How to Make Your Retirement Funds Bounce Back After Inflation

Most Americans finance their retirement with faith that investing will help their savings keep pace with inflation and institutions will continue to operate as usual. When everything appears at stake, and nothing is definite, it’s hard to be optimistic. The American retirement system is a gamble.

Uncertainty has always existed. Examples of this can be seen in1973, during one of the biggest inflation periods, in 2000, during the dot-com bubble burst, and in 2008, when the housing and financial markets crashed. It’s just as opaque today, with markets down 11.6% so far for this year and inflation at 8.5% in July (easing marginally from June). Bonds normally cushion stock declines, but they haven’t lately.

This year has been disconcerting for retirees due to decreasing stock prices, falling bond prices, and increasing inflation, said Morningstar’s, Christine Benz. Retirees can’t wait like younger workers. When markets fall in the first five years of retirement, significant and irreversible damage can be done, making it more likely a portfolio would be exhausted – partly because there’s less money left when the market (finally) recovers. Later in retirement, the money doesn’t have to last as long; thus, a fall is less dangerous.

T. Rowe Price looked at how retirees fared in other downturns, even under high inflation. Their investments did well or are expected to do well. However, past performance doesn’t predict future results. The firm’s research is based on the 4 percent rule of thumb, which found that retirees who took 4 percent of their retirement portfolio balance in their first year and adjusted it for inflation each year earned a 30-year salary.

T. Rowe Price assessed how investors with a $500,000 portfolio of 60% equities and 40% bonds would do over 30 years if they retired in 1973, 2000, or 2008. They’d all withdraw $1,667 per month, or $20,000 annually, and increase that sum each year by inflation.

The events that occurred1973, with its oil embargo and rising prices, echo today. By September 1974, retirees’ portfolios would have shrunk by 35% to $328,000, and inflation would have increased by 13%. A brutal one-two.

Within a decade of retirement, the seniors’ assets reached $500,000 again. Even after the 2000 slump, the portfolio reached over $1 million after 30 years. Judith Ward, senior financial planner at T. Rowe Price, says everything hinges on a 4% withdrawal rate.

She admitted that retirees spend more early in retirement than later. She added that the study emphasizes starting with a conservative spending plan is needed when your portfolio attests are going down. Spending is a significant and effective lever, she said.

Using the same approach with people who retired in more recent weak markets, such as 2000 and 2008, during which the stock market lost half its value, the portfolios were likewise expected to be sustained so long as retirees have 8-14 years until retirement. (Ms. Ward’s conclusions held for several scenarios, including one with 9% inflation for the remaining 30-year retirement periods.)

Ms. Ward said these scenarios presume investors didn’t modify their behavior owing to heavy market losses. Human nature is to adapt, so retirees may wish to change their plans. That adds safety, she said.

Other experts warn retirees not to take comfort in past results because the future is always uncertain.

Using the past gives false confidence, said David Blanchett, head of retirement research at Prudential Financial’s PGIM. U.S. and Australia have enjoyed two of the best stock markets in the past 100 years. It’s helpful, but you must look ahead. Experts advise a flexible withdrawal strategy, focusing on what you can control at the moment as conditions change.

These tips may assist.


Think of your withdrawals as necessities, desires, and wishes. How much of your necessities are covered by Social Security or pensions? How much do you need to withdraw? Maybe the baseline withdrawal rate is 3 to 4 percent, but your wants are 4 to 6 percent. Have your necessities addressed, Mr. Blanchett remarked.

Cash Reserve

The aim is to preserve a year’s worth of essential necessities. Those not covered by social security. Having a cash reserve or an equivalent so retirees facing a downturn can spend from this reserve instead of touching their portfolio, giving it more time to recover.


This technique encourages retirees to be flexible, increasing withdrawals when the market is doing well and cutting back when it isn’t.

Their research indicated that retirees are usually safe with a 5-percent withdrawal rate for the first year (adjusted for inflation) as long as they cut back when they receive a warning signal.

This warning indicator blinks when the withdrawal rate rises by one-fifth of its initial pace. So if the portfolio plummets and the amount removed is suddenly 6 percent or higher, up from 5 percent, retirees must lower their withdrawal by 10 percent.

Consider a retiree who receives $25,000 from a $500,000 portfolio in year one. If inflation is 9%, next year’s withdrawal is $27,250. If the portfolio dropped to $415,000, the $25,000 withdrawal rate would be reduced to 6%, or $24,525 (or 10% less than $27,250).

Alternatively, if the portfolio grows and the withdrawal rate drops below 4%, the retiree can increase the amount removed by 10% and compensate for inflation.

This guideline is typically implemented until the final 15 years of retirement. For example, an 85-year-old couple who wants to be safe until age 100 can cease applying it if they don’t care how much money they leave to heirs.

Check up

Another rule of thumb is to assist retirees in determining if they’re withdrawing too much. Say you retire at 70 and need your money to last till 95. One divided by 25 (the number of years you need the money to last) is a 4% withdrawal rate for that year. $20,000 on a $500,000 portfolio

But if you’re on schedule to withdraw $30,000 (6%), you may want to slow down. Think, is this sustainable? It’s a simple approach to acquiring an answer. If you don’t adjust? You may need to make more considerable modifications later.