Some investment pros say the 4 percent rule, first broadly proposed by William Bengen, a former financial advisor, in 1994, can still apply, but differently.
"We talk about the 4 percent guideline as a starting point," said Judith Ward, a senior financial planner with T. Rowe Price.
Take longevity, for example. At T. Rowe Price, financial planners recommend that people planning for retirement assume that their money will have to last for 30 years, said Ward. Clearly, if retirement assets remain flat, a 4 percent drawdown will not last that long.
That's why Ward and others recommend that retirees use a 4 percent withdrawal rate as a loose target, but then adjust their drawdowns depending on market conditions. When markets are in a downturn, "great, tighten the belt," Ward said. Conversely, a strong market can enable retirees to draw down a bit more, since they will still be leaving plenty of savings in the portfolio.
"People need to every year come back and look what's going on," Ward said.