4% Rule – Definition & Application for Your Investment Strategy

Trading concepts

The 4% rule is for retirees who want to avoid spending retirement funds quickly and want their funds to last longer. There are a variety of factors that decide how long your retirement funds last. For example, how much you save, how you invest and the return on your investment are some key factors. 

The 4% rule is a very important rule for retirees because it ensures a steady income stream. In other words, it promises a safe income flow that meets their current as well as future needs. Given the importance of this rule, we decided to help you. We are going to explain the 4% rule and how you can apply it in your investment strategy. Let’s dive deep to find out.

4% rule definition

The 4% rule is a retirement fund withdrawal rule for retirees that tells them how much they need to withdraw each year from their retirement funds. Retirees have widely accepted this rule for a steady income stream while keeping an appropriate account balance for the future.


William Bengen introduced this 4% rule for retirees in 1994. Before 1994, people considered a 5% annual withdrawal a safe bet for retirees. However, Bengen challenged this rule after studying historical data regarding bond and stock returns over a 50-year period. He concluded that any economical scenario would allow only 4% annual withdrawal. Degen suggested withdrawing 4% withdrawal in the first year and then adjusting for inflation in each subsequent year for the next 30 years.

The 4% rule seems a very simple rule that helps retirees decide how much they need to withdraw from their investment funds. However, this isn’t as simple as it seems. The rule suggests moderate withdrawals but after adjusting annual inflation. Moreover, the 4% rule also suggests a balanced investment portfolio. According to the rule’s direction, the portfolio should consist of 60% and 40% bonds. Moreover, the rule ensures a 6% to 7% annual return to make room for 4% withdrawal as well as 2% to 3% annual inflation. So, what will be the outcome? The retirement funds will last for a long time and retirees won’t run out of money. Here are the guidelines for the 4% rule.

  1. Retirees shouldn’t run out of money
  2. 4% withdrawal from the overall portfolio 
  3. Adjustments should be made as per ongoing inflation
  4. The investment portfolio should be balanced and adjusted for expenses and risk exposure

Working principle of the 4% rule

The 4% rule works on a very simple mechanism. Let’s say a retiree has a total of $1 million in retirement funds. The retiree should withdraw 4% of the total funds in the first year of retirement. That means a retiree may withdraw $40,000 in the first year. However, he/she must adjust their withdrawal for inflation. Let’s say that the cost of living increased by 3% in the second year of retirement. So, the retiree can withdraw $41,200 ($40,000 × 3%). A retiree can continue to withdraw inflation-adjusted 4% of the total portfolio. 

Furthermore, the rule also suggests determining how long your retirement portfolio lasts. There are numerous factors that decide the duration. For example, retirement expenses, living expenses, inflation, health considerations, and so on. In fact, the rule suggests that retirees should conduct a comprehensive analysis of their needs. The analysis should consider factors like living expenses, health issues, legal expenses, etc. Moreover, it should also consider the expected return on investment of the retirement funds. 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of the 4% rule?

As you know, there is no absolute rule in this scenario that has no limitations. Similarly, the 4% rule also has advantages as well as disadvantages. 


  1. It is a simple rule that anyone can easily understand and follow. 
  2. The rule ensures a steady and safe income stream for the next 30 years.
  3. It ensures inflation-adjusted withdrawal each year to enable retirees easily meet their needs. 
  4. The rule also ensures retirement funds last longer.


  1. The rule ensures that retirement funds will last for 30 years but it isn’t possible in every case. For example, if a retiree withdraws funds more than 4% because of an emergency, the entire portfolio would be affected. 
  2. It is also important to note that a retiree must follow the rule every year. Violating the rule for once means there will be lots of difficulties in the coming years. 
  3. As you know, historical data cannot necessarily predict the future with precision and accuracy. But the 4% rule is based on historical data. Therefore, it may not work well in certain circumstances. 

The wrap-up

The 4% rule is a simple rule for retirees looking for a steady and safe income in their post-retirement period. The rule ensures that retirement funds last longer. The 4% rule covers various factors that decide how long retirement funds will last. It emphasizes 4% withdrawal in the first year of retirement and then withdrawal inflation-adjusted 4% in subsequent years. Moreover, the rule also suggests investing 60% in stocks and 40% in bonds. The rule is a simple one to follow and ensures your retirement funds last longer. However, the rule is based on historical data and therefore, cannot necessarily predict the future with accuracy. That said, it is important to consider all the factors before applying them.

Russell Crane

Russell Crane

Russell is an Algorithmic & Technical Analyst Trader @ PatternsWizard.
His passion is to share his knowledge about TA, patterns & more. Why hope for your trading to work when you can precisely know the performance stat of every pattern?

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