Using the Big Picture app


  1. This may occur for three reasons. One, as an input, the value entered may have been one of a range of values that, historically, satisfied the parameters provided. As an output, the app is now showing the lowest or, as the case may be, greatest value within this range, per investor interests.


    For example: In solving for Initial Investment, the app finds the minimum investment amount that, historically, was required in order to meet or exceed the stated goal (provided all inputs).


    Two, for display purposes, the value shown in the variable that is being solved for is rounded to the nearest whole number. When this variable is taken from output to input, the app ignores any fractional values that the output value may have carried, and instead takes the whole number as the input. This shift can produce a change in the value shown in the newly selected variable.


    For example: In solving for Confidence Level, the app will display an output of 75%, when the true value is 75.4%. When a different variable is selected to solve for, the app will then take 75% as the Confidence Level input. Any change in the value shown in the newly selected variable may then owe to this 0.4% difference.


    There is a third scenario that may present itself when solving for Minimum Legacy Capital ("In retirement" modality) and Minimum Savings Amassed ("Saving for retirement").


    The Big Picture app calculates the portfolio values at the end of each historical rolling period (of the selected duration), provided the initial investment, spending / contribution amount, MER, and other inputs. It then ranks these values from greatest to least, and identifies the value that corresponds to the chosen percentile (as provided by the input for Confidence Level).


    However, in applying the chosen percentile to the list of ranked portfolio end values, it may be the case that no value exists at exactly the given percentile. The app therefore must identify the value that is closest to this percentile. The value identified may vary slightly from whichever value was shown previously (when it was an input).


    For example: If 80% is entered as the Confidence Level, the app will multiply this percentage by the total number of ranked rolling-period end values. There may be no "clean break" in this list at exactly the 80% mark; instead, there may be one value at 79.9%, and another at 80.2%. The Big Picture app will display the former since, of the two, it is closest to the 80% provided. This value may be slightly different from that which was previously shown (as an input).


    In all cases, the value shown in the variable that is being solved for is always the historically true value (given the inputs provided).


  2. A rolling period is a fixed period of time that shifts from one start and end date to the next start and end date for which values are available. The start date for each rolling period always precedes the end date of the previous one. In this way, rolling periods are partially overlapping.

    • Example 1. With data of monthly frequency, there are 13 one-year rolling periods over any two years. The first is from January 1 to December 31 of the first year. The second is from February 1 of the first year to January 31 of the next. And so on.
    • Example 2. There are over 845 twenty-year rolling periods between 19261935 and the present. The first is from January 1, 19261935 to December 31, 1945. The second is from February 1, 19261935 to January 31, 1946. And so on.

  3. If you wish to go offline and continue using the app, you must NOT exit the application. If you logout, refresh your browser, close your browser, or clear your browser's cache, you will exit the application and will not be able to access it while offline. The Big Picture app will only function offline while your subscription is valid. You need an internet connection the first time you access the Big Picture app, and to receive periodic software updates and monthly data updates.


  4. You can view key terms and definitions from within the app by hovering over (or tapping) the "i" icons next to each variable and chart title.


  5. The historical investment data in the Big Picture app start in 19261935. The data are monthly in frequency*. There are, thus, hundreds of historical investment periods, of varying durations, available for us to review.


    At the end of each historical investment period of "x" duration we have the value to which your chosen portfolio would have grown or shrunk. Imagine that this array of values is then ranked from greatest to least. You can think of Confidence Level as a cutoff point within this ranking.


    If you input a Confidence Level of ninety percent, for example, the app will show you the following information in regards to each of the variables you can solve for:

    • Legacy Capital: The app will display the value that corresponds to the ninetieth percentile of all historical Legacy Capital values (i.e. end values). In other words, it will display the lowest historical end value that was above 90 percent of all historical end values or, stated differently, it will display the highest historical end value that was below ten percent of all historical end values. (If you input a Shortfall Risk of 50 percent, the app display the historical median Legacy Capital value).*

      A 100 percent Confidence Level means that a retiree would have been able to sustain the chosen withdrawal rate (i.e. not run out of money) through even the worst conditions in modern market history. A 100 percent Confidence Level may not be a realistic or desirable target for most—it's up to the advisor and the client to settle on what the future might hold.
    • Initial Investment. The app will display the minimum Initial Investment that was required in order to meet or exceed the specified amount of Legacy Capital in ninety percent of historical investment periods (of the specified duration). i.e. fall short ten percent of the time.*
    • Withdrawal Rate / Monthly Spending. The app will display the maximum Withdrawal Rate / Monthly Spending that could be sustained without falling short of the specified amount of Legacy Capital in ninety percent of historical investment periods (of the specified duration). i.e. fall short ten percent of the time.*
    • Years in Retirement. The app will display the maximum number of Years in Retirement that could have transpired before falling short of the specified amount of Legacy Capital on ninety percent of historical occasions. i.e. fall short ten percent of the time.*

    If you select Confidence Level as the variable to solve for, the app will display the proportion of historical investment periods over which your portfolio would have met or exceeded the specified amount of Legacy Capital. Think of it as the inverse of shortfall risk. *


    *Given all other inputs.

  6. The historical investment data in the app start in 19261935. The data are monthly in frequency*. There are, thus, hundreds of historical investment periods, of varying durations, available for us to review.*


    At the end of each historical investment period of "x" duration we have the value to which your chosen portfolio would have grown or shrunk. Imagine that this array of values is then ranked from greatest to least. You can think of Confidence Level as a sort of cutoff point within this ranking.


    If you input a Confidence Level of ninety percent, for example, the app will display the following information in regards to each of the variables you can solve for:

    • Savings Goal: The app will display the value that corresponds to the ninetieth percentile of all historical portfolio end values. In other words, it will display the lowest historical end value that was above 90 percent of all historical end values or, stated differently, it will display the highest historical end value that was below ten percent of all historical end values. (If you input a Shortfall Risk of 50 percent, the app will display the historical median portfolio end value).*
    • Initial Investment. The app will display the minimum Initial Investment that was necessary in order to meet or exceed the specified Savings Goal in ninety percent of historical investment periods (of the specified duration). i.e. fall short ten percent of the time.*
    • Investment Horizon. The app will display the minimum number of years that needed to transpire in order to meet or exceed the specified Savings Goal on ninety percent of historical occasions. i.e. fall short ten percent of the time.*
    • Net Monthly Income. The app will display the minimum Net Monthly Income that was necessary in order to meet or exceed the specified Savings Goal in ninety percent of historical investment periods (of the specified duration). i.e. fall short ten percent of the time.*
    • Savings Rate. The app will display the minimum Savings Rate that was necessary to sustain in order to meet or exceed the specified Savings Goal in ninety percent of historical investment periods (of the specified duration). i.e. fall short ten percent of the time.*

    If you select Confidence Level as the variable to solve for, the app will display the proportion of historical occasions on which your portfolio would have met or exceeded the specified Savings Goal. Think of it as the inverse of shortfall risk.*


    *Given all other inputs.

  7. The app uses reputable historical indices to represent the actual performance of the asset classes featured. Most brokerages and retirement plans offer investment choices in the form of ETFs, index funds, and mutual funds that are closely tied to the overall performance of the asset(s) featured.


  8. When the "Adjust for Inflation" is ON, the app performs all calculations in real (i.e. inflation-adjusted) terms. Inflation is netted out of historical investment performance, and monthly portfolio contributions and withdrawals are assumed not to grow at the rate inflation that prevailed each month of each rolling period contemplated. This is the default setting.


    When the switch is OFF, the app performs all calculations in nominal terms, and monthly portfolio contributions and withdrawals are grown at the rate of inflation that prevailed in each month of each rolling period contemplated.


  9. When the app returns a value preceded by a < or > symbol, it means the answer lies outside the range of values that is feasible for the app to calculate or display.


    The app backtests rolling investment periods ranging from one to forty years in duration. It cannot backtest periods that are shorter than one year, or longer than forty years.


  10. Tax rates have varied significantly through time, by jurisdiction, and according to the legal and financial circumstances of particular individuals. They are therefore excluded from the app's calculations. You can adjust the "MER" slider to gauge the impact of expenses on investment results.


  11. The app considers withdrawal rates as percentages of starting capital. The annual dollar equivalent is calculated, and then divided by twelve. The resulting amount is then adjusted by the actual rate of inflation that prevailed in each month of history (if the "Adjust for Inflation" switch is set to OFF), and is withdrawn monthly from the portfolio balance. Withdrawals are not adjusted based on portfolio performance.


  12. To avoid double counting, you are advised to exclude the value of a paid-off house from the app (and consider it perhaps as an emergency source of funds). The reason is that one's paid-off house is already considered by the app to the extent that it reduces one's monthly spending (or increases one's savings rate, as the case may be) through foregone mortgage costs. If a house were to be sold or mortgaged, new expenses for rent or debt payments would be incurred.


  13. Yes. The Big Picture app is a web-based app. However, please note that the user experience is currently optimized for computer displays and medium to large tablet devices. The current minimum screen width for tablets that does not necessitate horizontal scrolling is 1024 pixels.


    A smartphone-compatible version is currently under development. Sign up here for a free Big Picture Basic account to receive product updates.



  14. Yes, the app works across major browsers. However, on Mac, it performs ideally on Safari. On PCs, it works best on Google Chrome. The minimum supported version of Internet Explorer is 10.


  15. You may access the app on up to three devices. We track usage and will close sessions that are running concurrently. See our Terms of Use.


  16. You can "pin" the Big Picture application to your mobile device's home screen in a matter of seconds. The benefits of doing this are multiple. The main benefit is that it allows you to launch the app with a single tap, rather than having to open your browser and navigate to the site. Follow this link to learn how to add a shortcut to your specific device.


  17. Big Picture Premium allows you to input your company name at the top-right of the user interface by simply clicking and editing the text. The app will remember this information as long as you remain on the same device, and do not clear your browser's cache. If you log on to the app on another device, or if you clear your cache, you will need to re-enter this information.


  18. The Big Picture app cannot and does not predict future returns; it shows only past performance. It's up to you to judge history against any expectations for the future. Similarly, while the app can be tweaked in countless ways, it is intended to provide only a broad sense for the possible distribution of future investment outcomes, in what is inherently an imprecise endeavor.