Drawdown: safe withdrawal rates
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jamesd
Posts: 26,103 Forumite
This is a collection of posts that I think are useful for those planning drawdown, suggesting a base plan and references to help you to adjust as you wish.
To get started you should:
1. Use Guyton and Klinger's decision rules
2. Use Guyton's sequence of return risk taming (adds about 1% of pot size to withdrawal rate)
3. Keep one year of planned investment income in cash, counting that as part of your bond percentage
4. Use state pension deferral to protect against the long life risk (see the income effect on cFiresim and the like)
5. Continue to make pension contributions until you reach age 75.
6. Reduce income by 0.5% of pot size to allow for costs of 1.5%, or some more appropriate amount given a reduction of about 30% of costs.
7. Reduce income by 01% of pot size depending on how far you are from having all US investments.
8. Use cFiresim and change its investment returns to do the cost/investment returns adjustments instead of using fixed reductions in income. Since UK safe withdrawal rate is about 0.3% below US, you might use cfiresim with fees increased by 1% 0.5% and skip 6 and 7, this has the advantage of just affecting the investments, not state or defined benefit pensions. 1% higher fees roughly produce a 0.3% reduction in SWR.
Those are assuming that you have a reasonably large pot of money available and are using it to fund a high percentage of your living costs. State pension deferral assumes reasonably normal health and life expectancy around state pension age.
Retirement is long, don't worry about it taking a while to work though things as you get started.
Investment highlight:. April 2021 July 2020 December 2018 August April 2017: You should have lower than usual equity investments at the moment because cyclically adjusted price/earnings ratios (PE10) are above average in some major markets, particularly the US. You might also favour lower PE10 markets with higher than their usual equity weights. I like P2P lending rather than corporate or government bonds for this. See Guyton's sequence of return risk reduction and Bengen's interesting timing thought in the last paragraph of his 2016 small cap paper. But remember that while this has good predictive value for ten year investment returns it has none for one year so it can't tell you specifically when to change, just when conditions are less favourable for equities.
To get started you should:
1. Use Guyton and Klinger's decision rules
2. Use Guyton's sequence of return risk taming (adds about 1% of pot size to withdrawal rate)
3. Keep one year of planned investment income in cash, counting that as part of your bond percentage
4. Use state pension deferral to protect against the long life risk (see the income effect on cFiresim and the like)
5. Continue to make pension contributions until you reach age 75.
6. Reduce income by 0.5% of pot size to allow for costs of 1.5%, or some more appropriate amount given a reduction of about 30% of costs.
7. Reduce income by 01% of pot size depending on how far you are from having all US investments.
8. Use cFiresim and change its investment returns to do the cost/investment returns adjustments instead of using fixed reductions in income. Since UK safe withdrawal rate is about 0.3% below US, you might use cfiresim with fees increased by 1% 0.5% and skip 6 and 7, this has the advantage of just affecting the investments, not state or defined benefit pensions. 1% higher fees roughly produce a 0.3% reduction in SWR.
Those are assuming that you have a reasonably large pot of money available and are using it to fund a high percentage of your living costs. State pension deferral assumes reasonably normal health and life expectancy around state pension age.
Retirement is long, don't worry about it taking a while to work though things as you get started.
Investment highlight:. April 2021 July 2020 December 2018 August April 2017: You should have lower than usual equity investments at the moment because cyclically adjusted price/earnings ratios (PE10) are above average in some major markets, particularly the US. You might also favour lower PE10 markets with higher than their usual equity weights. I like P2P lending rather than corporate or government bonds for this. See Guyton's sequence of return risk reduction and Bengen's interesting timing thought in the last paragraph of his 2016 small cap paper. But remember that while this has good predictive value for ten year investment returns it has none for one year so it can't tell you specifically when to change, just when conditions are less favourable for equities.
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Comments

This is for things about the philosophy of the subject, notably the different approaches that people prefer. Traditionally the division is between safetyfirst and probabilitybased approaches. A person with a strong safety first inclination might choose to take a lower likely income from using cash or buying annuities while a probability oriented person would prefer the higher income generally available that way unless the worst cases happen. Whichever approach is used some certain income is useful, in the UK that's usually most cheaply bought around normal retirement ages by deferring the state pension. Don't disregard guaranteed income even if you're happy to be invested, a suitable amount increases the safe withdrawal rate.
The Yin and Yang of retirement income philosophies and the more extensive PDF version. Discusses the key differences in philosophy.
Even SafetyFirst Retirement Income Strategies Are ProbabilityBased  The Real Distinction Is Risk Transfer Vs Risk Retention
Nonessential interesting material Guyton and Kitces with Continued Discussions on Safe Withdrawal Rates and Spending Decision Rules, videos that provide some easy enough to follow introduction to a range of issues.
 Year 2000 had the highest 10 year cyclically adjusted price/earnings ratio ever. How Are People Who Retired In The Year 2000 Doing Today? (replaced broken link) On track is the answer. But also see Guyton's sequence of return risk taming that would have reduced equity holdings substantially, helping them!
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Sequence of returns risk is the risk of failure due to the ups and downs of investments and planning for this typically requires an initial income below the one that could be obtained if the performance was the same each year. Looks as though Guyton's approach can significantly reduce the risk from this. See:
Jonathan Guyton Tames a Gorilla (archived, original)
SequenceofReturn Risk: Gorilla or Boogeyman? (archive)
Those explain how Guyton found that using the cyclically adjusted price/earnings ratio was effective in greatly reducing the impact of sequence of returns issues. Here's a source for PE10 for the US S&P500 (also here) with past charts and for other markets.
"Though exhaustive study on the combined impact of dynamic withdrawal and allocation policies has yet to be undertaken, results of their standalone impact offer strong reason to believe that employing them together would add around 100 basis points to the sustainable withdrawal rate under static policies"
That's 1% higher sustained withdrawal rate, from 4.5% to 5.5% for anyone still using the "4%" rule.
The Gupta et al rule Guyton uses for his action threshold says:
"PE10: if the S&P's normalized P/E ratio is less (greater) than its historical mean plus (minus) onehalf its standard deviation, the stock allocation in the rebalanced portfolio is decreased (increased) to 25 percent below (above) the baseline allocation"
Guyton kept the one standard deviation threshold but modified the shift:
"Because of my sense that most financial planners (including myself) may be uncomfortable communicating so large a onetime equity allocation change to their clients, in modeling the dynamic allocation policy I use a 65 percent neutral equity allocation with just under a 25 percent shift to 50 percent (80 percent) when an over (under) valuation occurs"
There's a common belief that because it's hard to know what will happen in the short term (a top decile PE10 correlates with a 25% chance of a big drop over the following year) you can't usefully predict and change over longer terms. That's not true: Should Equity Return Assumptions In Retirement Projections Be Reduced For Today's High Shiller CAPE Valuation? (archived)  no, they already allow for that and you can also use PE10 to get some idea of how you might do
 Understanding Sequence Of Return Risk  Safe Withdrawal Rates, Bear Market Crashes, And Bad Decades (archived)  it's possible to predict the times when low equity mixtures can be expected to do better using PE10, like now, January 2018
 Interpreting Monte Carlo Analyses and the Wrong Side of Maybe Fallacy (archived)  you can know when stocks and money market (bills) beats stocks and bonds, like now, January 2018
The bad side of sequence of return risk gets lots of attention but also see The Extraordinary Upside Potential Of Sequence Of Return Risk In Retirement: "taking a 4% initial withdrawal rate has an equal (10%) likelihood of leaving all the retiree’s principal left over at the end of retirement… or leaving 6X the starting account balance remaining instead".
CAPE ratios and histories for many markets are available here.0 
Various drawdown rules that people can use, personally I like a modified Guyton and Klinger approach. Bengen's original 4% rule is no longer very good even though it was revolutionary at the time, later ones can do a better job.
 Decision Rules and Maximum Initial Withdrawal Rates Guyton and Klinger's decision rules paper. See Drawdown rules help for a simple summary of the rules and discussion of how to use them. The UK 90% success rate safe withdrawal rate using the GuytonKlinger rules is initially 5.5%.
 Determining Withdrawal Rates using Historical Data Bill Bengen's original 1994 4% rule paper. Later observations about 4.5% rule and that 96% of the historic cases would produce a higher nominal ending pot than the starting one, while two thirds of the time the ending wealth is at least twice the starting wealth. Summary and links to his interesting later papers and the importance of small cap equities, SmallCap Withdrawal Magic. 4.5% used 35% large cap, 20% small cap and 45% intermediate duration bonds. In 2017 he wrote "longer time horizons require higher equity exposure than the 30year time horizon. For 45 years, I calculated 65% equity exposure as optimal, with a 4.1% SWR".
 What Returns Are Safe Withdrawal Rates REALLY Based Upon? Michael Kitces explains.
 Making Sense Out of Variable Spending Strategies for Retirees Wade Pfau looks at a wide range of spending strategies in a Journal of Financial Planning article, an excellent overview of the range.
 New Math for Retirees and the 4% Withdrawal Rule New York Times interview with Bill Bengen about his 4% rule and others.
Improving the rules Hold a year of investment income in cash. Though see Cash reserve buffers, withdrawal rates and old wives' fables for retirement portfolios for some things not to do, the cash should replace some bonds, not equities. Though none of the scenarios he modelled seems to have been cash replenished by interest and dividends mainly.
 Use equity release that allows drawing and repaying to smooth income, allows higher income, see The New Case for Reverse Mortgages and Academic Acceptance for Reverse Mortgages in Retirement Income by Pfau and notice that in a low interest rate environment it can potentially double the safe withdrawal rate! The improvement is better from early use than last resort use.
 Blanchett's Estimating the True Cost of Retirement that shows spending declines until age 75 in the US and throughout retirement in the UK, particularly at 80+ and even faster for high spending households than low. Typical is a 35% drop from 65 to 80 initially. Plan to start at an unsustainably high income and decrease.
 Does Asset Allocation Affect Withdrawal Rates? : yes, more equities increase the upside without affecting the downside much, while long term bond allocations above 50% do serious harm, though do use them for Guyton's sequence of return risk reduction method.
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Tools to help with the planning, cFiresim is the one I prefer, Firecalc is an older popular one with less options, notably without the GuytonKlinger method.
When using US tools with US investments set the costs figure to your total costs, then add 1%. The effect of costs is about a third of costs reduction in safe withdrawal rate and the UK 4% rule 30 year SWR is 0.3 lower than the US. So 1% higher costs roughly covers the investment difference.
Early retirement @ 55 what to do with £ 380000 Example of cFiresim drawdown using GuytonKlinger rules with state pension and property downsizing
Thoughts on my plan please retiring 59, £9500 defined benefit pension, 8k assumed state pension, £275000 investments, desired income £2000 a month, £2250 looks possible.
Final Salary Pension (transfer). Pot £350k at 55 plus £8k state pension. £27k income with 90% success rate and £12k floor looks doable. Illustrates effect of success rate and income floor settings.
Pension calculation help to get me to 25k pa Example of a Firecalc calculation, also read the other posts, they cover many things that are likely to be interesting, including the range of UK incomes in retirement that may help with target setting.
Blanchett has some suggestions for what success rate to use, scroll down to the end (Internet Archive backup). To get state pension's capital value to use it as a percentage, you could work out the cost to buy an annuity delivering the same income level. As illustrated here a minimum income need of 50% of income, guaranteed income equivalent to 50% of wealth and medium income stability objective would suggest a 47% success rate target.0 
How much do I need to pay in each month to get to a particular income level at a target age?
These are some very rough numbers for those far from the planned ages, anyone within ten years needs to use more fancy methods.
Split the desired amount into two time periods, first from after state pension age, then for the time before state pension age. I'll use age 40 now, age 55 target and 18k income target as an example.
1. From state pension age of say 68 part, deduct your expected state pension amount, say 8,000 if you don't know it, from your target annual income. Multiply the remaining target by 25 to get the 4% rule estimated pension pot size requirement, £10,000 * 25 = £250,000. To start enter 100 monthly gross, 28 years duration (6840 years old), 4.5% interest rate (long term UK stock market performance less about 0.5% for costs). That'll say that each £100 a month gets you £67,123 pension pot. Adjust the monthly amount to get to the 250k needed and you'll find it's £373 gross a month. [NOTE: this 28 year duration assumes that you'll be paying in £373 gross a month even after you have retired at 55! So you'd need to budget for that in your income plan and I haven't done that in step 2 in this example]
2. For the part before the state pension you'll need to cover the whole income target yourself. But it doesn't have to last for life so you can draw more. As a very rough way to allow for this multiply the income required by the number of years between retirement age and state pension age. So £18,000 target x (6855) = £234,000. Back to the regular savings calculator, duration 15 years (age 55  age 40), interest rate 4.5% and adjust the monthly payment until you get to the £234,000 required. Answer is £913. Notice how much higher it is than the after state pension number with more growth time available.
Now add the two numbers and you have your monthly gross pension contribution target of £373 + £913 = £1,286 a month.
Too much? Check the effect of a five year delay to age 60. Target £18,000 x (6860) = £144,000. Now duration of 20 years (age 60  age 40) and the regular savings calculator says £371 a month before state pension age and a total amount of £373 + £371 = £744 a month. Much easier.
What if you're on minimum wage? £14,976 a year for 52 40 hour weeks in 2016. If you need 80% of this in retirement that's a target of £11,980.80 a year. £8,000 comes from the state pension leaving you £3980.80 a year to fund. At assumed age 68 state pension age and starting from age 30 you'll need a pension pot of £99,520 which would take gross £82.75 a month. Using 2018 autoenrolment rates a total of 8% of qualifying pay is required, 3% from employer, 1% from tax relief and 4% from you. That would potentially halve your net cost to £41.38 a month. In 2016/17 the lower level of qualifying earnings is £5,824 a year so if you are on £14,976 your employer would have to pay in only on £14,976  £5,824 = £9,152. 8% of £9,152 is £61.01 gross a month, vs your higher £82.75 a month target so your employer isn't required to pay in for the full amount. They can choose to use your whole £14,976 pay and if they did that the 8% would be above your target at £99.84 a month. If you used only the £61.01 gross then your anticipated pension pot size would be £73,395 and that could produce an income of £2,935 a year, taking your total including state pension to £10,935.80 which is 73% of your gross pay. But your take home pay on £14,976 would be £13,350.88 and it's 82% of that if it's all free of income tax, which it probably will be. Not at all bad since you'll have no workrelated costs when retired.0 
Life expectancy
The ONS 2014 Principal projection based How long will my pension need to last? tool gives these values:
Male, to age 86, 21 years, 1 in 4 chance of 95, 1 in 10 chance of 99
Female, to age 89, 24 years, 1 in 4 chance of 96, 1 in 10 chance of 100
A NEST document using 2010 data shows that when male life expectancy was 87.8 at age 65 the most likely age at death was 91. From age 85 with life expectancy 92.1 the most likely age at death is 85 but with a gentle slope for the next 5 years so those years are only a little less likely than 85; 26% who reached 85 would reach 95 and 7% 100. Page 40.
Unless you have reason to expect a shorter than usual life expectancy I suggest planning to at least the 1 in 4 age. That would be roughly the traditionally used 30 years from age 65 while 1 in 10 would be 35/36 years.
hugheskevi put this chance of dying in the next year for men list together, based on the ONS 2016based cohort life expectancies but note that it is on average and your health and lifestyle could give you a much lower or higher risk and the risk for women is lower (2005 data comparing men and women) (more on risks):
50=0.3%
55=0.4%
60=0.7%
65=1.1%
70=1.7%
75=2.9%
80=5.0%
85=9.0%
90=15.9%
95=26.0%0 
Various investment strategies and methods.0

Tax
After the tax free lump sum pension income is taxable. There are various ways you can reduce that cost: Deferring your state pension reduces your taxable income by the state pension you're not taking. Great time to take taxable money out of pensions.
 Moving money into ISAs produces long term income tax free income.
 VCTs let you increase the amount you can take out of a pension with no net tax cost and can also generate useful tax exempt ongoing dividend income. You're probably well placed to defer income for five years  the VCT holding time to avoid having to repay the 30% tax relief  so exploit your new long horizon to make your income effectively tax free by moving more into ISAs with the help of the VCTs.
To reclaim overpaid pension tax you can use one of these forms: Flexible access. Which is UFPLS or taking money from a drawdown pot you've already taken the tax free lump sum for. Not for taking a tax free lump sum (no need to tell HMRC) or using the small pot rule (see below):
 P53 or P53Z if you've emptied your pot using the small pot rule or trivial commutation. The print, fill in and post P53 version has a box where you can say which tax year it's for. "If you’ve only used part of your pension pot, or if you’re not working or receiving benefits, you’ll need to use form P55 or form P50Z"
Inheritance tax
Gifts out of income can be a very useful tool but there is some record keeping that should be done, best to read the linked PDF and start taking excellent notes in a place that will be obvious to an administrator or executor of your estate.0 
Pension contributions
Continue to make pension contributions from age 55 until reaching age 75 unless lifetime allowance or something else makes it a bad idea. There is free money to be had.
At basic rate income tax with all personal allowance used: Pay in £2,880, take out 25% tax free, £900, take out £2,700 taxed at 20% net, £2,160. Net gain £900 + £2,160  £2,880 = £180
With at least £2,700 of personal allowance still unused: Pay in £2,880, take out 25% tax free, £900, take out £2,700 nil tax due, £2,700, £2,700. Net gain £900 + £2,700  £2,880 = £720
If you flexibly (UFPLS or drawdown) take out anything beyond the 25% tax free lump sum from a personal pension you will have the amount you and anyone else can pay into defined contribution pensions in your name reduced to £4,000 a year by the Money Purchase Annual Allowance (MPAA). Usually this won't matter but it may if you're continuing to work. It doesn't affect contributions to defined benefit pensions like final or average salary.
You can take all of the money out of up to three personal pension pots per lifetime each worth no more than £10,000 using the small pots rule without triggering the MPAA reduction. This is described at PTM063700 and can be either money you've taken a tax free PCLS from already (so all taxable) or uncrystallised (25% tax free).
Taking taxable money from the state pension or a defined benefit pension (like final or average salary) doesn't trigger the MPAA 4k restriction. It isn't triggered if you have one of the older preApril 2015 capped drawdown products and only draw up to the GAD limit.
The limit on what you can pay in and get tax relief on is your earned (technically, qualifying) income or if lower, £2,880 net, £3,600 gross.
There's extensive discussion of this at Paying £2880 into pension when retired.
State pension deferral
Defer your state pension if you have normal life expectancy and no special case for not doing it. Up to five years has a good chance of breaking even, up to ten years can be good for longevity insurance (more here) and to increase the safe withdrawal amount from drawdown, by providing more of your minimum income requirement, see for example Blanchett's paper The Impact of Guaranteed Income and Dynamic Withdrawals on Safe Initial Withdrawal Rates.
A person who reached state pension age after 6 April 2016 gets an increase of 5.8% per year of deferral, prorated for parts of years, not inheritable, no lump sum option. Before then the increase is 10.4%, mostly inheritable by a spouse and with the option of taking a lump sum that is taxed at your current highest income tax rate, which could be zero if within your personal allowance. For deferral before 6 April 2005 the increase was 7.5% with no lump sum increase and a cap of five years.
For how long to defer see Does it pay to delay your state pension? and use the calculator at https://www.johnkay.com/pension/ that is unusual because it takes the alternative investments into account. Use the end of your planning horizon or longer as your remaining life expectancy when using the calculator for drawdown planning.
I get these break even numbers of years to defer using normal life expectancy:
If invested to get 3% plus inflation (shares, corporate bonds)
Male aged 72, 15 years to go, defer 1 year 5 months
Female aged 67, 22 years to go, defer 4 years 2 months
If using savings accounts to get 0% plus inflation
Male aged 72, 15 years to go, defer 2 years 8 months
Female aged 67, 22 years to go, defer 6 years 2 months
I get these break even numbers of years to defer using the life expectancy that one person in four will reach:
If invested to get 3% plus inflation (shares, corporate bonds)
Male aged 72, 21 years to go, defer 3 years 9 months
Female aged 67, 29 years to go, defer 6 years 7 months
If using savings accounts to get 0% plus inflation
Male aged 72, 21 years to go, defer 5 years 8 months
Female aged 67, 29 years to go, defer 9 years 8 months
For more background see:
Deferring a state pension  is it worthwhile? (Caution, this does not use cohort life expectancies and doesn't compare to other uses of the money. Use the two or five year above average results to try to compensate).
What is state pension deferral?, handy for abroad tip. SPA effects if abroad (7.20 on): before 6 April 2016: get deferral increases anywhere, can't start while abroad after having claimed
 from 6 April 2016: don't get deferral increases without a reciprocal arrangement (80% affected are in Canada, NZ, Australia), can start while abroad
State pension inheritance rules.
Class 3A state pension topup: archived, ended 6 April 2017.
The limits on recycling pension commencement lump sums, the usual tax free lump sums
If worried about lump sum recycling remember the threshold of £7,500 that has to be exceeded within a 12 month period and that as of 2015 HMRC is believed never yet to have invoked the rule for an individual because it is intended to block organised schemes (also see this post) and it is not a focus of their efforts. For much more discussion see Can husband give his 25% tax free sum to me to reinvest in my pension pot?.
If any of these are true it is definitely fine:
1. The total amount of all tax free lump sums taken in a twelve month rolling period (not tax or calendar year) is no higher than £7,500.
2. You didn't plan to recycle when you took the tax free lump sum. HMRC has to prove that you did, not you prove that you didn't. This would catch out people using organised schemes.
3. The timing of the lump sum(s) coincided with routine things like retiring or reaching the normal retirement age of a defined benefit pension.
If none of those apply, add up the total amount of pension contributions you make in the year of taking each lump sum, the two tax years before that and the two tax years after that. Divide by five and compare to your typical amount of pension contributions.
A. If the average is not more than 30% above what it was before it's fine: "a significant increase does not occur unless, because of a pension commencement lump sum, the amount of the additional contributions are more than 30% of the contributions that might otherwise have been expected".
B. Subtract the average of those five years from the previous average and multiply by five. If this is less than 30% of the value of the lump sums it's fine.
HMRC might disagree about working out the value of the increase. Also many increases are fine, like increases due to inheritance, pay rises, following changes in income tax thresholds and many other things including normal retirement planning. You can subtract the increases from those things when working out the increase in the calculations. You might also be taking the tax free lump sum as soon as you can just to get it in case of a change of rules later, as a result of the constant talk that the tax free lump sum possibility might go away  that's my own intention  then you have to do something with the money.
The limits apply to pension contributions in your own name. You can take a tax free lump sum into a bank account in your own name and give it to a spouse or anyone else and they can make pension contributions in their own name from their own bank account or via a work scheme without anything other than the usual contribution limits. Though if it's clear that you are arranging mutual gifts that could be taken to break the rules as a sham arrangement.2 
Reserved for future use 3. Edit test.0
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