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 Independent 01-19-2018 06:28 PM

Ratchet Up

A recent thread brought up the old question "The 4% SWR is far too conservative in most scenarios. If my early results are good, when can I adjust up?"

The first thought is to ratchet up. After all, if 4% of my initial assets is "safe", why isn't 4% of my new, higher, assets also safe?

We shared opinions, but I thought I'd do some number research. FireCalc does not provide a ratchet alternative spending plan. I thought I could download a couple key scenario factors from FireCalc and build my own model that had this possibility.

Here's the result. First, the standard 4% SWR. I started with a \$1 million portfolio and \$40,000 of spending. This table has the results. All these numbers could be found in the regular FireCalc Excel output, but I reproduced them to check my model.

The four rows represent four quartiles of scenarios. They are sorted by the assets at the end of year 10. The first four columns are average withdrawals for the indicated years. The next two are average assets at the end of years 10 and 30. The last two are the number of scenarios that end below \$0, and the number of scenarios where the assets get below \$200k, but stay above \$0.

 Fixed… Yr 1-5 …. Yr 6-10 ….. Yr 11-20 .. Yr 21-30 .. EOY 10 ……… EOY 30 ……… < \$0 < \$200k Q1 … 40,000 40,000 40,000 40,000 2,010,508 3,289,304 - - Q2 40,000 40,000 40,000 40,000 1,393,635 2,121,818 - - Q3 40,000 40,000 40,000 40,000 1,031,607 1,382,206 - 1 Q4 40,000 40,000 40,000 40,000 576,981 490,319 6 2
As we all know, there are 6 failures. They are all in the quatile of scenarios that start out poorly.

Next, I have a simple ratchet. The payout goes up to 4% of the last year end balance, whenever that results in an increase, and never goes down.

 Ratchet… Yr 1-5 …. Yr 6-10 ….. Yr 11-20 .. Yr 21-30 .. EOY 10 ……… EOY 30 ……… < \$0 < \$200k Q1 46,915 65,607 85,946 95,608 1,787,993 1,272,450 - - Q2 44,189 52,850 62,780 71,903 1,291,791 963,000 - 2 Q3 43,093 46,653 49,973 56,400 976,101 692,599 2 2 Q4 40,615 40,840 41,594 43,584 570,161 374,296 7 1
This introduces new failures. As you'd expect, they tend to come in years that are just prior to failure years in the simple 4% SWR. One or two good years cause a ratchet up, then you're in a failure year with no cushion.

But, of course, I get to spend more money in the good scenarios. I'm somewhat disappointed that much of the extra money comes in the later years. And, ending assets are lower, as expected. I leave less money on the table.

I tried to get rid of those extra failures by doing a bump up, without the ratchet. So this is 4% of the higher of the initial assets or the assets at the last year end. Unlike the ratchet, a bad year following a good year results in withdrawals that go back toward the initial level.
 4/4… Yr 1-5 …. Yr 6-10 ….. Yr 11-20 .. Yr 21-30 .. EOY 10 ……… EOY 30 ……… < \$0 < \$200k Q1 46,557 62,854 78,621 71,276 1,812,332 1,806,705 - - Q2 43,773 49,670 56,784 59,830 1,314,378 1,360,384 - - Q3 42,107 42,424 44,401 51,502 1,008,030 1,080,837 - 1 Q4 40,329 40,049 40,453 42,308 575,330 447,735 6 2
This was successful in getting rid of the extra failures. That's kind of surprising, I'll guess there are other sets of scenarios where it wouldn't do quite as well.

But, the payout is less than the ratchet. Net, I think the success/payout combination is better here than in the simple ratchet.

This brings up the common point that people with good downside flexibility can spend more in general. To illustrate that, I did a percent of last balance plan. Unlike FireCalc, my floor is a percent of the initial portfolio.

In this case I picked 6% of last year's assets, with a floor of 3.4% of the initial portfolio. This illustrates the not surprising fact that retirees with a lot of cushion in their beginning assets can be quite aggressive with early payouts.
 6/3.4… Yr 1-5 …. Yr 6-10 ….. Yr 11-20 .. Yr 21-30 .. EOY 10 ……… EOY 30 ……… < \$0 < \$200k Q1 66,334 81,321 86,978 64,132 1,471,048 961,188 - - Q2 61,942 64,367 62,624 53,594 1,070,334 716,025 - 1 Q3 57,571 52,166 46,799 47,823 845,534 619,930 - 5 Q4 50,506 38,753 38,610 40,476 538,151 452,880 3 4
I think the increase in payouts is pretty remarkable, given the good success rate. I'd say that percent of current portfolio strategies definitely dominate for people who can stomach the downside.

(I'll admit to data mining here. I backed into the 3.4% to get the success rate I wanted. Other scenarios might have other results.)

 pb4uski 01-19-2018 08:20 PM

So are you saying that a fixed 4% WR resulted in a 94.9% success rate and a 4% ratchet (renewing in any year where 4% of beginning of year portfolio exceeds last years withdrawals plus inflation) resulted in a 92.3% success rate?

And with the ratchet strategy that, on average, your available spending is ~40% higher in years 11-20?

If so, for me 40% more spending in exchange for a 2.6% increase in failure seems like a reasonable tradeoff.

 ERD50 01-19-2018 10:19 PM

I didn't go through the numbers in detail (yet), but I don't think the results are surprising.

If you start with some failures in the data-set (95% success, 5% failure), ratcheting up (or more simply, increasing any amount of spending at any time), could push a success scenario to a failure. And while it can be seen as data mining, starting with 100% success scenarios will still provide 100% success with a ratchet up approach.

The concept of ratchet up, but back down in a bad year is an interesting one. I meant to comment on one of the other threads that a ratchet up isn't carved in stone - I'd expect a retiree to bring it back down (maybe just not take the inflation adjustment for X years) if they saw storm clouds in the distance. I just never tried to apply numbers/algorithm to it.

Thanks, will probably check it out in more detail later.

-ERD50

 Perryinva 01-20-2018 02:50 AM

Kitces already published a Ratching plan. It was not as aggressive as the OPs, because the aim was to maintain principle at the same non inflation adjusted value over a 30 year period. The objective included stomaching drops in income over protracted downturns. The upside was similar, typically much higher income for the same success with the usual sequence of ROR influencing it. If the first 15 years of retirement were all bull market, then even ending in a 10 year bear never had the income lower than a continuous 4% Trinity withdrawal would. Allowing for prince reduction increased the SWR. Starting with a 10 year bear, then a 10 year bull, would mean never passing rhe 4% amount until 20 years in and no more bear., ut never going undner the 4% either. So really no downside to the ratchet approach.

 Midpack 01-20-2018 04:05 AM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by Perryinva (Post 2000009) Kitces already published a Ratching plan. It was not as aggressive as the OPs, because the aim was to maintain principle at the same non inflation adjusted value over a 30 year period...
https://www.kitces.com/blog/the-ratc...of-the-4-rule/

 Perryinva 01-20-2018 07:47 AM

Yup. That’s the one.

 Independent 01-20-2018 05:46 PM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by Perryinva (Post 2000009) Kitces already published a Ratching plan. It was not as aggressive as the OPs, because the aim was to maintain principle at the same non inflation adjusted value over a 30 year period. The objective included stomaching drops in income over protracted downturns. The upside was similar, typically much higher income for the same success with the usual sequence of ROR influencing it. If the first 15 years of retirement were all bull market, then even ending in a 10 year bear never had the income lower than a continuous 4% Trinity withdrawal would. Allowing for prince reduction increased the SWR. Starting with a 10 year bear, then a 10 year bull, would mean never passing rhe 4% amount until 20 years in and no more bear., ut never going undner the 4% either. So really no downside to the ratchet approach.
Yep

Quote:
 the rule might be that any time the account balance is up 50% over the original value, spending is increased by 10% (over and above any ongoing inflation adjustments), but such spending bumps can only occur once every 3 years at most
My first interest here was to put some FireCalc-consistent numbers on the very simple idea that always seems to puzzle people: "If Joe, retiring one year later than me can safely take 4% of his portfolio, why can't I safely take 4% of any portfolio I might have one year after I retire?"

Kitche's approach is much more complex, and doesn't answer the question above. It seems more conservative than necessary, but I haven't checked.
Certainly, we could generate an infinite number of rules that allow increases and will look good with back testing.

I lean toward "Percent of current, with floor based on original" as a simple approach that allows early increases, that's why I showed a couple examples in that category.

 Independent 01-20-2018 05:49 PM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by pb4uski (Post 1999941) So are you saying that a fixed 4% WR resulted in a 94.9% success rate and a 4% ratchet (renewing in any year where 4% of beginning of year portfolio exceeds last years withdrawals plus inflation) resulted in a 92.3% success rate? And with the ratchet strategy that, on average, your available spending is ~40% higher in years 11-20? If so, for me 40% more spending in exchange for a 2.6% increase in failure seems like a reasonable tradeoff.
If you trust back testing, yes.

Though, as you can guess, I wouldn't ratchet, I'd be quick to give up that extra (in the first few years) if the market went back down. Note that the 4/4 example looks pretty good in the up paths, and survives a little better in the down paths.

Based on one of your earlier posts, I thought you might gravitate toward the 6/3.4 example.

 ERD50 01-20-2018 05:55 PM

I skimmed some of it, but the Kitces plan just seems overly complex to me.

If you were OK starting at say 4%, why not something simple like if 3.5% of your current portfolio is greater than your normal inflation adjusted amount, take the new, higher 3.5% and inflation adjust that going forward (that means your inflation adjusted portfolio grew to 1.14x, why wait for 1.5x?). If the portfolio keeps growing, repeat at 3.0% (1.33x), 2.5% (1.6x) etc.

That's essentially the "retire again & again" idea, but a little more conservative each step. Or (what I'd likely do), just split the difference between the new % of portfolio and the current inflation adjusted amount?

If that amount scares you in a downturn, set an upper limit for your WR%, which might be 6-8% if you started with 4%.

-ERD50

 pb4uski 01-20-2018 06:35 PM

Yes, the 50% hurdle in the article seemed senseless to me.

 Independent 01-21-2018 07:26 AM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by ERD50 (Post 2000525) I skimmed some of it, but the Kitces plan just seems overly complex to me. If you were OK starting at say 4%, why not something simple like if 3.5% of your current portfolio is greater than your normal inflation adjusted amount, take the new, higher 3.5% and inflation adjust that going forward (that means your inflation adjusted portfolio grew to 1.14x, why wait for 1.5x?). If the portfolio keeps growing, repeat at 3.0% (1.33x), 2.5% (1.6x) etc. That's essentially the "retire again & again" idea, but a little more conservative each step. Or (what I'd likely do), just split the difference between the new % of portfolio and the current inflation adjusted amount? If that amount scares you in a downturn, set an upper limit for your WR%, which might be 6-8% if you started with 4%. -ERD50
Yes, or the simpler version using 3.5% indefinitely. Sure seems like it should work. I'd like to run some numbers to compare withdrawals to the other option, but probably won't have time today.

 Independent 01-25-2018 05:15 PM

I finally got back to this. This is a plan that starts with the regular 4.0% SWR, but ratchets up to 3.5% of the prior year's balance if that is a higher payout. The "ratchet" means it doesn't go down if returns weaken.

 R.4.0/3.5 Yr 1-5 . Yr 6-10 .. Yr 11-20 .. Yr 21-30 .. EOY 10 EOY 30 < \$0 < \$200k Q1 43,254 58,846 79,589 90,500 1,868,042 1,642,711 - - Q2 41,390 47,426 57,616 67,856 1,345,223 1,268,433 - - Q3 41,058 42,597 45,385 52,051 1,012,044 1,006,041 - 1 Q4 40,088 40,147 40,488 42,223 576,040 448,041 6 2
It does everything we'd expect. It ..
.. does not decrease the number of failures because it has no impact on the sharply down scenarios.
.. does not increase the number of failures because the ratchet level of 3.5% is a 100% safe WR for FireCalc's database.
.. increases the payouts over the pure 4.0% SWR
.. but does not increase them as fast as the other variable options in the OP

In particular, compared to the "greater of 4% or 4%" strategy, it doesn't go up as fast in the early years but doesn't go back down in any of the later years. Again, as expected.

 big-papa 01-26-2018 10:03 AM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by Independent (Post 2000520) Yep My first interest here was to put some FireCalc-consistent numbers on the very simple idea that always seems to puzzle people: "If Joe, retiring one year later than me can safely take 4% of his portfolio, why can't I safely take 4% of any portfolio I might have one year after I retire?" Kitche's approach is much more complex, and doesn't answer the question above. It seems more conservative than necessary, but I haven't checked. Certainly, we could generate an infinite number of rules that allow increases and will look good with back testing. I lean toward "Percent of current, with floor based on original" as a simple approach that allows early increases, that's why I showed a couple examples in that category.
reminds me of retire again (and again) posted by siamond on Mr. Money Moustache - Siamond is a frequent poster on Bogleheads, by the way:

https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/in...e-again-again/

 Independent 01-26-2018 03:46 PM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by big-papa (Post 2003116) reminds me of retire again (and again) posted by siamond on Mr. Money Moustache - Siamond is a frequent poster on Bogleheads, by the way: https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/in...e-again-again/
Yep. This thread follows up that type of discussion on another thread. I just wanted to put some FireCalc numbers on the idea.

And, as expected, the 4% ratchet increases the probability of failure, but the 3.5% ratchet doesn't. This agrees with MM.

But, I'd say that people who are okay with fluctuations should consider "greater of x% of original balance or y% of current balance", without the ratchet (ie, allowing reversions to x). Those numbers seem better for this data.

 big-papa 01-26-2018 04:07 PM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by Independent (Post 2003336) Yep. This thread follows up that type of discussion on another thread. I just wanted to put some FireCalc numbers on the idea. And, as expected, the 4% ratchet increases the probability of failure, but the 3.5% ratchet doesn't. This agrees with MM. But, I'd say that people who are okay with fluctuations should consider "greater of x% of original balance or y% of current balance", without the ratchet (ie, allowing reversions to x). Those numbers seem better for this data.
I am OK with fluctuations, but I prefer something closer to VPW (aka PMT method). The disagreements that arise on bogleheads stem from what to use as the expected returns in the PMT equation. The VPW author likes to simply use the weighted average of historical real stocks and bond returns (based on your AA). In Siegel's "the only spending rule article you'll ever need", they choose to update it yearly based on remaining life expectancy and current TIPs yield as an (in my opinion) overly conservative choice. The VPW author's position has been that if you want smoother withdrawals with VPW, use a more conservative AA, but there are those of us who want the potential upside of a higher stock allocation without roadbumps that are too severe.

Several of us instead use future looking expected real returns and update it each year. For future returns, you can try CAPE based, Tobin's Q, DDM, Philosophical Economics "Single Greatest Predictor of future stock market returns", or an average of annually reported future expected returns from several investment houses. A large number of choices available. Some are empirically derived curve fits and some are based more on models that use price, PE, etc. Unlike using a fixed expected return for your entire retirement period, which tends to have withdrawals that shoot to the moon in the last several years in a large number of backtested cases, using an updated expected return tends to smooth withdrawals a little bit more evenly all the way to the end. Not perfectly smooth like a 4% rule would be, but smoother than using a fixed expected return.

Cheers,
Big-Papa

 Independent 01-27-2018 08:53 AM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by big-papa (Post 2003350) I am OK with fluctuations, but I prefer something closer to VPW (aka PMT method). The disagreements that arise on bogleheads stem from what to use as the expected returns in the PMT equation. The VPW author likes to simply use the weighted average of historical real stocks and bond returns (based on your AA). In Siegel's "the only spending rule article you'll ever need", they choose to update it yearly based on remaining life expectancy and current TIPs yield as an (in my opinion) overly conservative choice. The VPW author's position has been that if you want smoother withdrawals with VPW, use a more conservative AA, but there are those of us who want the potential upside of a higher stock allocation without roadbumps that are too severe. Several of us instead use future looking expected real returns and update it each year. For future returns, you can try CAPE based, Tobin's Q, DDM, Philosophical Economics "Single Greatest Predictor of future stock market returns", or an average of annually reported future expected returns from several investment houses. A large number of choices available. Some are empirically derived curve fits and some are based more on models that use price, PE, etc. Unlike using a fixed expected return for your entire retirement period, which tends to have withdrawals that shoot to the moon in the last several years in a large number of backtested cases, using an updated expected return tends to smooth withdrawals a little bit more evenly all the way to the end. Not perfectly smooth like a 4% rule would be, but smoother than using a fixed expected return. Cheers, Big-Papa
Yep, people who can handle quick downside adjustments should think about "percent of current portfolio" methods. We've had VPW threads here -- with some overlap on the individuals posting at Bogleheads.

The Trinity study SWR was aimed at retirees didn't want to make downside adjustments except in extreme cases.

Your second paragraph talks about various ways of trying to soften the downside. They may make VPW more appealing to more people. I don't know if you've discussed them in a thread here.

 big-papa 01-27-2018 05:37 PM

By the way, you might want to check out Simba's spreadsheet over on bogleheads. Many more asset classes available (including intermediate treasuries, notably missing in Firecalc). It also has an SWR calculation built it. No ratcheting - understandably since there are just way too many ideas for withdrawal methods.

 Finance Dave 01-28-2018 05:12 AM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by Independent (Post 1999903) A recent thread brought up the old question "The 4% SWR is far too conservative in most scenarios. If my early results are good, when can I adjust up?" The first thought is to ratchet up. After all, if 4% of my initial assets is "safe", why isn't 4% of my new, higher, assets also safe?
Using this logic, you are assuming there will never be a downturn. The 4% rule assumes variability in returns.

 audreyh1 01-28-2018 07:05 AM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by big-papa (Post 2003350) I am OK with fluctuations, but I prefer something closer to VPW (aka PMT method). The disagreements that arise on bogleheads stem from what to use as the expected returns in the PMT equation. The VPW author likes to simply use the weighted average of historical real stocks and bond returns (based on your AA). In Siegel's "the only spending rule article you'll ever need", they choose to update it yearly based on remaining life expectancy and current TIPs yield as an (in my opinion) overly conservative choice. The VPW author's position has been that if you want smoother withdrawals with VPW, use a more conservative AA, but there are those of us who want the potential upside of a higher stock allocation without roadbumps that are too severe. Several of us instead use future looking expected real returns and update it each year. For future returns, you can try CAPE based, Tobin's Q, DDM, Philosophical Economics "Single Greatest Predictor of future stock market returns", or an average of annually reported future expected returns from several investment houses. A large number of choices available. Some are empirically derived curve fits and some are based more on models that use price, PE, etc. Unlike using a fixed expected return for your entire retirement period, which tends to have withdrawals that shoot to the moon in the last several years in a large number of backtested cases, using an updated expected return tends to smooth withdrawals a little bit more evenly all the way to the end. Not perfectly smooth like a 4% rule would be, but smoother than using a fixed expected return. Cheers, Big-Papa
Interesting. Do you have links for VPW spreadsheets using future looking expected returns?

Im currently using % remaining portfolio method and am OK with income varying.

 big-papa 01-28-2018 07:39 AM

Quote:
 Originally Posted by audreyh1 (Post 2003897) Interesting. Do you have links for VPW spreadsheets using future looking expected returns? Im currently using % remaining portfolio method and am OK with income varying.
No. Sorry. It's pretty straightforward: The Excel function for each year's % withdrawal is

PMT(expected returns, # years remaining, -1, 0, 1)

The regular VPW spreadsheet available on BH basically reinvented the PMT calculation and doesn't use the built in function in Excel. It is also based on a BH 2 or 3 fund portfolio so if you deviate from that, you'll need to create your own spreadsheet anyway. Returns of other assets are available on the Simba spreadsheet over at Bogleheads.

For US large cap stock, an OK estimate of expected real returns is 1/PE10
For bonds, just use the current interest rate and take off expected inflation.
Then weight the two based on your AA. If you're backtesting, you can try the previous year's inflation as expected inflation or maybe an average of the last 2 or 3 years. For year's they existed, the delta between nominal bonds and TIPs is another choice.

That should get you going. If people want to discuss this further or have other ideas, then a new thread should be opened.

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