On Quitting Early, the Decumulation Problem and Living to 100

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Annie Duke, once one of the best female poker players in the world, helped me understand why people work longer than they need to. This got me thinking about the decumulation problem more broadly and planning to live to age 100.

Like poker, the game of chess has taught me a lot about how to make decisions. Most of my early lessons were given by my father who was still able to beat me years past the point where I had become a better player. He used to tell me often that “to resign is the weakest move.” For chess players that is undoubtedly good advice. But when facing choices in other areas of our lives, particularly those that relate to money, chess is not the best model. The position on a chessboard is visible for all to see and the only unknown to ponder is what move your opponent will make in response to the one you choose and how the future might unfold as a result. It is a complete information game, even though the future has almost (but not quite) infinite scenarios that would need to be evaluated to make the optimal move.

Duke has written some great books on making decisions under uncertainty including Thinking in Bets, How to Decide and most recently Quit. In all three, she provided important insights drawn from her years at the card tables as well as her graduate work in cognitive psychology on how to make decisions when faced with an unknown future and a present where you don’t have all the information.