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Safe withdrawal rates from retirement savings for residents of emerging market countries

Meng, Channarith and Pfau, Wade Donald (2011): Safe withdrawal rates from retirement savings for residents of emerging market countries.

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Researchers have mostly focused on U.S. historical data to develop the 4 percent withdrawal rate rule. This rule suggests that retirees can safely sustain retirement withdrawals without outliving their wealth for at least 30 years, if they initially withdraw 4 percent of their savings and adjust this amount for inflation in subsequent years. But, the time period covered in these studies represents a particularly favorable one for U.S. asset returns that is unlikely to be broadly experienced. This poses a concern about whether safe withdrawal rate guidance from the U.S. can be applied to the situation in other countries. Particularly for emerging economies, defined-contribution pension plans have been introduced along with under-developed or non-existing annuity markets, making retirement withdrawal strategies an important concern. We study sustainable withdrawal rates for a sample of 25 emerging countries and find that the sustainability of a 4 percent withdrawal rate differs widely and can likely not be treated as safe. The results suggest, as well, high stock allocations in the portfolio mix are not the optimal choice for retirees in emerging market countries.

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