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By Pfau, Wade Donald
Two fundamentally different philosophies for retirement income planning, which I call probability-based and safety-first, diverge on the critical issue of where a retirement plan is best served: in the risk/reward trade-offs of a diversified and aggressive investment portfolio th...at relies primarily on the stock market, or in the contractual protections of insurance products that integrate the power of risk pooling and actuarial science alongside investments. The probability-based approach is generally better understood by the public. It advocates using an aggressive investment portfolio with a large allocation to stocks to meet retirement goals. My earlier book How Much Can I Spend in Retirement? A Guide to Investment-Based Retirement Strategies provides an extensive investigation of probability-based approaches. But this investments-only attitude is not the optimal way to build a retirement income plan. There are pitfalls in retirement that we are less familiar with during the accumulation years. The nature of risk changes. Longevity risk is the possibility of living longer than planned, which could mean not having resources to maintain the retiree's standard of living. And once retirement distributions begin, market downturns in the early years can disproportionately harm retirement sustainability. This is sequence-of-returns risk, and it acts to amplify the impacts of market volatility in retirement. Traditional wealth management is not equipped to handle these new risks in a fulfilling way. More assets are required to cover spending goals over a possibly costly retirement triggered by a long life and poor market returns. And yet, there is no assurance that assets will be sufficient. For retirees who are worried about outliving their wealth, probability-based strategies can become excessively conservative and stressful. This book focuses on the other option: safety-first retirement planning. Safety-first advocates support a more bifurcated approach to building reRead more
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