Apr 11: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE
April 11, 2022
Having a withdrawal strategy should help your savings withstand inflation: McGugan
Reporting for the Globe and Mail, columnist Ian McGugan says retirees living off a nest egg of money need a strategy to cope with inflation.
“Unlike a truly rare disaster such as a global pandemic, the current inflationary outburst resembles a muted replay of the 1970s – and retirement planners have long used strategies designed to soldier through such episodes,” he writes.
He notes that a key tactic is the “four per cent rule,” developed by financial adviser William Bengen in 1994.
The rule, McGugan explains, “holds that a retiree planning for a 30-year retirement can safely withdraw an inflation-adjusted four per cent of their starting portfolio each year without fear of running out of money.”
Bengen, the article continues, based his formula on a “U.S. retiree with a portfolio split evenly between bonds and stocks,” and his research showed that even during the Great Depression, the Second World War or the “stagflation” period of the 1970s (a long period of very high, stubborn inflation), the four per cent rule would have worked.
Some industry observers, notably Morningstar, advise a lower withdrawal rate of 3.3 per cent, in light of “how bond yields have fallen,” he reports. Others say you could go up to 4.5 per cent.
McGugan notes that economist Karsten Jeske found “no strong relationship between prevailing levels of inflation and future safe withdrawal rates.”
He is more concerned, McGugan reports, about stock valuations as a problem for retirees.
“When stocks are expensive compared with their long-run earnings – as they are now – retirees should be cautious about how much they withdraw from their portfolio because high valuations are usually a sign of lower stock-market returns to come,” the article notes.
When talking about withdrawal rates, we should qualify the discussion by saying that certain retirement savings vehicles, such as registered retirement income funds (RRIFs), set out a minimum amount you must withdraw each year. When you look at the rates, you’ll notice they start out at four per cent when you’re 65, but gradually increase over time. If you make it to 95, the minimum withdrawal rate jumps to 20 per cent.
But if your savings are in a Tax Free Savings Account or any non-registered vehicle, the four per cent is worth consideration. We are all used to getting a steady paycheque, usually every two weeks or twice a month. If you got all your pay in January, you’d have to figure out a way to make it last so you don’t run out with a month or two left in the year. The four per cent rule is a way to make a lump sum of retirement savings last for the long haul.
The way that people used to deal with volatility in stock prices was to invest in bonds and stocks equally, as the article describes. Because interest rates have been low for decades, and bond yields have declined in recent years, modern “balanced” funds tend to add in some bond alternatives that deliver steady, bond-like income, like real estate, infrastructure and mortgages. If stocks pull back, these sources still generate reliable regular income.
A good example is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan’s Balanced Fund. The asset mix of the fund includes not only bonds, but real estate, mortgages, infrastructure and money market exposure, as well as Canadian, U.S. and international equities. This multi-category investment vehicle is a fine place to store your retirement nest egg. Check out SPP today.
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Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.