Today I’m tackling a popular and contentious principle in the FIRE community: the 4% rule. I’ve written about a major flaw of the “rule” before, namely that it relies on a false myth of level spending year over year in retirement, but today I’m taking on whether we can actually expect the 4% rule to give us enough of a margin of safety in the future.
It seems that the period of stock market volatility we’ve been in the past few months is here to stay for a while. Does that have you feeling anxious? If so, you’re normal, but you don’t have to stay that way. Learning not to let the markets or their machinations affect you is surprisingly easy to do if you make that your intention. Let’s talk about how.
Do the roller coastering markets have you concerned about the your early retirement plan? Sequence risk is by far the biggest risk early retirees face, and that risk can come from market crashes, long-term mediocre returns and even rising health care costs. Fortunately, though, we can all put ourselves in a good position to head off that risk, without lengthening the timeline to early retirement, by making some smart choices with asset allocation and behavior.
As total newbs to this whole early retirement thing, though admittedly newbs who’ve thought about this stuff a ton, we find ourselves now wrestling with a very practical question: Should we spend what we budgeted for this year, or aim to spend less, maybe a lot less? There are good reasons for either approach, so let’s talk about what those are.
The question of whether 4 percent is a safe withdrawal rate, as the “4 percent rule” suggests has been — and will continue to be — debated endlessly. Fortunately, this isn’t more of that debate. Instead, let’s look at whether the fundamental underlying assumption of the 4 percent rule — level spending every year — is actually realistic and safe to plan around. (Spoiler: it’s not.)