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But there may not be a financial planning solution to the 500 year storm. That's why Bill Bernstein observed that cutting your withdrawal rate below 4% doesn't provide that much additional safety. It just increases the chance that nuclear war or a worldwide flu epidemic will be the source of your demise rather than banal financial planning.

This is probably the Bernstein article you're referencing:

http://www.efficientfrontier.com/ef/901/hell3.htm

The historically naïve investor (or academic) might consider reducing his monthly withdrawals to a very low level to maximize his chances of success. But history teaches us that depriving ourselves to boost our 40-year success probability much beyond 80% is a fool’s errand, since all you are doing is increasing the probability of failure for political, economic, and military reasons relative to the failure of banal financial planning.

Mind you, this is not a call for wild abandon. The above table constrains the retiree desiring a theoretical 97% success rate (of portfolio survival) from spending more than 3% per year of the initial real amount of his nest egg. Taking the accident propensity of the species into account would allow him to spend about 4%. But if you believe that we’re about to encounter a bad returns sequence or simply wish to leave a few baubles to your heirs, you’re right back to 3% again.
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