The “4% Rule” is a common rule in personal finance. It’s a basic rule of thumb that suggests you can withdraw 4% from a well diversified portfolio and have a reasonably high chance of having money left over in 30-years.
Like any personal finance rule, it’s a bit of an oversimplification of a rule that contains many nuances. This rule is based on a famous study called “The Trinity Study”. That study was built on top of the work of Bill Bengen who used historical stock/bond/inflation rates to determine that a retiree can withdraw 4% of their initial portfolio value, adjusted for inflation each year, and have a reasonably high chance of success.
This is an amazing piece of work and has enabled many individuals to formulate their own retirement plans. But for Canadians it might be too low & too pessimistic.
When using the 4% rule it’s important to remember that “success” in the Trinity Study and in Bengen’s analysis means that there is at least $1 left after 30-years. It does not mean that investment principal will be left untouched. It’s very possible that a retiree could end up with just $1 in their account after 30-years and that would be considered success.
The nice thing about the 4% rule is that it’s pretty easy to find your target “retirement number”. All you have to do is estimate your annual retirement spending (including tax!) and multiplying by 25. If I wanted to retire with $50k/year before tax, according to the 4 percent rule, I would need $1,250,000 (25x $50,000/year)
The issue with the 4% withdrawal rule is that for Canadians it’s too low, it’s too pessimistic, and it leads people to forget about other types of retirement income and perhaps save too much. If you’re retiring in your 50’s to early 60’s then you could start withdrawing at a higher rate and still be successful.
(Disclaimer: Everyone’s situation is different. What works for one retiree may not work for another. Make sure to review your retirement plans with an advice-only financial planner to ensure your plan is successful)
Retirees in their 50’s or early 60’s will be eligible for two large government benefits just a few years after retirement. CPP and OAS can easily provide 25%+ of a retirees annual spending. Ignoring these benefits will mean you might save too much! Aiming for a portfolio that is 25x your annual spending is overkill because it doesn’t take into account these large government benefits.
For many retirees in their 50’s and early 60’s they can withdrawal MORE than 4% from their portfolio at the beginning of retirement. This is because a few years down the road they’ll be eligible for CPP and OAS. Once these benefits kick in their withdrawal rate will be much, much lower.
But, the earlier you retire the closer to the 4 percent withdrawal rate you need to be. Retiring early means you need to have closer to 25x your annual spending to bridge the gap between early retirement and government benefits. Bridging a 5-year gap between age 55, when retirement starts, and age 60, the earliest CPP can begin, is much different than retiring at 45 and waiting 15+ years for CPP.
Not only does retiring early create a larger gap between your retirement date and CPP/OAS but there are other risks too. One of the biggest risks is a change to OAS.
OAS is funded through government revenue. This means it’s not guaranteed the same way CPP is guaranteed. In fact, we’ve already seen OAS change twice in the last decade. OAS briefly went from age 65 to age 67 and then back again. This didn’t affect people who were already 55 but for those 55 and under they saw their earliest OAS date pushed later and later.
Still, for anyone in their early 50’s to early 60’s it’s reasonable to assume CPP and OAS will be available in its current form (but nothing is 100% guaranteed!)
Let’s look at two scenarios, one where retirement starts at age 55 and the initial withdrawal rate is above the “4% safe withdrawal rate”, and a second scenario where retirement starts at age 45 with the same withdrawal rate. For each scenario we’ll look at the success rate (how likely it is that we won’t run out of money before age 100).
Taxes and benefit claw backs are one of the largest expenses that a retiree will face. But with some careful planning we can minimize the impact of these expenses in retirement. Minimizing taxes and benefit claw backs will mean that a retiree can retire on less, spend more in retirement, and have a more secure retirement.
The median income for a retiree is around $36,050 for an individual and $64,800 for a couple but each source of income is taxed very differently. Even with the same income, one retiree could pay way more tax than another retiree even with the exact same income.
When it comes to retirement planning there are a couple of important strategies that we always want to follow. We always want to aim for 50/50 income splitting in retirement and we always want to be very careful about the types/amounts of retirement income when a retiree is eligible for GIS.
When planning tax strategies for retirement we always want to look at the marginal effective tax rate, not just income tax rates. Marginal effective tax rate (METR) is the combination of income tax rates and government benefit claw back rates. METR is the combined impact of tax & benefits on the next $1 of income.
METR is the most important factor to consider when creating tax strategies for retirement. At the end of this post we’ll look at marginal effective tax rate for a couple of specific retirement scenarios.
Managing finances in a relationship is hard isn’t it? Financial issues are one of the most common factors leading to divorce. Two different people can have very unique views on money and partners in a relationship are no exception.
Everyone values money a little bit differently. We all spend money in different ways. You might prioritize good food while I might prioritize expensive clothes. Couples have different priorities when it comes to money and if those aren’t communicated then its easy for this to cause resentment, anger and frustration between partners.
My wife Sue and I have been managing our money together for 10+ years and I feel we’re pretty successful at it. We still have disagreements, and we each manage our money completely differently, but we have a good system in place to ensure we’re communicating regularly about our finances.
Recently Sue and I were on the Because Money podcast talking about how we manage money as a couple. Sue and I talked to Sandi Martin and John Robertson about a few of the things we do on a regular basis to make money less stressful for us as a couple. You can listen to the whole podcast, but I’ve summarized a few of the main things below.
There are a lot of risks that we face in retirement (including early retirement). When you enter retirement, there are lots of changes happening all at once. Along with big personal changes, and lifestyle changes, there are also big changes happening to your finances. After you enter retirement one of the biggest financial changes you’ll face is a shift from a regular income source (eg. employment) to an income source based entirely on your own savings and pension. Making this switch can create a few risks, one of those risks is the risk of running out of money.
One of the biggest risks facing retirees is something called sequence of returns risk. When a good portion of your retirement income comes from your own savings this is the biggest risk a retiree can face. But what does “sequence of returns risk” mean exactly?
Before we talk about sequence of returns risk it’s important to understand that most retirement plans are based on an assumed (and constant) investment return each year. This investment return is usually assumed to happen in a straight line with the same percentage return each year. An assumed return of return of 5% would be 5% per year starting on the day you retire, but in reality your investment return is going to fluctuate from year to year, and this is where the risk comes from.
Over the short-term you will probably see your investment return fluctuate greatly from year to year. Instead of seeing investment returns of +5%, +5%, +5%, +5%, +5%, you might see +20%, +2%, -10%, +15%, +1%. In this case the average return is still +5%, but there were some huge swings from year to year. “Sequence of returns risk” refers to this sequence, the actual investment returns you see year after year.
The big risk for retirees happens when the sequence is negative for a few years in a row. Even if average investment returns recover over the long-term, that short period of negative returns can have a devastating effect on a retiree’s portfolio.
It’s the new year! Time to kick start your finances!
This ten day routine will help you shift your finances into high gear. This routine is aggressive, ambitious, and a bit challenging. This routine will cover all the basics of a good financial routine. Having a routine for your money is one of the best ways to improve your finances this year.
If ten days seems like too much (and it probably is!) then consider spreading these steps over ten weeks or even ten months to make things a bit easier. The key is to find a pace that works for you. It’s better to take a bit more time if it means you’ll stick to your new routine.
If it seems daunting then consider pairing up with a friend, co-worker, or getting the help of a financial coach. At PlanEasy we offer custom financial coaching & advice for our clients. As a new client, we’ll create a 12-month program tailored specifically to you and your goals. If you struggle with your financial routine then a bit of coaching & advice might be exactly what you need to improve your finances this year.
There is never a bad time to start saving for retirement, but when is the BEST time to start planning? We’ve been told to start saving & investing for retirement from a very young age, the earlier the better, but when do you actually start planning for retirement itself? When do you start to think about income, expenses, taxes and government benefits during your retirement years?
Retirement can be very complex. When you reach retirement it’s pretty easy to have 6-10 different income sources, all with different tax treatments and claw back rules. One income source can be tax free while the other is fully taxed. Some retirement income is counted when calculating government benefit claw backs while others aren’t. These rules can make it difficult to estimate how much you can expect in retirement.
Retirees usually have their own source of retirement income from TFSAs, RRSPs, LIRAs, RRIFs, and non-registered accounts. Plus, they have government retirement programs like CPP, OAS and GIS. Then there are government benefits like the GST/HST credit and other senior’s benefits. And on top of that there are defined benefit pensions and annuities too.
With all these different income sources, it can get a little confusing. It can be difficult to know exactly how much can you expect in retirement income, how much will be lost to taxes, and how that matches up with retirement expenses.
As you get closer to retirement it can be extremely helpful to have a retirement plan in place. A plan that integrates all these different sources of income, calculates taxes and government benefits, and ensures you can reach your retirement spending goals. But can you reach a point where it’s too late to plan for retirement?
When is the best time to plan for retirement?