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For instance if I spend $40,000 per year, that requires a pre-tax withdrawal of about $50,000. I consider $50,000 per year to be my "standard of living."

Now I understand your usage of "standard of living" -- it doesn't match mine, but I certainly wouldn't quarrel with you about it. Actually, you are a good deal more generous that I am. To me, my standard of living is measured directly by the income I have left after the greedy, rapacious tax collectors have done their dirty work. To avoid confusion, I'll just say "after-tax income" , meaning "after-tax income used for current spending other than taxes" rather than "standard of living" here in the future.

Income taxes aren't a fixed expense like a mortgage. They rise and fall with your income. So if your taxes are increasing (i.e., without a change in the tax law), your income should be increasing even more. You can easily pay the income taxes out of this additional income without effecting your "standard of living."

Indeed you can, but this means you are using a larger withdrawal rate. The taxes rise and fall with your income, to be sure. But, when some appreciable amount of income loses its shelter just because you turned 70.5, your taxes rise sharply as must your withdrawal rate. You don't plan to let that happen, but I maintain that, for some people, it is rational to do so.

One reason I started taking SEPP withdrawals at age 40 is to avoid the big jump in IRA withdrawals at age 70.5.

The reason that I plan to postpone any serious withdrawals from my IRA until age 70.5 is that my calculations show that, with no benefit or harm to my after-tax income, this approach provides for the largest possible final value in my retirement accounts. As I have mentioned, using Solver in Excel to pick optimal optional withdrawals in my 60's finds only minor IRA withdrawal rates -- around 2% a year, leaving the big tax bump only slightly reduced and the "final estate" only slightly enhanced. The advantages of tax-deferred growth are so great that, according to my calculations and mathematical optimization, it benefits me to keep most of it in place as long as possible legally. This is not altogether implausible. Sure the tax rates will be much higher for me after age 70.5, but I have postponed paying them for at least 13 years. Even with fairly small market returns, this is a good deal.

Certainly, Congress doesn't require IRA withdrawals for taxpayers' benefit. Maybe as Congress pushes the retirement age for full Social Security from 65 to 67, we should press them to raise the latest starting date for IRA withdrawals from 70.5 to 72.5. I can dream, can't I?

Of course, your age and assets are sharply different from mine so "your results may differ". In fact, my present financial conditions are quite different from what they were a few years ago. Back then, when my accounts were much smaller, Solver found my optimal withdrawals from the IRA in my 60's to be zero. Just now as an experiment and not a mere fantasy, I pretended in my Excel spreadsheet that my retirement assets, both tax deferred and taxable, jumped up by a factor of ten this moment, then resumed their 4% real annual returns. In this dream case, Solver's solutions for withdrawals in my 60's are still only 5% to 10% of the mandatory withdrawal at 70.5. Tax deferral is that good a thing.

The studies of safe withdrawal rates don't make any provision for stabilizing the after-tax income devoted to personal spending when there is a sudden sharp jump in income taxes. I mean a increase in income taxes that is divorced from any jump in income, but a consequence simply of achieving a certain age so that some income loses its shelter. Or did I get that wrong?

Chips, all for number crunching and (truth in posting) specialized academically and professionally in mathematical optimization
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