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How much retirement income should you withdraw?

The answer varies for everyone. Here are some important factors to consider.

The big question: how much is too much? In the first few years of retirement, some couples really “live it up” … and some of them risk spending down their retirement savings. Their portfolios aren’t earning enough to make back the income they’re withdrawing.

Some new retirees end up withdrawing as much as 7-10% of their retirement assets annually. A bull market tends to encourage this kind of exuberance. But what happens when the bulls don’t run? What if your portfolio only returns 1-2% this year? Can you see the potential problem?
Ultimately, the answer is highly personal. There is no “standard” retirement income withdrawal rate. Your withdrawal rate should be determined in consultation with your financial advisor, who can help you evaluate some very important matters: your risk tolerance, your age and health, and your lifestyle needs.

Many new retirees are told that a 4-5% annual withdrawal rate makes sense. If you withdraw 4-5% from your retirement nest egg annually and your investments steadily earn about 5-6% year-to-year, it is quite possible that your invested assets will last a quarter-century or longer given mild inflation.1
But that’s a rather stable scenario. Even more variables come into play.

Consumer costs. Over the past 50 years, consumer prices have increased (on average) about 4% annually.2 So you might assume that your portfolio should generate at least a 4% annual return just to help you keep up with the cost of living. But if you retire with that assumption and inflation should spike notably higher for some reason after you retire, you may need to adjust your withdrawal rate.
Now consider the price of health care. In recent years, health care costs have increased at a much greater rate than inflation. The same goes for nursing home care.

Market dips. When you are 35 or 40, your investments have time to rebound from a market downturn. When you are 70, things are different.

Let’s cite an example: let’s say you are 70 years old, and you have $250,000 in your portfolio. All of a sudden, your portfolio has two really bad years: you lose 12% in Year 1 and 7% in Year 2. So at 72, your portfolio is now worth $204,600. You want to get back to $250,000 or better. How long will that take? Well, your portfolio would have to gain almost 23% in Year 3 to get back to that $250,000 level.2 So if you suffer through a couple of bad years with ill-chosen investments or ill-advised asset allocations, your nest egg may be considerably smaller and your income withdrawal rate may have to change.

The merit of conservative withdrawals. With ongoing improvements in healthcare, today’s retirees stand a good chance of living into their eighties and nineties (and perhaps even longer). This is a good reason to exercise a little moderation when scheduling retirement income.
The wisdom of a retirement income plan. Ideally, you will retire with the help of a financial advisor who will meet with you periodically to review your investments and income needs, and adjust your withdrawal rate over the course of your retirement. If you don’t have a personal financial advisor or a personalized retirement income plan, change that situation today and make sure you prepare for retirement with both.

These are the views of Peter Montoya Inc., not Frank Smith nor Smith Asset Management, Inc.,, and should not be construed as investment advice. Neither Frank Smith nor Smith Asset Management, Inc., gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information.

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