videos, and training here, and share them with your friends on social media if you find them helpful.
My humble mission is to inspire, educate, and motivate others who may feel as though they’ll never be able to maintain their desired standard of living both now and later. You can; we’re living proof.
YouTube Channel – My related YouTube channel has over 1,100,000 views and can be seen here.
Camille Gaines’ Experience
Now you’re probably thinking: who is this odd woman? I get why she started this website, but what has she really done?
And can she help me get what I want based on what she has done?
So, here’s my story.
Lack of Mental Stimulation on the Island
Officially, I retired around 30.
But let me back up; I left my corporate accounting job to become my own boss in commercial real estate at 27. (That is a nice way to say “zero income” for a while.)
Fortunately, I had maxed out my employer’s heavenly dollar for dollar matched retirement plan and invested it in stocks in a favorable market; this was my life raft to leave corporate accounting. I had saved $10 grand, enough for me to live on for 6 months back then.
Then, as soon as I began making decent money in commercial real estate, I moved to Bermuda to start a family with longtime boyfriend Larry Gaines, whom I met while I was the accountant for his group’s oil trading operations at the firm where we both worked. (Of course, now at least one of us would go to jail for dating, but that was then and not now, fortunately.)
Suddenly I was living on the ocean in a little green house on Harbour Road with a cat named Becky. (The cat came with the little green house, as often happens in Bermuda.)
And I didn’t have to worry about income for the first time in 15 years!
I was absolutely miserable.
I still wonder how that was possible, but the truth was, for me, very early retirement was horribly boring from a mental perspective.
I discovered that I am one of many people who enjoy the stimulation “work” (AKA income generation) provides. Hence, I committed to allowing myself to have some sort of serious brain stimulation in my life as long as I wanted it. (I still do.)
So, I sought to land a job on the island, rich with insurance and banking, but challenging for ex-patriot spouses.
While I got a couple of very nice financial job opportunities and worked a bit, I wanted the freedom to work when and how I wanted, much like I had when I left my accounting job.
Having bought my first mutual fund at age 22, my own home at 25 (which I had turned into a rental), my work as an accountant, and my passion for investing, Larry and I agreed that I would become the family investor rather than work at another company doing finance.
How Did This Investing Passion Begin?
My parents were a huge influence in my life; my mom was the “cash flow queen” and Dad was the most successful investor I have ever known, seriously; he began teaching me about stock and bond investing in my 20’s (even though I was a girl:)
No silver spoon here though. My dad didn’t make much money but my parents had scrimped and saved over the years, like most depression era parents, making a nice little nest egg.
Then, Dad loaded up on municipal bonds in the early 1980s when they were selling for up to half off their face value with yields up to 25% tax free!
As a result, he took an early retirement decades before it was vogue. My parents even moved to the country club in my small hometown and began playing golf. I saw that the income was the thing that allowed my dad to retire, not the amount of money they had. This reality stuck with me.
I also saw the importance of making investing a little part time job so you could achieve financial independence.
Determined, I subscribed to Value Line and Barron’s, and often read them on the beach. (Sometimes we’d swing our boat by Hamilton on Sunday afternoons so I could run into the pharmacy to grab my reserved copy of Barron’s, which had arrived on the island from NYC that morning.)
Investing has provided more than a lifetime of information and possibilities to provide the brain stimulation I craved while investing the money we saved into funds and individual stocks and bonds, plus handling taxes, estate planning, and other “family CFO” tasks.
Below is some of what I have done over the years so you can see if my background aligns with your interests. Also, readers are often confused because I don’t manage wealth for others, yet I write about it. (Fortunately, this allows me to be unbiased.)
(If my expertise resonates with you, you can begin with my 25 Strategies the Wealthy Really Use That You Can Use, Too, and subscribe to my weekly newsletter here that helps implement these 25 strategies.)
Managed several family portfolios for several decades
Interviewed, hired, monitored, and evaluated the work of several financial advisors for myself and on behalf of other family members (I began investing portfolios again myself over 13 years ago.)
Researched, evaluated, and still implement a defensive ETF portfolio for our core investments using a strategy that has produced a higher return than an index based 60/40 stock bond portfolio, with considerably lower and shorter loss periods, based on over the past fifty years of backtested performance data
Evaluated, bought, and sold hundreds (or over a thousand now?) of stock positions for dividends or growth, and often sold covered calls on them for extra income
Analyzed and bought/sold closed end funds, hedge funds, mutual funds, index funds, and/or ETFs during a period of over 40 years
Wealth Management/Family CFO
“Family CFO” handling various financial and legal issues, including risk management, entity structuring (LLC, C Corp, S Corp, LP), estate planning, taxes, finding and hiring needed experts, and working with CPAs and attorneys as needed
Assess “after tax and fee” investment performance, risk exposure, and overall allocation of our own investment capital for its optimal use, and make investments accordingly based on valuations and current opportunities between paper assets (stocks, bonds, commodities, etc.), real estate, and/or small business
Online Business Owner
Pitched and got an offer from a VC firm for a financial publication website
Co-founded an online business that has gone on to make several million dollars in revenue
Ran a small but profitable Amazon store for several years where I sold my own branded products I designed and had manufactured
At our financial online businesses, now I hire and manage our team, help develop strategy, act as CFO, oversee technology and online property development (websites, YouTube, and social), create and publish content, and implement marketing initiatives.
Financial Professional Consulting
Consulted with financial advisors on online marketing and business expansion
Financial Coaching Services
Investment coaching for numerous clients, including some financial advisors
Presented investment education webinars for financial advisor’s female clients
Bought and now manage multiple rental properties (over 35 years)
Worked professionally for 5 years as an oil and gas accountant for $10 to $50 million dollar futures and physical product transactions where I created the accounting process for futures trading when the firm began futures trading (I got comfortable with big numbers finance and securities transactions.)
Created the first database of all commercial retail real estate properties over 250,000 square feet in Houston, Texas
Worked as a Commercial Real Estate Broker in the Retail sector
- Earned an Accredited Financial Counselor credential (current) in 2014
- BBA with Minor in Accounting
- Graduate Texas State Ramp Corp Entrepreneur Program for Women
- Hundreds of books and programs on investing and finance
- Most of all: The School of Hard Knocks
My AFC Certification and Random Images
Speaking on Personal Finance at The Texas Conference for Women
Thanks for stopping by my website