Given the turbulent start to the year for the S&P500, it’s no wonder retirees and early retirees are nervous at the prospect of entering an ongoing bear market. Combine poor stock performance with a low-yielding bond environment and the possibility that Social Security reserves could be depleted, and there is legitimate concern. However, as we’ll explore below, there are several ways to make retirement payouts even more sustainable — and ensure you’re covered for a variety of future circumstances.
Review of the 4% rule
The 4% rule in relation to your personal savings is intended to serve as a general rule of thumb. Based on your total retirement savings, you can withdraw 4% annually (adjusted for inflation) and have minimal chance of running out of money over 30 years of retirement.
The 4% rule has also come under criticism lately, as the concept was developed when bonds were yielding far more than they are today, and at a time when the 60% stock/40% Bond portfolio was viewed as the norm for aspiring retirees.
This has led financial planners to wonder if the 4% rule would hold up in today’s stock market environment of low interest rates, high inflation and low expected returns.
Options for current or prospective retirees
Someone looking to retire in the years to come might try one of the following strategies to extend their savings:
- Consider a variable spending strategy: Instead of taking 4% of your savings in years when the market goes into a downturn — or worse, a recession — investors might consider simply adjusting their withdrawal rates from 4% to 3% when possible. If the market recovers, consider increasing spending to 5% or even more. Such a strategy can discourage a retiree from selling stocks in the midst of a decline, thereby preserving the portfolio’s ability to grow in the future.
- Skip the inflation adjustment: While this might seem unthinkable in a year where we’ve seen decades of inflation, it’s another tool in the box to help preserve your retirement savings. If you were saving $1 million for retirement and were to withdraw 4% or $40,000 in the first year, keeping your annual withdrawal constant — rather than increasing it by over 8% — can help preserve capital over the long term. adjust upwards. Of course, this may not be possible if you only rely on personal savings to cover retirement expenses.
- Focus on guaranteed income: Retirement plans, such as pension plans, Social Security, and certain types of pensions can act as incredibly effective antidotes during times of stock market turmoil. In a perfect world, a guaranteed income can help you cover known expenses like food, shelter, and health care, while you can rely on personal savings for additional expenses. One of the least hanging fruits is to delay filing for Social Security benefits for as long as possible because you’ll get inflation adjustments plus an 8% increase for every year you delay.
Make the most of your portfolio
The current stock market landscape can turn any investor’s stomach. Nonetheless, both retirees and early retirees need to develop strategies to ensure their retirement savings last longer than expected. Embracing a flexible spending strategy, limiting inflation adjustments, and relying more on guaranteed income can make a big difference when addressing portfolio depletion concerns. It is also possible to take up additional part-time work after retirement, but this may be subject to some limiting factors, including health and family circumstances.
Developed over decades, the 4% rule has been responsible for numerous negative financial system shocks. It’s still doable as a rule of thumb, and should still be considered a good place to start when trying to determine how much you can get out of your investments each year. At the same time, building a sustainable financial fortress around your investment portfolio is likely to prove as important as ever over the coming decade. Be prepared for any scenario and retire with confidence.