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Summer 2023  Volume 16, Number 2        


Use the 4% Rule to Secure Your Financial Future

Visions of a fulfilling retirement often include travel, leisurely pursuits, and quality time with loved ones.

However, actually achieving this goal can seem overwhelming, especially if you aren’t sure how much you need to save. The 4% rule is a widely accepted guideline that provides a practical approach to retirement planning. This article delves into the 4% rule, its applications, and how working backward can help you establish and reach your retirement savings goals.

Demystifying the 4% Rule

The 4% rule is a popular benchmark in retirement planning, suggesting that retirees should withdraw 4% of their investment portfolio during their first year of retirement, adjusting the amount annually for inflation. Historically, adhering to the 4% rule has led to a high likelihood of sustaining retirement savings for at least 30 years. Since its introduction in the mid-90s, the 4% rule has faced scrutiny and debate. Some financial planners now recommend a more conservative withdrawal rate of 3.3% due to factors such as increased life expectancy and potential shifts in Social Security benefits. Regardless of the percentage used, the rule remains a valuable starting point for retirement planning.

A Practical Approach to Retirement Planning: Working Backward with the 4% Rule

Determining how much you need to save for retirement can be simplified by working backward using the 4% rule. This method allows you to set your retirement savings goal based on estimated expenses and sources of income during retirement. The following steps illustrate how to apply this approach effectively:

1. Estimate Your Annual Expenses in Retirement

Begin by listing your anticipated annual expenses during retirement, including housing, healthcare, groceries, medications, transportation, travel, and other discretionary spending. Remember to account for potential healthcare and long-term care costs, which can significantly impact your financial needs.

2. Factor in Social Security Benefits

Use the Social Security Administration’s online calculator to estimate your future benefits based on your current income and planned retirement age. Subtract your expected annual Social Security benefits from your total estimated yearly expenses to calculate the amount you’ll need to withdraw from your retirement savings each year.

3. Calculate Your Total Retirement Savings Goal

Apply the 4% rule (or the more conservative 3.3% rule) by dividing your annual withdrawal amount by the chosen percentage to determine the total amount you’ll need to save for retirement.

An Example in Action

Imagine you are 40 years old, earn $60,000 annually, and want to retire at 65. You want to estimate how much you should save yearly for your retirement. You determine your target savings amount using the 4% rule to work backward. First, you calculate your annual retirement expenses, totaling $35,000 for housing, healthcare, groceries, medications, transportation, travel, and discretionary spending.

Next, you consult the Social Security Administration’s online calculator to estimate your annual benefits. Based on your age, income, and planned retirement date, the calculator estimates you will receive approximately $18,000. So, you’ll need to withdraw $17,000 from your retirement savings each year to cover your expenses.

Applying the 4% rule, you divide $17,000 by 0.04, resulting in a retirement savings goal of $425,000. For a more conservative approach using the 3.3% rule, divide $17,000 by 0.033, resulting in a goal of $515,152.

Achieving Your Retirement Savings Goals

With a clear understanding of your retirement savings target, you can devise a strategic plan to achieve your goal. Online tools can help you determine how much to save each month based on your current age, retirement age, initial investment, and expected rate of return.

Retirement savings vehicles like a 401(k) and IRA allow your investments to grow tax-deferred or tax-free, depending on the account type. In other words, if you have a traditional 401 (k) or IRA, you don’t pay taxes on these funds until you withdraw them. Even better, when you have a Roth 401 (k) or IRA (which are funded with money that’s already been taxed), you pay no tax on the money you withdraw or on any of the gains your investments earned.

The power of compounding interest should also be considered when saving for retirement. As your investments grow, the interest earned on your savings is reinvested, allowing your money to grow at an increasing rate over time. This compound growth can significantly impact your retirement savings and help you reach your goal more quickly.

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In this issue:

This Just In...Study Reveals Total Lifetime Medicare Costs

Use the 4% Rule to Secure Your Financial Future

New DEA Rules Could Reduce Telehealth Access

Why You Should Buy Life and Disability Insurance Together

Biden Administration and Congress Attempt to Secure Future of Medicare




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