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Frequent Contributor

Re: Bengen's 4% Distribution Method


@Mustang wrote:

@PaulR888 

If I understand this correctly Merriman allows you to pick and choose. You’re not picking a specific fund.  Is that right?  I think 30% international is a pretty large share.  I compared the rates in the 60/40 column to Wellington.  They seem to go back and forth on which did better.  Table 7 corresponds the closest to the spreadsheets I’m been making.  It’s a $40,000 withdrawal adjusted for inflation. The 60/40 column gave account ending balance numbers.  I altered one of my spreadsheets to compare.  Starting in 1970 instead of 1968 Vanguard Wellington was successful and provided inflation adjusted returns for the entire 28 year period.  Wellington’s ending balance in 1997 was $2,220,000 and the 60/40 column’s was $4,364,000.

 I then compared the 40/60 column to Wellesley Income Fund.  It provided exactly the same inflation adjusted withdrawals as Wellington.  It’s 1997 balance was $5,168,000 and the 40/60 column’s balance was $3,543,000.

That was an interesting exercise. This and the spreadsheets I’m working on has really increased my respect for Vanguard Wellesley Income Fund.


Paul:  Correct, Mustang.  Merriman has a podcast on the Ultimate Buy and Hold Strategy where he constructs a portfolio by adding 10 equity asset classes.  Here is link to chart I use.  Reminder this is all data assembled by Dimensional Fund Advisors not Merriman himself.  This exercise helps you construct a defensive, diversified all equity portfolio.  You must add bonds to your comfort level.  My equity only portfolio has 30% Int'l, 25% REITs and 14% BDCs.  Adding 50% bonds, these become 15%, 12.5% and 7% respectively of overall PV.  

link

 

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Re: Bengen's 4% Distribution Method


@SJ60 wrote:

Very interesting discussion overall, but for me the issue I am struggling with at present is whether the past 30-40 years are a good representation of bond results in the future.  Stock results for over two centuries have remained in the 6-7% nominal, 4-5% real range over every 25-30 year period, so I can reasonably expect them to continue to do so.  Not so with bonds, and with the Fed promising ZIRP/NIRP, should I expect the Bengen rules, or other similar rules, to remain valid?

I am holding at 60:40 for now, but I am thinking of increasing my equity exposure to 70% or even 75% during the next downturn, and maybe shifting some of the FI to TIPS.  Since PRWCX and VWENX between them hold 65% of my assets, and I'm not touching them, I can only tinker with the AA of the remaining 35%.


Paul:  For me, I am not adjusting any past data for what you say about bonds.  Besides I am not smart enough to even know how to do it.  I believe in smart, industrious bond managers to find a way to do a good job with return and yield.  I use 33% bond OEFs and add 15% to 17% bond CEFs for added kick over the long run.  Quite different from the conservative mix of bonds used by Dimensional Fund Advisors presented by Merriman.  But I hope better results over the long run albeit with more volatility over the short run.  

With one exception.  In Merriman's Fine Tuning Table I posted, in the second box at the bottom, there is the compounded Annualized Return.  To temper one's expectations, Merriman has suggested a reduction of 2% for planning purposes going forward.

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Re: Bengen's 4% Distribution Method

To compare Wellesley Income Fund to Wellington I had to change Wellington again.  Using a 4% initial withdrawal Wellington failed to make 30 years starting in 1968.  When comparing it to Merriman’s 60/40 column it succeeded for a 28 year retirement starting in 1970.  Wellesley Income Fund didn’t start until 1971.  To compare the two I reset Wellington’s start date to 1971.  It succeeded for a 30 year retirement.  1968 is a great example of a sequence of return failure.

Since the beginning portfolio balance is $1,000,000, the initial withdrawal is 4%, and the inflation rate is the same for both funds withdrawals in dollars are exactly the same.  They start at $40,000 in 1971 and end at $168,684 in 2000.  Over that 30 year period, because of inflation the imaginary retiree needs over four times the money to buy pretty much the same things.

So the difference is in the ending balances.  At the end of the 30 year retirement, Wellington’s portfolio balance was $2,868,000, Wellesley Income Fund’s was $5,986,000.   The results were very different if the retirement period started in 1990.  Wellington's ending balance in 2019 was $7,504,000.  Wellesley Income's was $5,212,000.  Each fund has its own strength.  They seem to compliment each other well.

year

Beg Bal

withdraw

return%

Wellesley End Bal

inflation%

Wellington End Bal

1971

$1,000,000

$40,000

15.03

$1,104,288

3.3

$1,045,248

1972

$1,104,288

$41,320

9.75

$1,166,607

3.4

$1,113,155

1973

$1,166,607

$42,725

-3.49

$1,084,659

8.7

$943,799

1974

$1,084,659

$46,442

-6.46

$971,148

12.3

$738,255

1975

$971,148

$52,154

17.51

$1,079,910

6.9

$858,861

1976

$1,079,910

$55,753

23.28

$1,262,581

4.9

$990,714

1977

$1,262,581

$58,485

4.27

$1,255,511

6.7

$891,398

1978

$1,255,511

$62,403

3.61

$1,236,178

9

$873,097

1979

$1,236,178

$68,020

6.2

$1,240,585

13.3

$914,085

1980

$1,240,585

$77,066

11.88

$1,301,744

12.5

$1,026,017

1981

$1,301,744

$86,700

8.67

$1,320,389

8.9

$966,652

1982

$1,320,389

$94,416

23.3

$1,511,625

3.8

$1,086,370

1983

$1,511,625

$98,004

18.6

$1,676,555

3.8

$1,221,325

1984

$1,676,555

$101,728

16.64

$1,836,879

3.9

$1,239,394

1985

$1,836,879

$105,695

27.41

$2,205,701

3.8

$1,457,143

1986

$2,205,701

$109,712

18.34

$2,480,394

1.1

$1,595,359

1987

$2,480,394

$110,918

-1.92

$2,323,982

4.4

$1,518,286

1988

$2,323,982

$115,799

13.61

$2,508,717

4.4

$1,628,428

1989

$2,508,717

$120,894

20.93

$2,887,595

4.6

$1,833,161

1990

$2,887,595

$126,455

3.76

$2,864,958

6.1

$1,658,748

1991

$2,864,958

$134,169

21.57

$3,319,821

3.1

$1,885,142

1992

$3,319,821

$138,328

8.67

$3,457,328

2.9

$1,885,337

1993

$3,457,328

$142,340

14.65

$3,800,635

2.7

$1,978,650

1994

$3,800,635

$146,183

-4.44

$3,492,194

2.7

$1,823,488

1995

$3,492,194

$150,130

28.91

$4,308,256

2.5

$2,224,229

1996

$4,308,256

$153,883

9.42

$4,545,715

3.3

$2,405,535

1997

$4,545,715

$158,961

20.19

$5,272,440

1.7

$2,768,453

1998

$5,272,440

$161,663

11.84

$5,715,892

1.6

$2,915,433

1999

$5,715,892

$164,250

-4.14

$5,321,804

2.7

$2,637,284

2000

$5,321,804

$168,685

16.17

$5,986,379

3.4

$2,867,772

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Re: Bengen's 4% Distribution Method


@SJ60 wrote:

Very interesting discussion overall, but for me the issue I am struggling with at present is whether the past 30-40 years are a good representation of bond results in the future.  Stock results for over two centuries have remained in the 6-7% nominal, 4-5% real range over every 25-30 year period, so I can reasonably expect them to continue to do so.  Not so with bonds, and with the Fed promising ZIRP/NIRP, should I expect the Bengen rules, or other similar rules, to remain valid?

I am holding at 60:40 for now, but I am thinking of increasing my equity exposure to 70% or even 75% during the next downturn, and maybe shifting some of the FI to TIPS.  Since PRWCX and VWENX between them hold 65% of my assets, and I'm not touching them, I can only tinker with the AA of the remaining 35%.


Absolutely not.  1980 was about the peak in the historical inflation as well as interest rates.  Since then, we've been in what's been called the Great Bond Bull Market, where interest rates across the board have continuously fallen.  You saw that reflected in the distribution history for VWEHX, which came out in 1979.  What's considered the end of that bull market occurred earlier this year, whenever 30 year Treasuries bottomed out at 0.99% on March 9th!  Here is an interesting chart:

Treasuries.jpg

Most everyone expects  this low, or negative, interest rate environment to continue, going forward, especially given all the liquidity sloushing around these days as a result of the virus.

One need only look towards Japan to see ifn a developed economy/country can survive on zero and negative interest rates for a long period of time.  The Japanese economy hit it's peak in 1990, as did their stock market, the Nikkei 225 then their interest rates went to zero, and have stayed there ever since.  The ^N225 peaked at 39,000 at the end of 1989 and didn't get back above 20,000 until 2015.  Even so, it's now trying to break and stay above 24,000.

For long term retirement planning, I wouldn't rely on ANY past historical performance data for the bond market.  But I would assume current bond coupon interest and bond fund distributions, seen last year, to hold going forward, at least 1 year!

ElLobo, de la casa de la toro caca grande
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Re: Bengen's 4% Distribution Method

@SJ60 

I haven't read anything that suggests that bonds will provide much return but they are still needed to reduce risk.  In our discussion about Guyton's modified 4% Distribution Method earlier, he said that bonds were not there for income but stability.  He said the most important thing they can do is hold their value.  In market downturns they are sold to give stocks time to recover.

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Re: Bengen's 4% Distribution Method

I'm in agreement with you there - that the bonds are for safety, not return.  I just figure that at a withdrawal rate of 3%, I have 10 years of safety with 30% bond/cash allocation. Even at a 4% withdrawal rate, I'd have a 6 year safety buffer with just 25% bonds/cash.  So, maybe a 70-75% equity allocation would be OK - for me, everyone's risk capacity and tolerance is different. 

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Re: Bengen's 4% Distribution Method


@Mustang wrote:

@SJ60 

I haven't read anything that suggests that bonds will provide much return but they are still needed to reduce risk.  In our discussion about Guyton's modified 4% Distribution Method earlier, he said that bonds were not there for income but stability.  He said the most important thing they can do is hold their value.  In market downturns they are sold to give stocks time to recover.


Actually, bonds are held in a portfolio to provide an optimum risk adjusted return.  Think efficient frontiers.  Historically, a 15/85 stock/bond market index portfolio provided the highest Sharpe Ratio.  Here is the PV link to the MVO analysis.  All of the retirement withdrawal analysis assume stock and bond market index funds are used.  They also assume yearly rebalancing.  Holding them to give stocks 'time to recover' isn't the point.  Besides, whenever interest rates are going up, bond fund values go down!

In terms of this thread, the optimum risk adjusted return retirement portfolio is a 15/85 stock/bond market index fund portfolio.  Increasing the stock allocation up to 50% gives you much more expected return but at a much higher risk (Sharpe Ratio is lower.)  In 'efficient' terms, you are not getting paid enough for the additional risk you are taking on!  8-))

At a 50/50 allocation, the historical Sharpe Ratio was 0.702.  At the most optimum allocation (15/85), Sharpe's Ratio went up to 0.902.

Historically speaking, all of this ties together.  Think back to 1965, the start of the time period that gives each of us cause to reflect on Sequence Of Return risks.  As Bill Bernstein pointed out, stock market returns were OK, starting in 1965 going forward to 1980.  Unfortunately, inflation also took off over that time period, so the REAL, inflation adjusted return of the stock market was essentially zero.  Couple that with a real rate of retirement withdrawal that was surging up with that high inflation caused the portfolio survivability to tank.  This was/is the reason that, whenever a retiree religiously takes more than a 4% real, inflation adjusted rate of retirement withdrawal, the probability of success goes DOWN from 100%.

Back then, whenever retirees were counting on their bonds and bond funds to provide stability, they found those bond fund values to tank, as interest rates, driven by inflation, went up!  They had to sell low, to cover their withdrawals!  Remember the stories back then of retirees eating Alpo, and all of that?  Those were the times that each of us, in our prime working years, were seeing home mortgage rates in high double digits!  8-)

ElLobo, de la casa de la toro caca grande
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Re: Bengen's 4% Distribution Method

If you don't believe your bond fund will give you good return and/or yield, then perhaps cash or CDs are better for you.

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Re: Bengen's 4% Distribution Method


@Mustang wrote:

@SJ60 

I haven't read anything that suggests that bonds will provide much return but they are still needed to reduce risk.  In our discussion about Guyton's modified 4% Distribution Method earlier, he said that bonds were not there for income but stability.  He said the most important thing they can do is hold their value.  In market downturns they are sold to give stocks time to recover.


The key is to use plain vanilla corp/govt bond funds and keep the effective duration short to minimize NAV movement caused by interest rate changes.  Armstrong recommends funds with duration of no more than 2 years.  My ballast funds have duration of 2-3 years.

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Re: Bengen's 4% Distribution Method

Regarding Int'l %, I just googled and found this from Fidelity.  See model portfolios summary.  

link

And for Schwab, quick google found this:

link

 

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Re: Bengen's 4% Distribution Method

Hi @Mustang ,

We are both looking at this question from different angles which is a good thing.

I use Chained CPI-U data in my calculations. There is a link on the page which explains how to use the data.  I use it to calculate a running percent change from the starting point. After I make a spreadsheet, I will use THIS CALCULATOR for an inflation-indexed sanity-check of the final withdrawal.  The % change Chained-CPI method usually gets we within a hundred dollars of the calculator's value when using quarterly averages.

I remember when folks started to use the total return and annual average method to calculate SWR's, but I have consistently run into accuracy issues that can sometimes be outside my comfort zone when using that method. My preference is to use actual distribution and reinvestment data calculated monthly or quarterly depending on the fund's distribution schedule.  For this reason, I have not been able to find my data preference for VWELX prior to 1980.  It only dates back to 2010 on the Vanguard website.

So, thank you for including a Wellesley column in your table. It is a way to cross check methodology.

Holiday

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Re: Bengen's 4% Distribution Method

@SJ60I share your skepticism about the future returns of bonds. And I'd worry that supercharged bond CEFs will fare even worse. For something that holds value and can be sold without loss to buy discounted stocks, while still earning a decent return, I've relied on QREARX. The strategy has worked very well, but now I'll be holding a lot of cash until QREARX starts heading up again. Not everyone is eligible to buy QREARX, but for those who are it's worth considering as a bond alternative. 

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Re: Bengen's 4% Distribution Method


@SlipSliding wrote:

@Mustang wrote:

@SJ60 

I haven't read anything that suggests that bonds will provide much return but they are still needed to reduce risk.  In our discussion about Guyton's modified 4% Distribution Method earlier, he said that bonds were not there for income but stability.  He said the most important thing they can do is hold their value.  In market downturns they are sold to give stocks time to recover.


The key is to use plain vanilla corp/govt bond funds and keep the effective duration short to minimize NAV movement caused by interest rate changes.  Armstrong recommends funds with duration of no more than 2 years.  My ballast funds have duration of 2-3 years.


I have 1/3 of my bond allocation Laddered to mitigate market risk. 10 years of retirement distributions will be taken from these ladders as each rung matures.  The other 2/3's of my bond allocation is invested with other risks in mind. Like Long-Treasury's for Flight-to-Safety (negatively correlated to stocks), Inflation, yield, and liquidity.

My stock allocation and remaining bond allocations have a long-term (> 10 years) investment horizon.

It is not just about yield. It is also about the relationships between them (pearson's r) that is important to me.

Holiday

 

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Re: Bengen's 4% Distribution Method

Hi @Mustang 

In this spreadsheet, the withdrawal amount is bootstrapped to the % withdrawal rate.   Calculating this way gave some interesting insight. But, more about that in a different post. The purpose of this post is to compare methodology.

VWINX Mustang 2.jpg

I froze the top panes so I could keep the header and scroll to the bottom of your time period for comparison.

Mustang 3.jpg

Wellesley's ending balance comparison after 30 years:

  • You $5,986,379
  • Me $5,868,053
  • Difference $118,325.23 or a difference of 1.98%

We are still close, but I think your inflation calculation may be understating the indexed withdrawal. 

Retirement Withdrawal Comparison after 30 years

  • You $168,635.00
  • Me $173,939.39     (sum of 4 quarterly distributions)
  • Difference $5,304.39 or a difference of 3.05%

So considering this is for a 30 year period, our end results are actually quite close given differences in methodology.

I want to put together a separate post for observations because it is a different topic.  Forgive me for puppy-piling your thread. This exercise has been worth my time for sure.  It is interesting, and I am learning a little more each day.

Thank you,

Holiday

 

 

 

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Re: Bengen's 4% Distribution Method

Holiday ...  Before you migrate off to separate thread, would you provide an executive summary of key conclusions from your analyses.  Thanks.  

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Re: Bengen's 4% Distribution Method


@Holiday wrote:

 

VWEHX 2.jpg

Since the 5% withdrawal rate has been thrown around, and the starting yield of VWEHX was 11%, it seemed reasonable to assume a $500K starting value which would spend 50% of the distribution, and reinvest the rest.

The first negative reinvestment was on 12/31/2001 and the frequency began to increase until all reinvestment distributions were negative around 2011. 


Using

  • distribution data from Vanguard
  • monthly changes in the CPI-U instead of a constant percent adjustment for inflation
  • the end of 1986 as the starting date (so the full income distribution per share at the end of 1987-01 would have been paid)
  • the end of 1987-01 as the first time cash was taken from the account (instead of reducing the initial portfolio value by the first monthly withdrawal)

the first negative reinvestment was at the end of 2004-11 and the last positive reinvestment was at the end of 2005-03. At the end of 2016-12, after 30 years, 60% of the amount taken came from selling shares.

The accuracy of the calculations depend on the accuracy of the distribution data. The distribution data from Yahoo is missing the distributions for some months, such as 2002-11, 2003-01, and 2003-02. A spreadsheet that models taking cash from an account only on the distribution dates in the Yahoo data will fail to take cash for some months.

For some months, the distribution data from Yahoo has a distribution per share about 20% higher than what Vanguard reports. For 2002-04 Yahoo has 0.052 but Vanguard reports 0.04241 (the Morningstar Portfolio Manager uses 0.0424). For 2002-05 Yahoo has 0.051 but Vanguard reports 0.04387 (the Morningstar Portfolio Manager uses 0.0439).

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Re: Bengen's 4% Distribution Method


@Holiday wrote:

Hi @Mustang 

In this spreadsheet, the withdrawal amount is bootstrapped to the % withdrawal rate.   Calculating this way gave some interesting insight. But, more about that in a different post. The purpose of this post is to compare methodology.

VWINX Mustang 2.jpg

I froze the top panes so I could keep the header and scroll to the bottom of your time period for comparison.

Mustang 3.jpg

Wellesley's ending balance comparison after 30 years:

  • You $5,986,379
  • Me $5,868,053
  • Difference $118,325.23 or a difference of 1.98%

We are still close, but I think your inflation calculation may be understating the indexed withdrawal. 

Retirement Withdrawal Comparison after 30 years

  • You $168,635.00
  • Me $173,939.39     (sum of 4 quarterly distributions)
  • Difference $5,304.39 or a difference of 3.05%

So considering this is for a 30 year period, our end results are actually quite close given differences in methodology.

I want to put together a separate post for observations because it is a different topic.  Forgive me for puppy-piling your thread. This exercise has been worth my time for sure.  It is interesting, and I am learning a little more each day.

Thank you,

Holiday


That isn't puppy-piling.  I'm thrilled we are that close.  I was concerned that we might be using different inflation rates so I did a spot check of the inflation rates that I'm using.  They appear to be the same as the Dec.to Dec.rates in your link.  If you are doing the calculations by the month or quarter then the difference is probably in the compounding.  I believe for my succession plan a once a year calculation is plenty.  Thanks again for sharing your work.

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Re: Bengen's 4% Distribution Method


@Mustang wrote:

Great discussion.  It was pointed out that Wellington is not made up of exactly the same things that Bengen used.  That is true.  No investment portfolio can be exactly what Bengen and others used in their tests.

In Bengen's tests he said that the 4% rule with a 75% stock portfolio failed two time but resulted in an average ending balance that was 124% higher than the 50% stock portfolio.  The failures were in the high inflation years.  Like I did before I went back to 1968 but this time did a complete 30 year retirement period.  Here is an example of a failure.  It almost lasted 25 years (partial payment in year 25) but didn't make 30.


In Determining Withdrawal Rates Using Historical Data by William Bengen wrote that using 75% stocks instead of 50%: "The only penalties occur in portfolio year 1966, which is shortened by one year, from 33 to 32 years, and in 1969, which is shortened from 36 years to 34. All the other scenario years have equal or greater longevity."

Although, with an initial withdrawal rate of 4%, the 75% stock portfolio did not last as long as the 50% stock portfolio for two starting years, the 75% stock portfolio lasted at least 30 years for all starting years, without any failures.

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Re: Bengen's 4% Distribution Method

This spreadsheet is actually quite an interesting tool. I bootstrapped the SWR to the initial investment (in hindsight as it should be) so the initial periodic withdrawal can be indexed to inflation from the starting point. 

This is what a 50-1/2 year 4% SWR inflation-indexed withdrawal from VWINX looks like.

VWINX Mustang 4a.jpg

I put a bunch of arrows on the header to help the reader get familiar with the set-up.

I only have two manual inputs which are the initial value and the Annual Withdrawal (SWR) percentage. The header pane is frozen so I can scroll down the rows to look at any point in the 50 year time period.

The first observations:

  • The initial yield of 2.466% is significantly under the 4% SWR
  • The 4% SWR worked for the entire 50-1/2 year period.
  • The portfolio gained 1002% regardless of the initial investment. 

The first conclusions:

  • Initial yield is important with a bond ladder that is held to maturity since the Total Return is known at purchase
  • The initial yield is weakly correlated to the SWR based on the examinations for both WEHLX and VWINX
  • The 4% SWR held true for this 50 year time period.

Next, I went fishing for the maximum SWR that a 2.46% initial yield would support for the same 50 year period.

VWINX Mustang 4b.jpg

I programmed the spreadsheet to automatically change the cell formatting when logic conditions were met. It makes observations easier when fishing for answers to different questions like "what SWR will make it crash after 20 years", or what SWR will give me the best chance to leave $1M to my heirs in 1997?

The portfolio crashed in 2020 with the 4.6501% SWR. The investor who started with a $1,000,000 had to borrow $395.35 from his children to make his monthly bills. Next month, they will put him on the street because their inheritance was spent on fancy cars driven to the county fair so everyone can eat cotton candy.

  • The 4% SWR held up for a 50-1/2 years with a 1002% portfolio balance gain 
  • The 4.6501% SWR crashed after 50-1/2 years with a -100.04% (loss)
  • The 4% inflation-indexed distribution for 2019 was $258,239,51
  • The 4.6501% inflation-indexed distribution for 2019 was $300,210.24

The 4% SWR did hold up over the past 50 years.  While it is unknown if it will continue to do this for the next 50 years, it would be good to note that you are exceeding 4% at your own risk. The best option is to maximize the portfolio balance, and minimize the initial % withdrawal rate. Myself, I am starting with a 3.2% SWR

  • If the math won't work for 1-share, then it won't work for 1,000 shares. The portfolio will crash at the exact same point in time regardless of initial value.
  • If the math does work for 1-share, then the portfolio return will be the same percentage regardless of initial value

While I cannot argue against portfolio a review, I would caution that jumping around because of short time period concerns will probably be counter productive over the long term. Rebalancing by Band width (20%) or annually will help if weakly-correlated (Pearson's R) are held. A balanced fund like VWINX probably does this internally for you.

Thank you,

Holiday

 

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Re: Bengen's 4% Distribution Method


@Holiday wrote:

The 4% SWR did hold up over the past 50 years.  While it is unknown if it will continue to do this for the next 50 years, it would be good to note that you are exceeding 4% at your own risk. The best option is to maximize the portfolio balance, and minimize the initial % withdrawal rate. Myself, I am starting with a 3.2% SWR


I was glad that 4% worked. I would never have thought it would..  From the information I have 3% had a 100% success rate for 40 years.  To get to 50 years I would have guessed 2.5% or even lower. 

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