20% of Older Americans Believe This, and It Could Ruin Their Retirement

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A large portion of baby boomers and Generation X — the two age cohorts currently approaching or entering retirement — share a mistaken belief that could wreck their golden years.

About 20% of Generation Xers and 15% of baby boomers think a professional financial adviser would suggest withdrawing 10% to 15% a year from a portfolio during retirement, according to a recent survey from Fidelity Investments.

Unfortunately, that number is off by a wide margin. In fact, for many years, the popular notion among financial advisers has been that you should draw down no more than 4% of your portfolio each year during your golden years.

And now some experts believe even 4% a year is too aggressive. While a majority of the time, the 4% rule can still succeed in producing a positive account balance after 30 years, according to financial services firm SmartAsset, using an initial withdrawal rate of 3.3%, a retiree with a portfolio split equally between equities and bonds has a 90% probability of maintaining a positive account balance in that same time.

The fact that such a large share of near-retirees think they can safely withdraw 10% or more of their savings annually suggests that millions of people may be in for a shock.

For more information targeted to your specific needs, contact a financial professional that can help you make the right decisions for your situation. With SmartAsset you fill out a short questionnaire and are instantly matched with up to three local fiduciary advisers, all legally bound to work in your best interests.

Even a financial adviser who is wildly optimistic about the future performance of the stock market would be unlikely to recommend anything close to a 10% to 15% withdrawal rate for those planning a long retirement.

Fidelity looked at 776 retirement periods of 28 years between the beginning of 1926 and the end of 2020 and found that, with one exception, in none of those periods could you have withdrawn more than 10% annually and had at least a 90% chance of your money lasting through retirement. Those findings were based on a portfolio that was 50% stocks, 40% bonds and 10% cash.

For instance, if you retired in 1982 — just as one of the greatest bull markets in history was starting — you could have safely withdrawn a little less than 10% and made your money last for a 28-year retirement. But even that golden period did not allow you to confidently withdraw 10% every year.

Fidelity said that over the timeframe of about one century, a 4.5% withdrawal rate would have lasted throughout a 30-year retirement in about 90% of the periods analyzed.

Needless to say, unless luck and fate are truly on your side, you need to dial down your expectations for how much you can spend during retirement.

And here’s what else a skilled financial adviser can provide: clarity. Maybe you haven’t considered what you want to do in retirement (other than sleep late). What might your retirement lifestyle look like: spending time with loved ones, travel, volunteering? Staying where you are now, or relocating? Kicking back 24/7, or starting an encore career?

SmartAsset will match you with a planner to help define your retirement dreams and fund them. Get started by taking this free quiz today.

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