This Is the Best Retirement Strategy, According to Stanford

© areporter / AdobeStock

Older woman


AnnaMarie Houlis
AnnaMarie Houlis
May 23, 2024 at 5:19AM UTC
Retirement sounds exciting, but only when it also sounds feasible. And, with the decline of traditional pension plans, IRAs and 401(k) plans are the dominating retirement options for workers in America. 
Steve Vernon, consulting research scholar at the Standford Center on Longevity set out to determine how you can be sure that you save enough money to last through your retirement and the best possible ways to withdraw your savings over the years. He collaborated with the Society of Actuaries (SOA) on a research project titled, “How to ‘Pensionize’ Any IRA or 401(k) Plan,” to analyze 292 different retirement income strategies and identify a single, straightforward option for middle-income workers. 
Of the 292 strategies, the research team identified what they call the “spend safely in retirement strategy”— there are two components to it.
1. Ty to delay Social Security payments until the age of 70. “For middle income people, Social Security is going to be the majority of their income [in retirement],” says Vernon. “It will be anywhere from 60 to 80 percent of their total income. And Social Security is nearly a perfect retirement income generator: It lasts the rest of your life, it protects against inflation, it doesn't go down if the stock market crashes, it's paid automatically into your checking account, part of it isn't subject to income taxes. No other retirement income generator has all of those positive features, so maximizing Social Security is a key part of this strategy.” 
The best option is to delay receiving Social Security benefits until the age of 70, Vernon says, or work part-time to cover living expenses until the age of 70. Otherwise, you can also use a portion of your retirement savings to substitute the Social Security benefits you’re delaying.
2. Create an “automatic retirement paycheck.” To supplement Social Security income, Vernon suggests investing any remaining savings in low-cost mutual funds that are common in IRAs and 401(k) plans, such as target date, balanced or stock index funds. You’ll want to generate consistent “paychecks” from your IRA savings and 401(k) that’ll last you the remaining years of your life. You can use the IRS required minimum distribution (RMD) to calculate how much of your retirement savings you’d receive each year.
“This is a strategy that people can use to decide if they've got enough money to retire,” Vernon told CNBC Make It. "But, also, a lot of people are uncertain as to when they'll retire and if they should work part-time for a while, so this strategy can help them think through those questions.: 
According to Vernon, the “spend safely in retirement strategy” produces “more average total retirement income expected throughout retirement compared to most solutions [the team] analyzed and provides a lifetime income, no matter how long the participant lives.” 
Read the full report here. And, if you think you’ve got your retirement plan all figured out, it’s time to start thinking about where to retire next. For over a quarter of a century, International Living has ranked, rated and named the best countries to retire in, and we’ve rounded up the best places to retire based on your dream vacay.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at by night.

Why women love us:

  • Daily articles on career topics
  • Jobs at companies dedicated to hiring more women
  • Advice and support from an authentic community
  • Events that help you level up in your career
  • Free membership, always