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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Withdrawal Rate (Part 2)

 In the last post, we took a look at some withdrawal rates using actual data over the recent past by examining returns on a diversified portfolio.  The latest update to that data source is the  BlackRock table of asset returns.  As I've said a hundred times, this is an extremely useful resource from which all kinds of questions can be addressed.  Admittedly, it is one path we have come down; but it has been especially rocky at times and gives a bit of insight into how asset classes have performed and how various strategies would have fared.

Along these lines I, thought it would be interesting to go back and look at a retiree who retired in 2000 and decided on a 5% withdrawal rate.  Where would he stand today?  I would also like to introduce another resource that is often used in this research - the Shiller Price/Earnings (P/E) ratio.  This ratio is sometimes used to set the initial withdrawal rate.  Simply, if the ratio is high (stocks potentially overvalued on an historical basis) then, other things being equal, the retiree should start with a lower withdrawal rate (for example 4%).  If the P/E ratio is lower, then a higher initial withdrawal rate should be considered.

Here is a graph of the Shiller P/E ratio:
Source: Online Data - Robert Shiller

CLICK TO ENLARGE  The graph shows that the market P/E in 2000 suggests it was not an especially good time for the retiree to have a high withdrawal rate.  Instead of 5% or higher, the Shiller P/E suggests 4% as a more appropriate rate.  Given this caveat, let us see where the retiree who, in fact, instead chose 5% would stand today if he achieved the BlackRock diversified portfolio returns.  Again, we assume a $1.0 million portfolio starting value and a 2% inflation adjusted income taken on 1/1 of each year.

2000 1000000 50000 950000 0.989 939550
2001 939550 51000 888550 0.952 845900
2002 845900 52020 793880 0.902 716080
2003 716080 53060 663020 1.235 818829
2004 818829 54122 764707 1.105 845002
2005 845002 55204 789797 1.054 832447
2006 832447 56308 776139 1.13 877037
2007 877037 57434 819603 1.06 868779
2008 868779 58583 810196 0.772 625471
2009 625471 59755 565716 1.208 683385
2010 683385 60950 622435 1.13 703352
2011 703352 62169 641183 1.018 652725
The table shows that the 77-year-old retiree would now have 65.2% of his nest egg left to draw on.  The similar exercise using a 4% withdrawal rate would have 83.6% of the nest egg still available at the end of 2011.

Again, recognizing this is one path, it still yields some valuable insights into varying withdrawal experiences, the potential value of taking into account initial conditions (i.e. the  p/e ratio), and the dynamic nature of the experience of drawing down the nest egg.

Looking back at the Shiller P/E suggests that today's retiree can consider a slightly higher withdrawal rate.  For those interested in doing further research, you may want to consider redoing the results and starting with the 5% rate but not taking an inflation adjustment when markets are down, as suggested by Jon Guyton.

Also, those interested in this research may want to review the Shiller P/E.  It is not, to say the least, your typical trailing 12 months p/e ratio.

Disclosure:  This information is for educational purposes only.  Individuals should do their own research or consult a professional before making investment decisions.

1 comment:

  1. Good advice to base the initial withdrawal rate based on the P/E ratio.

    You don't want to withdraw too little or too much and tips such as this are quite useful for the disciplined retiree.