Saturday, 2 September 2017

Improving the Safe Withdrawal Rate for UK Retirees Story

For those chasing FIRE I’m sure that the 4% Rule will be well known to most.  In short it says in your first year of retirement you can ‘safely’ withdraw 4% of your wealth with subsequent year’s withdrawals able to be increased by the prevailing inflation rate.  It of course has a few obvious failings:
  • It doesn’t consider investing expenses or fees
  • It is not safe at all for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, for the 50% Equities : 50% Bonds example the Rule resulted in one not running out of money in ‘only’ 96% of cases.  Not so great if you followed it religiously and was one of the 4% who ended up living under a railway arch.  Secondly, it’s based on backtesting of history and we all know history is no predictor of the future.
  • It is only based on a 30 year retirement period.  That’s probably fine if you’re retiring at more typical ages such as in your 60’s or 70’s but probably not so relevant if your thinking of FIRE’ing in your 30’s or 40’s.
  • It is US focused with the Equities and Bonds used plus place of residence of the retiree being US based.  Quite a leap if you’re FIRE’ing in the UK.  Also quite a leap if you’re a FIRE’ee who owns a more diversified portfolio of assets covering multiple countries.

Enter Wade Pfau who then conducted some research which helped deal with a couple of those failings:
  • Considered a UK investor with 50% UK Equities : 50% UK Bonds portfolio where for 100% ‘success’ that 4% Rule became the 3.0% Rule; then
  • Considered some portfolio diversification with 50% Global Equities : 50% Global Bonds portfolio where for 100% ‘success’ that 3.0% Rule improved to become the 3.2% Rule.

It was this work that helped me settle on an initial FIRE withdrawal rate of 2.5% having considered an increased retirement period than the assumed 30 years, inclusion of investing expenses and increased portfolio diversification.