Author Topic: When do you know you can adjust your withdrawal rate?  (Read 1966 times)

Ladychips

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When do you know you can adjust your withdrawal rate?
« on: October 28, 2019, 01:58:32 PM »
For the sake of the question, let's assume the 4% rule is the Truth (with a capital T).  The study says that your money will last (almost all of the time).  It also says that some of the time, you'll will end up with gobs more money than you started with.  Furthermore, it is the SORR that determines this...but it's possible the SORR can affect your bottom line for 15 years!

At what point can you decide that you can spend more?  Is it a dollar amount, a timing amount, an investment return rate, other?

I don't really want to die with a lot of money.  I'd rather do cool stuff with it.  But I really, really don't want to run out of money.

Thoughts?


secondcor521

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Re: When do you know you can adjust your withdrawal rate?
« Reply #1 on: October 28, 2019, 04:34:16 PM »
My plan in theory was as follows:

1.  Assume the ~4% rule was Truth, but pick whatever slightly lower rate would result in 100% historical success.

2.  Every year, either follow the 4% rule on your previous withdrawal rate by increasing your withdrawal for inflation, or retire again and take 4% of your new balance.  In the latter case, you could conceivably also reduce the duration of your plan by 1 year.

This approach is sometimes referred to as the retire again and again model or, if you dig back to ancient history, the payout period reset model.

If you pick a rate that is not 100% historically safe and follow this model, then I do think it increases your risk over the standard model, because you're effectively playing Russian roulette with a firearm with 20 cylinders and 1 bullet (5% chance of failure every tie) and you're playing it repeatedly.

If you pick a 100% historically safe rate and believe that past is perfect prologue (i.e., Truth) or at least the future will be no worse than the past, then you can follow the model and in theory be perfectly safe.

...

Another theory is to look at the balances over the stereotypical 30 year periods for each starting year and try to find a point in time where most of the lines that end up as successes have diverged upward from most of the lines that end up as failures diverging downward.  I played around with this once; I don't recall exactly but I think after 10 years you can pretty much tell which way things are going.  I think there is some research along this line out there as well which quantifies the risks.

...

Ultimately there really is no 100% guarantee of either life or finances in the future, so I think the real answer is you look at the data, place your bets, and take your chances.  Two factors that seem to weigh heavily for many people is if they have children or heirs that would inherit their excess, and how they feel about running out of money in their old age.

MDM

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Re: When do you know you can adjust your withdrawal rate?
« Reply #2 on: October 28, 2019, 04:38:22 PM »
At what point can you decide that you can spend more?
You can decide this at any time, particularly if your invested assets increase.  No way to know whether it will be a good or bad decision.

Cannot Wait!

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Re: When do you know you can adjust your withdrawal rate?
« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2019, 04:47:12 PM »
I would say when you have no trouble sleeping at night.

FIRE 20/20

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Re: When do you know you can adjust your withdrawal rate?
« Reply #4 on: October 29, 2019, 11:31:51 AM »
Here are some links that might help:

https://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Variable_percentage_withdrawal
https://earlyretirementnow.com/2017/03/15/the-ultimate-guide-to-safe-withdrawal-rates-part-11-criteria/
https://www.onefpa.org/journal/Pages/OCT15-Making-Sense-Out-of-Variable-Spending-Strategies-for-Retirees.aspx
https://retirementresearcher.com/10-variable-spending-strategies-retirees-consider/

Unfortunately though, despite all the research that's been done we run headlong into the fact that the future is simply unknowable ahead of time.  It sucks, but that's just reality.  However, the good news is that in most cases the 4% rule is overly conservative so you'll probably end up with too much, and so your "really, really don't want to" scenario is unlikely if you pay attention and adjust if you happen to fall into a failure case.  And, in most of those cases the 4% rule is overly conservative you'll know within about 5-10 years (see below, from https://www.kitces.com/blog/understanding-sequence-of-return-risk-safe-withdrawal-rates-bear-market-crashes-and-bad-decades/).  If you stick with your 4% and make inflation adjustments for that long then the picture should be much, much clearer.  I can't give you any good rules other than the thoughts in the links I posted above, but I can say it's highly likely you'll have a pretty good idea of where things are headed within 10 years.  There's a chance you'll be withdrawing 5+% and you'll be worried, but there's also a chance you'll be withdrawing 2% or less and will be more wealthy than you ever imagined.  Even though I don't think anyone can provide a foolproof variable withdrawal rate that will perfectly balance stable spending, zero chance of running out, and very little left over when you die, I am extremely confident that someone competent enough to get to FIRE will be able to look at the situation they're in and adjust in an intelligent way.  I mean, if you got to the point where 10 years into FIRE you're spending way too little then I am certain that with a few weeks or months of research and asking questions here you'll be able to figure out a safe way to increase your spending.  That would be an amazing problem to have and one I'm certain you'll be able to figure out a solution to if that's where you end up.  No need to stress about it now. 


secondcor521

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Re: When do you know you can adjust your withdrawal rate?
« Reply #5 on: October 29, 2019, 11:57:23 AM »
Here's the original article on the pay out period reset model I alluded to in my previous post.  It lays the whole idea out reasonably well and provides some relevant data:

https://retireearlyhomepage.com/popr.html

Note that it does only use the "100% safe" SWR for each pay period, probably for the reasons I outlined in my previous post.

yachi

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Re: When do you know you can adjust your withdrawal rate?
« Reply #6 on: October 29, 2019, 12:58:56 PM »
I prefer Firecalc or Cfiresim to the 4% rule because because I feel like it does the same calculations that formed the basis of the 4% rule, but allows longer retirement periods than the 30 years the original study used.  If you are using Firecalc, you could plug your end of year balance into it at the end of every year, and run the number.*

I was also curious about the size of the 'Stache after a withdrawal period, so I created a distribution plot of my analysis.  For my case, the results show that the end 'Stache is not normally distributed about the average that these tools report.  I would expect the same is true for most calculations.  The long tail of the high end of the attached graph shows there is little chance of hitting those large sums.  Interestingly, my midpoint where I have a 50% chance of a higher or lower balance at the end of this period is right around my starting balance.

This was for an 850K starting 'Stache with withdrawals on the order of 45K per year 100% stock and a period of 4 years.


*Even better, if you have your balance at the end of each month,  you could average them together, subtract last year's total withdrawals, and use that number to calculate the maximum you can withdrawal for the upcoming year.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2019, 01:00:39 PM by yachi »

terran

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Re: When do you know you can adjust your withdrawal rate?
« Reply #7 on: October 29, 2019, 02:11:54 PM »
Like @secondcor521, my current thinking is to go the re-retire route, but we've got a while to go yet, so I'll be keeping an eye on the research. More specifically, if we were retiring today I think we'd go with an initial withdrawal set by the current CAPE ratio (probably the 1.75/0.5 version that would result in a 3.41% WR at current CAPE), initial asset allocation of 60/40, then adjust the withdrawal rate for inflation, and adjust the asset allocation based on a rising equity glidepath to 100/0 over about 11 years (the 0.3%/month version).

If the withdrawal rate indicated by the current CAPE and current portfolio value was greater than the inflation adjusted withdrawal rate we would re-retire by starting a new CAPE based withdrawal and resetting our asset allocation to 60/40. Of course, this is all academic, and we tend to underspend whatever limit we put on ourselves anyway, so while these would set upper limits on spending, we would probably underspend the limits anyway.

BicycleB

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Re: When do you know you can adjust your withdrawal rate?
« Reply #8 on: October 29, 2019, 06:29:44 PM »
One of the ideas Big ERN discusses at Early Retirement Now is to adjust spending gradually based on whether your investments are performing above or below the 4% rule of thumb. An example of this would be raise your spending by 5% if, at the end of the previous year, your total investments are at least 10% higher than last year, and at least 10% higher than your starting point.

portfoliocharts.com has a Retirement Spending calculator to show the effect that tactics of this type would have had from 1970 to present, based on real life investment returns. There is no guarantee that the future will work the same way, but the calculator is interesting to explore. In fiddling around with it, it appears that a few cases leave you broke, but most cases allow you to gradually ramp up to 5% or 6% if your first decade went well.

https://portfoliocharts.com/portfolio/retirement-spending/

Ladychips

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Re: When do you know you can adjust your withdrawal rate?
« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2019, 10:40:09 AM »
Thank you all for responding.  I love hearing everyone's perspectives.  And I appreciate the links.  Let me summarize what I heard:

1. You'll just know.
2. You'll know...but only in hindsight.
3. You don't actually use the '4% rule' but some version of it that adjusts, uses a smaller SWR, is different, etc.

One of the linked articles made an impact on me in that it's not a big drop at the beginning that one has to worry about.  It's inflation coupled with a drop of any kind or even very small gains over an extended period of time.  It's inflation+poor returns+time=trouble.  Hmm.

And so I think the final answer for me is...you won't know you can adjust until you've been retired 10 years where you didn't experience 'trouble'.  And by that time, I'll be so old, I don't know what I would spend my money on...

Monkey Uncle

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Re: When do you know you can adjust your withdrawal rate?
« Reply #10 on: November 10, 2019, 04:49:35 AM »
My plan in theory was as follows:

1.  Assume the ~4% rule was Truth, but pick whatever slightly lower rate would result in 100% historical success.

2.  Every year, either follow the 4% rule on your previous withdrawal rate by increasing your withdrawal for inflation, or retire again and take 4% of your new balance.  In the latter case, you could conceivably also reduce the duration of your plan by 1 year.

This approach is sometimes referred to as the retire again and again model or, if you dig back to ancient history, the payout period reset model.

If you pick a rate that is not 100% historically safe and follow this model, then I do think it increases your risk over the standard model, because you're effectively playing Russian roulette with a firearm with 20 cylinders and 1 bullet (5% chance of failure every tie) and you're playing it repeatedly.

If you pick a 100% historically safe rate and believe that past is perfect prologue (i.e., Truth) or at least the future will be no worse than the past, then you can follow the model and in theory be perfectly safe.

This is basically what I'm trying to do.  I use a 100% success rate.  Then I reduce the resulting spending allowance by 15%.  The 15% buffer is to be spent only in extenuating circumstances (health care issues, major home repair, etc.; this year we spent it on replacing a vehicle).  In theory, at least, the buffer won't be spent in most years and will continue to compound.  Eventually it will serve as a longevity hedge, a long-term care fund, or an inheritance for our son.

The big selling point of this approach is that our spending is allowed to increase while the markets are making new highs, but spending doesn't decrease when the markets are in the crapper.  And if you accept the assumption that the future will be no worse than the worst times of the past, there is no risk of running out of money.

But I'm only about two years into FIRE, so we'll see how it works out over the long term.

chasesfish

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Re: When do you know you can adjust your withdrawal rate?
« Reply #11 on: November 10, 2019, 05:09:58 AM »
Thank you all for responding.  I love hearing everyone's perspectives.  And I appreciate the links.  Let me summarize what I heard:

1. You'll just know.
2. You'll know...but only in hindsight.
3. You don't actually use the '4% rule' but some version of it that adjusts, uses a smaller SWR, is different, etc.

One of the linked articles made an impact on me in that it's not a big drop at the beginning that one has to worry about.  It's inflation coupled with a drop of any kind or even very small gains over an extended period of time.  It's inflation+poor returns+time=trouble.  Hmm.

And so I think the final answer for me is...you won't know you can adjust until you've been retired 10 years where you didn't experience 'trouble'.  And by that time, I'll be so old, I don't know what I would spend my money on...

I have two thoughts about this and was fortunate enough to have Early Retirement Now run a case study on my potential early retirement almost two years ago.

- I keep a Personal Financial Statement that I update monthly.   I have a column on there that calculates what I can withdraw monthly, taking our total invested assets and using a 3.83% withdraw rate.  I'll probably adjust my automatic transfers from the brokerage account to my checking account starting in January.

- Part of this exercise is also knowing your budget flexibility.  We could whack up to 30% out of or budget if absolutely necessary due to a big market decline. 

Finally - None of this stuff is a science.  We're 200k above our target retirement number due to some extra work and good market returns.  I'll be taking a low five figure number out of it shortly to fund a family vacation that includes taking my inlaws to Hawaii.   I've also used this as an opportunity to make the portfolio a little more secure and less volatile.  I worried way too much about the statistics behind this stuff, the reality is it'll probably work out following general guidelines.

itchyfeet

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Re: When do you know you can adjust your withdrawal rate?
« Reply #12 on: November 10, 2019, 05:13:36 AM »
I will FIRE with a plan to take withdraw more than 4%, depending on how much PT work DW does.

So my first mission will be to get down to 3.5% without DW working, without reducing spending. This will ensure sound sleep at night.

Plan B is to reduce spending if markets are bad, and DW tires of PT work. We have scope, but no real desire to reduce spending.

If I am still kicking in 25 years we will start to increase spending as a percentage of stash.

I will be 73. DW will be 68. I am thinking we will take a bet that at least one of us wont make it to 90. In which case will only need to draw down the same amount for say  22 years, and then much less once one of us is gone.

Maybe well increase the draw down by 0.5% a year.... but if we are both still in good health once I hit 85  at which well be at 12% draw down, we might want to wind it back a bit... haha... I dont think we can be too rigid in our plans...

Anyways, the first step of our plan is for us both to be alive 25 years from now. The rest is less important.

Shane

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Re: When do you know you can adjust your withdrawal rate?
« Reply #13 on: November 10, 2019, 06:03:44 AM »
Living Off Your Money offers an analysis of various strategies for optimally living off your money in retirement, spending as much as possible, without running out. You can download a PDF of the first three chapters from the website for free.

mistymoney

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Re: When do you know you can adjust your withdrawal rate?
« Reply #14 on: November 10, 2019, 06:07:11 AM »
Thank you all for responding.  I love hearing everyone's perspectives.  And I appreciate the links.  Let me summarize what I heard:

1. You'll just know.
2. You'll know...but only in hindsight.
3. You don't actually use the '4% rule' but some version of it that adjusts, uses a smaller SWR, is different, etc.

One of the linked articles made an impact on me in that it's not a big drop at the beginning that one has to worry about.  It's inflation coupled with a drop of any kind or even very small gains over an extended period of time.  It's inflation+poor returns+time=trouble.  Hmm.

And so I think the final answer for me is...you won't know you can adjust until you've been retired 10 years where you didn't experience 'trouble'.  And by that time, I'll be so old, I don't know what I would spend my money on...

Are you planning on having 100% in equities? If so, then there is immediate risk when the market tanks or even softens and one should button up the budget and decrease discretionary spending immediately and throughout a market downturn.

if you have some in bonds and some in money market - you might have more stable funds for a year or two or more, and may decide if you can continue on with current spending or start hedging as soon as market forces soften.

I do think you can definitely decide on a year to year basis. If your first year of retirement the market goes up 20% - I say take that big vacation! or two!

If the first year is anything 4-5% but less than 10% - then I'd say proceed with caution. Less than 4% or negative, take action to preserve capital immediately.

Ladychips

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Re: When do you know you can adjust your withdrawal rate?
« Reply #15 on: November 10, 2019, 06:13:42 AM »
Living Off Your Money offers an analysis of various strategies for optimally living off your money in retirement, spending as much as possible, without running out. You can download a PDF of the first three chapters from the website for free.

I have this book on my reading list before retirement.  I'm ~19 months out so I should start soon.  Thanks for the reminder!

maizefolk

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Re: When do you know you can adjust your withdrawal rate?
« Reply #16 on: November 10, 2019, 07:22:15 AM »
Are you planning to up your withdrawal rate with livestyle changes that are fairly permanent (moving to a higher cost of living city, having a spouse retire and also be supported off your stash)? Or with the types of spending that you could take or leave from one year to another (travel, charitable giving, buying a fancy new car)?

The thing to remember about the 4% rule is that failure states involve a series of years where the market is dropping and or inflation picks up, so that a retiree has to take out substantially more than 4% of their current balance to meet their spending needs.

If you're interesting in optional/discretionary spending, the simulations I've run* suggest that once your withdrawals are down to 3.2% of your portfolio you can spend 3-3.2% of your current balance each year, as long as you're willing to cut your spending back to the original level when and if the market drops.

FIRE plans are much more resilient to extra optional spending in good years than increases in your baseline (nondiscretionary) spending.

*With a 100% stocks portfolio.

desert_phoenix

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Re: When do you know you can adjust your withdrawal rate?
« Reply #17 on: November 10, 2019, 08:37:10 AM »
The best thing you can do is retire at the bottom of a recession, haha.  Then you are in good shape. 

A bit off topic, but I wish I was good enough at math to see how someone beginning retirement in, say, March 2009 and withdrawing 4% from a $500,000 'stache, adjusted yearly for inflation, was looking now if they were 100% in VTSAX.  I imagine, very healthy.

I think the answer to the OP's question will vary a lot depending if they are going all-stock or doing some sort of reverse glide path.  If the former, you need to be ready to cut back on spending quickly if the market takes a downturn right after retirement.  With the latter, trust the path and you are likely good to go.

MDM

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Re: When do you know you can adjust your withdrawal rate?
« Reply #18 on: November 10, 2019, 11:10:06 AM »
A bit off topic, but I wish I was good enough at math to see how someone beginning retirement in, say, March 2009 and withdrawing 4% from a $500,000 'stache, adjusted yearly for inflation, was looking now if they were 100% in VTSAX.  I imagine, very healthy.
See Total Stock Market Portfolio Charts for an overview.  The real CAGR for a 2009 investment shows as "over 9%" - i.e., very healthy.

Buffaloski Boris

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Re: When do you know you can adjust your withdrawal rate?
« Reply #19 on: November 10, 2019, 02:39:03 PM »
OK. Ill assume that the 4% safe withdrawal rate is the truth.

Then I will immediately ignore it, and go over to the early retirement now website and re-read his work on sequence of return risk. Especially sections 19 and 20. I will use those tables for a glide path that suits my desire to leave something for the kids and grandkids.

How easy is that? Big ERN puts out some great stuff.

One big huge, enormous, monstrous assumption that Many are making with regards to safe withdrawal rates is that life expectancies will stay more or less static and we as individuals will more or less track that. Right at the point where life extension science is on the cusp of becoming a thing. I do not expect my life expectancy will be average. This is a very healthy group and fairly bright. Our life expectancies will probably be significantly longer than average.

frugaldrummer

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Re: When do you know you can adjust your withdrawal rate?
« Reply #20 on: November 12, 2019, 04:19:10 PM »
Well, sitting here feeling dumb, because as long as I've been here, I never really thought about what that 4% withdrawal amount would be based on:

Quote
  Every year, either follow the 4% rule on your previous withdrawal rate by increasing your withdrawal for inflation, or retire again and take 4% of your new balance.  In the latter case, you could conceivably also reduce the duration of your plan by 1 year.

This approach is sometimes referred to as the retire again and again model or, if you dig back to ancient history, the payout period reset model.

Assuming that I DON'T use the retire again and again model but just initial 4% adjusted for inflation yearly - what inflation figure do you use? My housing won't inflate much because I'll own my home and Prop 13 controls my property taxes in California. Autos have not gotten significantly more expensive (at least in the base model Toyotas and Hondas that I buy). Gas and insurance has increased, food increases. Spending on clothing and furniture will dwindle as I age. Travel inflation is a little unpredictable and can be modified by choice of destination.  Healthcare costs will increase after an initial decrease when I get Medicare.

So what figure for inflation would you use? It seems that the general figure for overall U.S. inflation might overestimate the inflation in my personal costs. Conversely the figure used for Social Security increases is supposed to be adjusted for the types of inflation that affects seniors but is also a political tool to control Social Security increases and may underestimate true inflation.

If I were to use the "retire again and again" model, does it increase your chances of failure? Or simply forces you to cut back hard in years when the markets are bad, thereby decreasing your chances of failure? 

I guess I always assumed the 4% rule was based on a "retire again and again" scenario of taking 4% of whatever you had left in any given year.

Monkey Uncle

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Re: When do you know you can adjust your withdrawal rate?
« Reply #21 on: November 12, 2019, 04:32:26 PM »
Well, sitting here feeling dumb, because as long as I've been here, I never really thought about what that 4% withdrawal amount would be based on:

Quote
  Every year, either follow the 4% rule on your previous withdrawal rate by increasing your withdrawal for inflation, or retire again and take 4% of your new balance.  In the latter case, you could conceivably also reduce the duration of your plan by 1 year.

This approach is sometimes referred to as the retire again and again model or, if you dig back to ancient history, the payout period reset model.

Assuming that I DON'T use the retire again and again model but just initial 4% adjusted for inflation yearly - what inflation figure do you use? My housing won't inflate much because I'll own my home and Prop 13 controls my property taxes in California. Autos have not gotten significantly more expensive (at least in the base model Toyotas and Hondas that I buy). Gas and insurance has increased, food increases. Spending on clothing and furniture will dwindle as I age. Travel inflation is a little unpredictable and can be modified by choice of destination.  Healthcare costs will increase after an initial decrease when I get Medicare.

So what figure for inflation would you use? It seems that the general figure for overall U.S. inflation might overestimate the inflation in my personal costs. Conversely the figure used for Social Security increases is supposed to be adjusted for the types of inflation that affects seniors but is also a political tool to control Social Security increases and may underestimate true inflation.

If I were to use the "retire again and again" model, does it increase your chances of failure? Or simply forces you to cut back hard in years when the markets are bad, thereby decreasing your chances of failure? 

I guess I always assumed the 4% rule was based on a "retire again and again" scenario of taking 4% of whatever you had left in any given year.

For inflation, just keep it simple and use the CPI.  If you find you don't need that much, don't take it out.

Retire again and again does not increase your chance of failure if you do it the way it was intended, i.e., use a 100% historical success rate.  It is actually safer than using the straight 4% rule at a 95% success rate, plus it gives you the potential to increase your spending if the markets are agreeable.  And best of all, it does not force you to cut back during times of market decline.  The big catch is that your initial withdrawal amount will be less than the amount calculated by using the 4% rule at a 95% success rate.  I'm o.k. with that given all the other benefits.

And no, the 4% rule is not based on taking 4% of whatever you have left at the end of each year.  It is based on taking 4% of your starting portfolio amount, and then increasing that amount by inflation every year.  So, assuming inflation is positive, you are increasing your withdrawal amount every year, regardless of what the market does.

maizefolk

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Re: When do you know you can adjust your withdrawal rate?
« Reply #22 on: November 12, 2019, 04:46:05 PM »
I guess I always assumed the 4% rule was based on a "retire again and again" scenario of taking 4% of whatever you had left in any given year.

Be careful because this is something different as well. If you just spend 4% of whatever money you have every year you are guaranteed never to run out of money. In certain bad scenarios you may end up with very little money left, and hence 4% of that may be an extraordinarily small amount of money, but you can never get to zero.

The retire and retire again scenario is that every year you spend the larger of "what I spent last year * inflation" or "4% of my current net worth." And that definitely can go to zero.

frugaldrummer

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Re: When do you know you can adjust your withdrawal rate?
« Reply #23 on: November 12, 2019, 09:49:32 PM »
Quote
, 06:03:44 AM
Living Off Your Money offers an analysis of various strategies for optimally living off your money in retirement, spending as much as possible, without running out. You can download a PDF of the first three chapters from the website for free.

Thanks for the book suggestion, I took a peek at the free chapters and it looks like a great resource!