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Long term Drawdown - real world experience
Mr J
Posted: 19 March 2018 22:47:17(UTC)
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I have to decide what to do with a DB pension after 34 years and counting with one employer. I am tempted by the transfer value estimate of 35 times the immediate annual pension. Running the estimates forward has little impact in increasing the estimated transfer value, all that seems to happen is that the later the retirement age, the larger percentage of the transfer value would be paid out as an annual pension. I am not keen on the idea of working on into early 60`s to maximize the DB annual pension, only to find health and energy deteriorates and finding I have lost the opportunity for a few healthy active years to enjoy life before infirmity strikes. I am also concerned about the prospect of transfer values dropping with interest rate rises. Of course I have my own particular circumstances to take into account, but I am keen to hear how people get on with the reality of drawdown over the medium to long term ?

It seems to me any reasonable idiot should be able to manage the first 10 years from a 35 times sum, but are there any real stories here of managing drawdown in the long term and over full market cycles ? What drawdown percentage are people working on ? Have people coped with spending capital sums on children’s weddings, replacing the car, or fixing the roof ? Have people been able to cope when the first in the couple dies and a widow with no financial knowledge is left with a drawdown pension to manage ? Is anyone close to running out of funds after 15 or 20 years ? Will spending needs fall significantly as old age creeps in ? Anyone with a DB pension that has dwindled away greatly against Inflation ?

As ever striving to learn from those who have been there and done it.
(in a world where discussing finances through normal social circles is taboo in the uk)
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Money Spider
Posted: 19 March 2018 23:58:55(UTC)
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I think that you are asking questions to which, in their current form, you are unlikely to get helpful answers. I think this because:
- Pension legislation has changed greatly in recent years (annuity and drawdown rules and reduced LTAs).
- No one has long-term experience in the current regime.
- Everyone's circumstances are different.
- You need to use some real (to you) numbers.

- Your own pension fund size and position re. LTA etc. determines how big a drawdown fund you will have (plus any tax-free cash). Only this week there are postings on this forum regarding a SIPP fund of >£5M and others of £200k. There is no right or wrong, just different scenarios.
Your 35x pension is very different if its (35 x £50k) or (35 x £15k)
- Your own costs and lifestyle determine how much income you need/want each year.
- What other investments/income that you (and your wife) have.

My suggestion is to build your plan (spreadsheet) based on your own numbers. Run and re-run it. Flex it up then flex it down. Change your assumptions/variables (growth/inflation/drawdown etc.). Now do it again - and again!. Over time you will increase your own confidence in your plan. Update it periodically with 'actuals' (quarterly, bi-annually, annually - what makes you comfortable). It's like a multi-year budget/business plan.
I budget from a bottom-up cost basis so I know the minimum income needed. I know what my income forecasts are for the next 2-3 years (pretty accurate), less accurate further out.

For capital sums (your children' weddings, replacing car) your could build a contingency or drop in a placeholder cost of £15k in n+5years (or whatever).

At some point you have to 'commit'. You don't have to go 100% in one go if you're unsure, but at some point you have to make your decision (or pay someone - an IFA - to make it for you).

FYI. I first went into drawdown about 4 years ago (late 50's) with LTA protection. My pension has always been DC. So, I could make no further contributions to my SIPP. I am not yet eligible for state pension, but have a full NI contribution record (so no benefit from making additional NI contributions) plus I have many other things that I wanted to do with my time besides work. I'm phasing my drawdown. I have confidence in my plan which has had many, many iterations (and will continue to have them) - but there will always be risk. Life is for real and is not a rehearsal :-)

HTH and doesn't come across as dismissive or unhelpful.
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Joe Soap
Posted: 20 March 2018 01:26:35(UTC)
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Do you have other sources of income so that in the event of a market meltdown you can still maintain your standard of living? We recently had this option with Mrs Soap and her DB pension offering 35x transfer out value. Eventually we decided against it because at the end of the day the DB pension plus eventual state pension would provide an adequate but not extravagant lifestyle on their own. We already have the bulk of our wealth tied up in ISAs and SIPPs to do more of the same would, I think have been a decision too far for comfort in old age. We decided to leave the DB pension exactly where it is despite the temptation to cash it in. HTH.
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Mr Helpful
Posted: 20 March 2018 16:12:25(UTC)
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Q1. are there any real stories here of managing drawdown in the long term and over full market cycles ?
A1. May not be quite the same scenario but retired (early) in 92 with some capital, plus a very small DB on the side. Very aware of market cycles, so adjusted the Risk/Defensives/(BTL)/Cash balance dependant on what the various Asset Classes offered at various points over the cycles.
Recommend Frank Armstrong ('The Informed Investor' chapter 18).

Q2. What drawdown percentage are people working on ?
A2. Have always insisted operating as far as posssible within the 'natural yield', and any unplanned temporary drawdown replaced from capital gains.
Frank Armstrong ('The Informed Investor' chapter 18) is again relevant where drawdown forced. The last thing needed is to be forced to sell Stocks at knock-down prices for income ('Sequence of Return Risk').

Q3. Have people coped with spending capital sums on children’s weddings, replacing the car, or fixing the roof ?
A3. As A2.

Q4. Is anyone close to running out of funds after 15 or 20 years ?
A4. No quite the reverse, but fortunate in finding investing fascinating and rewarding.

Q5. Will spending needs fall significantly as old age creeps in ?
A5. Unlikely. How old is old?

Q6. Anyone with a DB pension that has dwindled away greatly against Inflation ?
A6. Yes as noted in A1, that small DB now an even smaller insignificant ratio to investment income.
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AnthonyL
Posted: 21 March 2018 09:19:50(UTC)
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No expert on this but I'll comment nonetheless.

I'm 5yrs into OAP retirement and have muddled along with Personal Pensions (I don't have a DB pension, and "lost" two pensions due to changing jobs and countries in the late 60's and again late 70's). Also have maxed out ISA for several years. I have a younger wife (not earning).

For quite a while I run a 20yr ahead spreadsheet with factors for inflation and ROI. This has allowed me to see how the finances need to work out. It gets updated every 2 or 3 years. I have a modest sum in a SIPP (~£155k) and aim to take out 3%. It started at £160k 5yrs ago and when markets were down a year or so ago I paused my withdrawals for about 3 months to allow the capital to grow. It had of course dropped again with the correction. I sometimes feel that I should be more aggressive with the funds I have chosen but I tend to try that with the ISAs.

I am reliant on State Pension and some income mainly from my wife's ISA (pays the shopping bill and her spending money). A factor that did not hit me till recently whilst revising our Wills was highlighted in my spreadsheet - namely when I die the State Pension stops and my wife's lower amount won't kick in for several years yet. This seriously impinged on what I could bequeath to the grandchildren of my first marriage as the funds would be needed to make up the gap in the State Pension. Whilst there would be no need for my beer money and a second car someone will have to be paid to do all the things I fix around the house etc.

The rest is very much finger-in-the-air stuff. I look at the 20year spreadsheet and wonder whether it needs to be 20yr now. I try to get my wife interested in her portfolio but she just leaves it to me. I've left notes suggesting Vanguard Lifestrategy and we've started a SIPP to take advantage of HMRC's £720 using that fund.

With my SIPP I have 6 funds but only one is nominated for the drawdown in the hope that it is a non-volatile fund and I can top it up from one of the other funds at timings of my own choosing.

Hope something is of use in the above.
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Alan Selwood
Posted: 21 March 2018 11:28:37(UTC)
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I'm impressed by the forward planning and spreadsheet use adopted by posters on this thread. As they say, 'You fail to plan, not plan to fail' or something like that.

Forward planning is probably going to be most effective when
a) you need to know that income will be available at a particular level and
b) results achieved are fairly steady.

The testing time for everyone is when results become erratic because of markets soaring or plunging, or because of recessions resulting in dividend cuts, and during periods of extreme inflation. Then we can all be in deep trouble, however well we try to plan!

May we all live long and prosper!
[imagine a suitable Star Trek emoji at this point]
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Mr J
Posted: 21 March 2018 22:07:13(UTC)
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Thanks for responses to date, very helpful to see people’s experiences and approaches.

I have funds in a SIPP and ISAs and was originally expecting to use these to supplement the DB pension. As pension freedoms have now come along the DB could be transferred. It is the largest single asset at 40% of net worth and I am conscious of the need for my wife to be provided for - for possibly as long as 45 or 50 years. When I die the DB pension halves. I see the usual risks on both sides of course...

Risks/issues of sticking with DB pension
- I die relatively early leaving my wife with only a 50% pension and decades still to live.
- The DB pension erodes in value over 20-30 years or more as it is only partly indexed to CPI
- The DB pension is impacted by failure of the company/corporate malfeasance/changes to PPF backstop.
- The DB pension is impacted by declining size and pensioner numbers
- The DB pension is fully taxable with no 25% tax free
- The DB pension is inflexible in the face of changing needs (No facility to access larger sums if needed for medical treatment or palliative or extended care etc).
- The DB pension dies with myself and my wife regardless, so no possibility of it helping my children
- The DB pension (but not the transfer value) is reduced significantly by early retirement potentially meaning working through some or all remaining active years. (Worst case retiring in a wooden box)

Risks/issues of transfer and drawdown
- Poor investment returns relative to inflation and economic growth leading to running out of money
- Living too long and running out of money
- Withdrawing at too high a rate and running out of money
- Nobody competent and trustworthy to manage it after I die or become incompetent
- future tax changes impacting pension
- the chance to pass on funds free of IHT to children
- Good returns providing a high and tax efficient income

I sometimes see people talk of managing over say 5 years and their funds are higher than initial value, but often with no recognition that 5 years on, the same capital sum may already be worth 15% less through inflation. The years since 2009 have all been about recovering asset prices, so not a good enough yardstick for 30-50 years. I suppose it would be good to know how they get on in the US system, and I also guess IT dividend rates are perhaps the best yardstick for what can be taken as a ‘forever’ sustainable and growing income, so perhaps only 2-3% ?
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Jon Snow
Posted: 22 March 2018 00:04:51(UTC)
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Alan Selwood;59075 wrote:
I'm impressed by the forward planning and spreadsheet use adopted by posters on this thread. As they say, 'You fail to plan, not plan to fail' or something like that.

Forward planning is probably going to be most effective when
a) you need to know that income will be available at a particular level and
b) results achieved are fairly steady.

The testing time for everyone is when results become erratic because of markets soaring or plunging, or because of recessions resulting in dividend cuts, and during periods of extreme inflation. Then we can all be in deep trouble, however well we try to plan!

May we all live long and prosper!
[imagine a suitable Star Trek emoji at this point]


Alan,

I recall you though emojis were not suitable for this sophisticated forum.
Jon Snow
Posted: 22 March 2018 00:15:10(UTC)
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It is useful to be alert to the risks of DB vs DC and you have listed most of them pretty well.

I’ll add my opinion and experience and perhaps challenge the DB “gold standard”. The advocates say -

“don’t give up a DB scheme”

“look at the benefits you get”

“Inflation linked”

“Spouse pension”

I say look on the other side as well, who is providing those benefits and at what cost and is it sustainable.

I used to have 2 DB schemes as well as my own stuff.

My main concern with the DB schemes after I left the companies was could my employer afford to keep their side of the bargain we made when I signed up to the life and pension schemes.

Then the letters came talking about CPI not RPI increments, so I hauled out that shiny document they gave me when I joined and checked it - RPI or a min of 3% and a max of 5%, gotcha ! I thought.

So I made an enquiry to PAS (free at the time and pretty useful), response was, as the chancellor has changed the way we measure inflation …………. you can guess the rest.

Then one of my DB providers wrote to me making me an offer I couldn’t refuse, so I took it and if you can be bothered to look you’ll find the saga of my transfer documented on the citywire forum.

The other DB provider was CLLN, so now I’m in the pension protection fund for that one.

To me the DB argument comes down to control; do you trust your future and retirement to an unknown entity that is looking for ways to cut costs in the competitive world or do you trust yourself.

Other observations -

Planning ahead for say 5 years, is risky enough, 10, 20 etc years into the future, you must be joking, when I was a lad on site the surveyor with his theodolite would have called that “extrapolating from a short baseline”. The compounding effects of estimates of inflation and growth being off by 1% each over say 20 years.

Spreadsheets are great fun, cash is better.

My benchmark for a sustainable income (assuming no need to sell in a downturn) is CTY, so about 4.1% at todays share price.

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Tim D
Posted: 22 March 2018 10:12:21(UTC)
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Mr J;59121 wrote:

Risks/issues of sticking with DB pension
...
Risks/issues of transfer and drawdown
...


That's a very nice list of things to worry about.

When confronted by a choice between investments A and B each with their own apparent advantages and issues, I sometimes will hedge my bets and put 50% into each. Is taking half the transfer value and retaining half the DB rights an option, or is it all-or-nothing?

Suspect this approach works better for some people than others. Personally, being more of a "glass half full" person, if A subsequently soars while B tanks I'll enjoy a smug glow from at least having something in A more than I'll be annoyed I put anything into B. But if you're the sort of person who ruminates more on their bad choices than their winners then it might not be a sensible thing to do at all.
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Julian W
Posted: 22 March 2018 11:21:12(UTC)
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Quit the rat race and living off our investments. Been investing for 20+ years, yet draw down have a few additional considerations. Done a bit of reading and thinking.

This is my approach (There are many out there.)

specific to draw down
-a draw down rate of less than 3% has excellent chance of success. ie >33* value of pension
-for longevity of the pension pot, 40+ years, you want high equity content, 80% to 100%
-to avoid sequence of return risk, I have high quality bond/ cash to cover the 1st 6 years (roughly 1 business cycle) then just ride the market (If you decide to adopt a high equity portfolio; its imperative that you stick to your plan in time of major market draw down. The most difficult thing to do!)

general consideration
-minimise charges/fees; Alliance trust or x-o (for just ETF and investment trusts) have some of the lowest flat draw down charge for portfolio>£100000
-minimise your tax
-globally diversified portfolio with total return approach (rather than high dividend)

Good luck.
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A M
Posted: 22 March 2018 14:02:40(UTC)
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Can anyone post a blank template of the spreadsheets they use to manage their drawdown / retirement finances? The would be really helpful to anyone about to enter the retirement world in the very near future.
Kenpen2
Posted: 22 March 2018 15:08:26(UTC)
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Mr J, you list the pros and cons but don't give relative weights to them.

For me the game-changer would be : DB "dies with myself and my wife regardless, so no possibility of it helping my children" vs DC "- the chance to pass on funds free of IHT to children".

Of course the rules can change again and keep changing but for now the chance to use my pension to make a real difference to the retirement prospects of my kids and grandkids is a powerful incentive to make it work.

My own experience, starting as a novice investor 10 years ago is that yes, you can make it work. I've always taken more than the natural yield from my pot, still have (slightly) more than I started with, and feel I'm improving with age (in this sphere at least).

If you need advice and support I can recommend close reading of these often-fascinating forum debates. There are several people here to whom I am deeply indebted.
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DGL
Posted: 22 March 2018 15:46:28(UTC)
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Easy 1. Convert pension to a SIPP ( you'll never be offered 35 x again )
2. Live off other sources ISAs, state pensions etc.
Pass SIPP on IHT free after death to grateful relatives..
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paul armstrong
Posted: 22 March 2018 22:53:46(UTC)
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I just converted a £7k pa DB scheme to a SIPP on a factor of 31. I have another dB scheme of greater value which I left alone. The reason for transferring are admirably summarised in the earlier post. If I only had one dB scheme I would have left it alone. Have a look at 'The Retirement Cafe ' and such like for a discussion.

A variable drawdown strategy underpinned by a floor income from state pension and other zero risk sources seems preferred with drawdown percentage less than 3% early on.
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Mr J on 23/03/2018(UTC)
Alan Selwood
Posted: 22 March 2018 23:44:52(UTC)
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Jon Snow;59122 wrote:
Alan Selwood;59075 wrote:


...... May we all live long and prosper!
[imagine a suitable Star Trek emoji at this point]


Alan,

I recall you thought emojis were not suitable for this sophisticated forum.


I think the use of emojis is very much overdone, but the main emoji problem in this forum is not having a gmail-like bank of samples on tap within the website for users to drawn on if they do feel the need to use them!
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Jon Snow on 23/03/2018(UTC)
Mr J
Posted: 23 March 2018 01:23:27(UTC)
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Tim D
If only it were possible to do half and half or some other proportion with a DB pension, but under today’s regulations it is impossible. I had been hoping the government would change this and force schemes to allow partial transfers but don’t see any signs as yet. Had my working life been split between two different employers and DB schemes I would be free to transfer 1 and stay in the other. I see no reason why the number of employers and schemes you have been part of should determine the level of freedom of choice you have - but currently it does. I think many and most would choose a split approach if it were permitted. No doubt the pension schemes don’t want it because they would far rather shed people in their entirety. Under my scheme there is no automatic capital lump sum at retirement, a lump sum can be chosen by commuting part of the pension. But in my view anyone choosing that option is one brick short, because the commutation factor is only around 15 - very different from 35.

Thanks to all for continuing interesting responses.

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tim eley
Posted: 23 March 2018 04:23:15(UTC)
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I have been in income drawdown for 5 years but have been drawing an income from investments for over 20. I take only the natural yield so market corrections like now don't really concern me other than a buying opportunity. As of today with a selection of Investment trusts I think you could 'secure' an income of say 4.3 to 4.75%. Look at the Investment trust dividend heros. Take some of the tax free cash for cars, emergency expenditure and see if the balance at say 4.3% will give you an income you can cope with.
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raybd
Posted: 23 March 2018 09:17:49(UTC)
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see JulianW.
My wife and I share state and DB pensions which are sufficient for our modest day-to-day needs. The rest in ISAs - 100% ITs. My advice is "think total return" not "income". Sell when cash is needed - hopefully when things are rising.
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Mr J on 26/03/2018(UTC)
Garry R
Posted: 24 March 2018 08:38:55(UTC)
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My approach, after a fair bit of reading/research is:
For the long term, 30-35 years, invest in equities. A mix of global and UK funds.
Pick managers/funds from recommendations in assessments like Citywire and check this occasionally.
Have a spread of funds, I have 10, as some will go through poor patches at some time. Have a mix of cautious to aggressive funds.
I keep 3 years of pension payments in cash, a further 3 years in 'low' loss funds. This should ride the average downturn without eroding the funds too much.
Top up the cash, in my SIPPs and ISAs, from funds when they have made money. I use the FTSE as a benchmark, taking a 3% growth line as an average
I keep an eye on Investment news, but only check my funds on a monthly basis. I try not to swap and change unless it appears necessary.
I noticed that it is a similar approach to Julian W.
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Mr J on 26/03/2018(UTC)
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