The 4% or the 7% Retirement Rule: Which One is Best for You?

Planning for retirement requires careful consideration, with the average American holding about $141,542 in their retirement savings. However, reality suggests that most people have considerably less, with median 401(k) plan balances hovering around $35,345. 

While external factors influencing how much you can save may be out of your control, understanding and implementing effective retirement withdrawal strategies can help you make the most of what you have and ensure a comfortable retirement.

Two of the most commonly discussed rules of thumb in this arena are the 4% and 7% rules. These retirement income strategies are valuable for calculating the safe withdrawal rate from your retirement savings. 

Let’s delve deeper into these rules, their applications, and how they may affect how long your money will last using the 4% rule or the 7% rule.

Understanding the 7% Rule for Retirement

The 7% rule for retirement represents one of the more aggressive annual withdrawal rates of your initial portfolio value, particularly in a market characterized by a low price-to-earnings ratio. This rule not only promotes financial independence post-retirement but is also useful when predicting future long-term returns of stock investments over cycles of 15 years or more.

Let’s illustrate this with a simple example: if you have $100,000 in your retirement savings, under the 7% rule, you would withdraw $7,000 each year. But what if the market gets volatile and your portfolio value drops to $82,000? Your $7,000 withdrawal limit would now represent 8.5% of your portfolio value.

calculating retirement withdrawals

The 4% Rule in Retirement: An Exploration

An integral part of retirement planning is striking the right balance in spending to ensure financial independence throughout your golden years. This is where the 4% retirement rule comes into play. According to this rule, you should withdraw 4% from your total investment portfolio in the first year of retirement.

Though the 4% retirement rule provides a guideline on how much you should spend in retirement to avoid depleting your savings, it’s worth exploring other investment withdrawal strategies with a reputable wealth management firm. These strategies can help you calculate a safe retirement withdrawal rate that aligns with your spending habits and financial goals.

When applying the 4% rule, you need to consider various factors: How long are you planning for? What does your investment portfolio look like? How confident are you about the plan? What potential future changes might impact your plan? Moreover, you need to estimate retirement expenses and consider the inflation rate to use for retirement planning.

Does the 4% Rule Still Hold True?

While the principles of the 4% retirement rule can guide your retirement spending, it’s not universally applicable. Its assumptions may not match with every retirement situation. Some of the limitations of the 4% rule include its rigidity, its 30-year horizon assumption, reliance on historical market returns, and its largely hypothetical nature, assuming a portfolio comprising 50% bonds and 50% stocks.

safe withdrawal rate

The 4% Rule or the 7% Rule: Which One is Best for You?

Choosing between the 4% and 7% rules for retirement largely depends on your personal circumstances, spending flexibility, and risk tolerance. The 4% rule might be best for individuals less flexible with their spending and more averse to the risk of outliving their savings.

On the other hand, the 7% rule could be more suitable for those who can tolerate higher risks or probabilities of failure in the future because they don’t expect to outlive their savings. Regardless of which rule you choose, consulting with a professional retirement planning advisor can be beneficial in aligning your retirement withdrawal strategy with your financial goals.

Tax Planning

Navigating the complex world of taxes can be challenging. That’s where Interactive Wealth comes in. We provide comprehensive tax planning services to help you minimize your tax liability and keep more of your hard-earned money.

Our team of tax professionals will guide you through tax laws and strategies, making them easy to understand and leverage for your benefit.

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Rethinking Your Withdrawal Strategy

Considering inflation, health costs, income drawdown, and the availability of additional resources, it is crucial to revisit your withdrawal strategy periodically. Doing so helps ensure your retirement withdrawal rate calculation aligns with changes in your situation and allows your savings to last throughout your retirement.

Various rules of thumb for investment are meant to ease the process of understanding and planning for retirement. But, in the real sense, the rule should be readjusted according to the retirement situation at hand. That’s why it’s imperative to rethink your dynamic withdrawal strategy, especially if you’re going to outlive your money. 

Other reasons that should prompt you to rethink your withdrawal strategy include

Inflation: Your retirement spend-down rates should match the foregoing inflation if you want the money to last. This means withdrawing the earnings of your savings over and above the inflation rate. For instance, you should withdraw 2% if you earn 8% from your savings, and the foregoing inflation rate is 6%  

optimal withdrawal strategy for retirement income portfolios

Income drawdown: Higher income drawdown rates can be achieved by leaving your money invested in pension funds instead of buying an annuity. This can help you outlive your money or pass it to beneficiaries. 

Health costs: The recommended withdrawal retirement rate for individuals with underlying health conditions should be flexible to accommodate fluctuating annual medical costs. 

Availability of additional resources: Retirees with other resources besides their savings account, such as the social security fund or an income-generating business can have generally higher withdrawal rates that are sustainable. 

Calculating Your Safe and Optimal Withdrawal Rate 

The 4% rule can be an effective starting point in calculating a safe withdrawal rate for those aged 65 and above. However, an individualized retirement withdrawal strategy, which takes into account your unique financial situation, may yield a more accurate safe withdrawal rate calculation.

That said, here is the formula for SWR retirement calculation:

Safe withdrawal rate (SWR) = (annual withdrawal amount ÷ total savings)

IRA Planning

Planning for retirement? An Individual Retirement Account (IRA) can be a powerful tool in your retirement savings strategy. But, navigating the rules and regulations can be complex. Interactive Wealth is here to guide you through it.

Our IRA Planning services are designed to help you make the most out of your IRA, understanding its benefits, limits, and the best strategies for your personal situation.

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You can use this formula to find a withdrawal rate that sustains comfortable living and ensures that your money lasts for the longest time possible. Assuming you have $800,000 in 401(k) saving and your annual withdrawal projection is $35,000 —using the above formula, your safe 401k withdrawal rate will be:

SWR = (35,000 ÷ 800,00)= 4.3%

However, if you need more money from your retirement income portfolios, say $45,000 instead of $35,000, but still want to abide by the 4% rule, you would want to save beyond $800,000. To get an estimate of how much you’ll need in retirement savings, rearrange the formula this way:

Annual withdrawal amount ÷ SWR = total savings 

45,000 ÷ 0.04 = 1,125,000

This means you’ll need an additional $325,000 above your initial $800,000 target. However, calculations alone aren’t enough. Get in touch with an IRA retirement planning expert for more advice on how much you should withdraw from 401k annually. 

Final Thoughts

Successfully managing your retirement savings requires thoughtful planning. Spending too much can lead to depleting your savings too soon, while too little can mean missing out on enjoying your retirement to the fullest. 

Experts at Interactive Wealth Advisors can provide you with conflict-free advice on how to navigate your unique situation, manage your wealth, and ensure a successful retirement. Reach out to us today to get started.


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