How Can You Make Your Retirement Money Last?

These spending and investing precepts may encourage its longevity.

Provided by Roy Smith @ Atlas Benefits

All retirees want their money to last a lifetime. There is no guarantee it will, but, in pursuit of that goal, households may want to adopt a couple of spending and investing precepts. One precept: observing the 4% rule. This classic retirement planning principle works as follows: a retiree household withdraws 4% of its amassed retirement savings in year one of retirement, and withdraws 4% plus a little more every year thereafter – that is, the annual withdrawals are gradually adjusted upward from the base 4% amount in response to inflation. The 4% rule was first formulated back in the 1990s by an influential financial planner named William Bengen. He was trying to figure out the “safest” withdrawal rate for a retiree; one that could theoretically allow his or her savings to hold up for 30 years given certain conditions (more about those conditions in a moment). Bengen ran various 30-year scenarios using different withdrawal rates in relation to historical market returns, and concluded that a 4% withdrawal rate (adjusted incrementally for inflation) made the most sense.1 For the 4% rule to “work,” two fundamental conditions must be met. One, the retiree has to invest in a way that will allow his or her retirement savings to grow along with inflation. Two, there must not be a sideways or bear market occurring.1 As sideways and bear markets have not been the historical norm, following the 4% rule could be wise indeed in a favorable market climate. Michael Kitces, another influential financial planner, has noted that, historically, a retiree strictly observing the 4% rule would have doubled his or her starting principal at the end of 30 years more than two-thirds of the time.1 In today’s low-yield environment, the 4% rule has its critics. They argue that a 3% withdrawal rate gives a retiree a better prospect for sustaining invested assets over 30 years. In addition, retiree households are not always able to strictly follow a 3% or 4% withdrawal rate. Dividends and Required Minimum Distributions may effectively increase the yearly withdrawal. Retirees should review their income sources and income prospects with the help of a financial professional to determine what withdrawal percentage is appropriate given their particular income needs and their need for long-term financial stability. Another precept: adopting a “bucketing” approach. In this strategy, a retiree household assigns one-third of its savings to equities, one-third of its savings to fixed-income investments, and another third of its savings to cash. Each of these “buckets” has a different function. The cash bucket is simply an emergency fund stocked with money that represents the equivalent of 2-3 years of income the household does not receive as a resu