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As hard as they try, no one has come up with a workable alternative that doesn't involve turning a large portion of your life savings over to an insurance company, with the attendant catastrophically-high commissions, overheads, and costs.

Meanwhile, Stephen P. Utkus, a principal with the Vanguard Center for Retirement Research, agrees that the 4% rule is flawed. But he also notes, as did Sharpe, that there's no practical mechanism to replace it with and that further research is required.

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