Ever since Wade Pfau poked holes in the 4 percent withdrawal rule, financial advisers have paid attention when this academic talks about retirement income.
Mr. Pfau, now a professor at The American College, startled the industry in 2011 when he wrote that people shouldn't be focused on how much they can safely withdraw during retirement but instead on how much income they need to save while they're working to ensure enough money when they're not.
"The research showed that even though the 4 percent rule had worked historically in the U.S., it was not as safe as we thought because it depended on a certain sequence of returns," Mr. Pfau said.
With that landmark paper, published in the Journal of Financial Planning during his 10-year stint in Japan with the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, he began presenting to financial planning groups. And his Retirement Research blog (WPfau.blogspot.com), which he launched in 2010, became a big hit with advisers interested in retirement strategy.
It seems that Mr. Pfau, who has a doctorate in economics from Princeton and holds the chartered financial analyst designation, is just starting his quest to help people retire securely.
"There needs to be more research on retirement income," he said. "The financial practitioner community is still more based on rules of thumb."
Mr. Pfau also works with McLean Asset Management, a Virginia-based registered investment adviser, and Instream Solutions, which develops adviser software tools.
Ultimately, he would like to see a tool that lets people "check" whether their retirement plan will leave them safe and secure.
— Liz Skinner
Managing director, The Princi Group at Morgan Stanley