I agree that nothing is ever certain when it comes to stocks, all that can be said is what's worked in the past. And a 4% withdrawl rate has always been safe. Add on some SS and perhaps a small pension and it's a pretty good bet. Folks are always trying to make financial planning more difficult than it needs to be, and that's usually because the same folks are trying to pick your pocket by making you think you can't live without their sage advice. Annuities function off a much lower withdrawal rate, but that's because the insurance company is taking the rest and far more for themselves, not to mention the residual from your initial investment that's left when the payments stop. All you need to do is have a reasonably well diversified portfolio (personally, I think 90% equities and 10% fixed is about right in terms of asset allocation) and let it work for itself, and you'll have an overwhelming probability of being able to withdraw 3% to 4% almost forever, with a high percentage of having a ton left for your heirs. If the market goes down, you can still withdraw the same amount you were withdrawing before the market went down. Of course, if you retire at a very young age, like 50 or less, then you might want to keep you withdrawal rate closer to 3% in the early years if you would like to stay on the conservative side. Yes, this only works if the future is no worse than the past. Personally, I don't think we'll ever see another period as bad as the Great Depression. If the entire economy were to implode, then it really wouldn't matter what you had done, since everything would be gone, so I personally don't plan my future based on keeping gold in shoe boxes under the bed.
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