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Safe Withdrawal Rate (SWR) of Money from Savings

  • 5 min read

Safe Withdrawal Rate is a term used to describe the amount of money that can be withdrawn from a savings account, investment portfolio, or retirement account over a specified time period, without running out of money before the end of the period. This rate is a critical factor to consider when planning for retirement, as it determines the sustainability of your savings over time.

Withdrawal over Yearly Return

The table below shows the impact of different yearly returns on the safe withdrawal rate, assuming a 30-year retirement period and an initial balance of $100,000.

Yearly Return (%)Withdrawal Amount ($)
23,333
44,166
65,000
85,952

As the table above shows, the higher the yearly return, the higher the safe withdrawal rate. This is due to the compounding effect of the returns, which increase the principle balance over time. It is important to note that these numbers are based on the assumption of a constant rate of return, which may not be realistic in the real world. In practice, investment returns are often subject to market volatility, which can have a significant impact on the safe withdrawal rate.

To calculate the safe withdrawal rate, one can use the following formula:

SWR = (Starting Balance) / (Number of Years in Retirement)

For example, if you have an initial balance of $100,000 and you plan to retire for 30 years, the safe withdrawal rate would be $3,333 per year. This assumes a constant rate of return, which may not be realistic in the real world.

One unique aspect of safe withdrawal rate planning is that it takes into account both the principle balance and the rate of return on the investment. This is important because the rate of return can have a significant impact on the sustainability of the withdrawals over time.

Another unique aspect is that safe withdrawal rate planning is a dynamic process, as it needs to be regularly reviewed and updated to reflect changes in the investment portfolio, market conditions, and personal circumstances.

The concept of safe withdrawal rate has been around for many years and has been widely studied by financial experts. One of the earliest studies was conducted by William Bengen in 1994, who proposed that a safe withdrawal rate of 4% per year was a good rule of thumb for retirees. Since then, many other studies have been conducted, each offering different conclusions about the optimal safe withdrawal rate.

More recent studies have shown that the safe withdrawal rate may be affected by various factors, such as inflation, taxes, and longevity. As a result, some experts now recommend using a more flexible approach to safe withdrawal rate planning, which takes into account the individual’s specific circumstances and goals.

A common real-world example of safe withdrawal rate planning is when a retiree plans to withdraw money from a retirement account to cover living expenses. The retiree will need to determine the maximum amount that can be withdrawn each year, based on the principle balance, expected rate of return, and the number of years in retirement.

Another example is when a retiree has a portfolio of stocks and bonds and plans to use the portfolio to generate income during retirement. The retiree will need to determine the safe withdrawal rate based on the expected return on the portfolio and the number of years in retirement.

One of the key benefits of safe withdrawal rate planning is that it provides a systematic and structured approach to retirement planning. This can help retirees to determine the maximum amount of money that can be withdrawn each year, which can provide peace of mind and financial stability.

Another benefit is that it takes into account both the principle balance and the rate of return on the investment, which is important for ensuring the sustainability of the withdrawals over time.

One of the main disadvantages of safe withdrawal rate planning is that it is based on a number of assumptions, such as a constant rate of return and a constant inflation rate, which may not be realistic in the real world. This can result in significant differences between the estimated safe withdrawal rate and the actual amount that can be withdrawn.

Another disadvantage is that it may not take into account other sources of income, such as Social Security or pensions, which can have a significant impact on the amount that can be withdrawn from savings.

Withdrawal rate planning is likely to be shaped by a number of factors, such as changes in the investment market, inflation, taxes, and longevity. As a result, it will be important for retirees to continue to review and update their safe withdrawal rate plans regularly, to ensure that their savings are sustainable over the long-term.

The use of online calculators, financial planning software, and artificial intelligence algorithms could help retirees to more accurately determine their safe withdrawal rate and ensure the sustainability of their savings over time. Safe withdrawal rate planning is a critical aspect of retirement planning, as it determines the sustainability of your savings over time. By taking into account the principle balance, rate of return, and other factors, you can determine the maximum amount that can be withdrawn each year and ensure financial stability during retirement.

Sources:

  • “Safe Withdrawal Rates” by William Bengen, Journal of Financial Planning, 1994.
  • “The Safe Withdrawal Rate in Retirement” by Michael Kitces, Nerd’s Eye View, 2013.
  • “Retirement Planning: The Safe Withdrawal Rate” by Elizabeth O’Brien, US News & World Report, 2020.
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Christopher - BSc, MBA

With over two decades of combined Big 5 Banking and Agency experience, Christopher launched Underbanked® to cut through the noise and complexity of financial information. Christopher has an MBA degree from McMaster University and BSc. from Western University in Canada.

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