Retirement Income Rules: Easy Isn't Always Effective

Much has been written about the “4% Rule” for retirement withdrawals. Its a simple rule that says withdrawal 4% of an account during year one of retirement, increase the distribution annually by the rate of inflation, and
the portfolio should last 30 years.  I appreciate the rule’s simplicity, but it has no basis in the unique, dynamic economic realities faced in
retirement.  A retirement in 1981 was followed by two decades of market gains. This tail-wind gave many retirees a favorable wind for a relaxing retirement. But, retire in January 2000, and nearly 40% of your assets were soon swallowed by those same markets. This retirement environment created high anxiety for many of the newly retired.  So, what’s a retiree to do?

No Cookie Cutter Approach: Financial planning firms, such as OSBORN Wealth Management, prefer using an approach specific to a client’s needs and risk tolerance. There are often many moving pieces to retirement income planning, and flexibility is a key component, often overlooked.  But to get you thinking of some possibilities, here are two basic building blocks.

Market Based Planning: A 4-5% rate of withdrawal, in the first year of retirement, may be a good start point, but subsequent withdrawals should be based on anticipated life expectancy and investment performance. The retiree of 1981 fame, who retired with $100,000 and held fast to the 4% rule, saw her $ 4,000 withdrawal grow to $ 5,700 after 10 years.  A nice increase, but additional gains could have been safely enjoyed. But what goes up, also goes down - especially in a market void of guarantees. An income plan, such as this, would need to acknowledge how market movements might affect income. And, it would need to incorporate areas of guaranteed income from sources such as Social Security, pensions or annuities.

Dividend Growth: Continuing our premise of a 4% rule, it is possible to create a portfolio of high quality dividend growth stocks which provide an initial cash flow nearing 4%, and historic increases with inflation. It’s important to understand that there are two distinct aspects of stock investing; dividend income and price appreciation. Longterm dividend payment histories are created by a company’s ability to be profitable, and its policy to distribute profits to shareholders. In essence, the company is working for you.  Creating a portfolio of Dividend Achievers and Divident Aristocrats, provides access to companies with long histories of paying and increasing dividend payment to shares holders.

Set it and Forget it:  Few retirees have amassed amounts of wealth sufficient to cruise through retirement on auto-pilot -- economies and inflation (not to mention life, in general) are too ever changing. And, leaving behind regular paychecks for 30 years of retirement can be unsettling. And, it should be. Who can look back on any 30 year period and claim it unfolded exactly as anticipated? So, why should a 30-year retirement be any different?  Retirees deserve more than a simple online calculator or a product based sales solution. Creating a retirement income plan just isn't that simple.


OSBORN Wealth Management is a fee only advisory firm dedicated to providing conservative asset management, experienced retirement planning and unbiased financial advice. Blog posts are intended for informational and educational purposes, only, and are not an offer to sell. As individual's circumstances are always unique, please consult a professional before embarking on any changes to your investment, planning, tax or legal situation. For questions on this Blog post, or general inquiries about our professional advisory services, please give us a call at 219-362-8567 or email me at

SYNERGOS Financial Services d/b/a OSBORN Wealth Management is a Registered Investment Advisor currently registered in the states of Indiana and Michigan. The firm provides fee-only portfolio management and advisory services, and is not associated with any banks or broker-dealers. For more information, please view our current ADV filing.

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