In a world where it seems every client has a goal of having a portfolio that holds up through at least 35 years of retirement, it would be helpful to have some principles and mathematical measures to use as a guide in accumulating and dispersing retirement funds.

There is one principle that practically everyone knows: A retirement portfolio is likely to last longer if the withdrawal rate is lower. In other words, if the initial withdrawal rate is 4% from your retirement portfolio, the probability is lower that the portfolio will last at least 35 years than if the initial withdrawal rate is 3%. But there are several other aspects of retirement portfolio survival that may not be quite as obvious. For example, how much is needed in the portfolio to produce a sufficient level of retirement income? Equally compelling is the issue of retirement portfolio design: How have different portfolio models behaved in the past?

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