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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Cremé

Accumulation Vs Decumulation Retirement Planning - How to Transform Your Investments and Cash Flow

Updated: Apr 14

Decumulation Vs Accumulation - The Differences in Financial Planning For Retirement

In financial planning, we often categorize people into two major groups – those who are in an accumulation stage of life, and those who are in a decumulation stage of life. It is like the difference between BC or AD in time, but the thing that separates the two is ceasing regular employment and entering retirement. In this overview, we will examine the difference in investment planning and cash flow planning between the two stages.

The Accumulation Stage of Life

John Tyler once said, “Wealth can only be accumulated by the earnings of industry and the savings of frugality.” That pretty much sums up the accumulation stage of life. During these years, we are saving for retirement; paying off debt, living on less than we earn, saving money, and investing in businesses through retirement and investment accounts.

Accumulation Budgeting For Retirement

Much of the cash flow planning during the accumulation stage revolves around our budget and setting aside money regularly. To set a budget, the first thing we have to do is to find out where money is currently going. There are some great tools to assist with this online such as as well as You will need to take a wide enough snapshot of your spending to have a good idea, so you should consider a review of your whole year if you have some expenses that only occur once a year.

Investment Planning During The Accumulation Stage

When it comes to investment planning during the accumulation stage, there are two questions to consider.

  1. How much you should aim to have in investments?

  2. Where you should invest funds?

As far as how much you should ideally have, it is a very subjective question. If you have a pension, plan on cutting back significantly on expenses in retirement, or plan on continuing to work until you physically cannot continue – these rough estimates will not necessarily be accurate. For everyone else, our following guidelines can help you to know if you are “on track” during the accumulation stage or far off.

Table with investment goals according to age

Once You Know You Are On Or Off Track, What Should You Do?

If You Are Off Track:

  • Setting your budget

  • Working on career progression goals

  • Focus on saving 15-20% of your income.

If You Are On Track:

Review the investments you are in to see if you are in the proper accumulation portfolio.

Investment Classifications

There are many ways to categorize investments.

  • You can view them by the sectors of the economy the companies represent

  • The size of the underlying companies

  • Their asset classification These are just to name a few. It can be confusing to look at performance charts like the one below and determine how to invest.

company performance chart

Accumulation Retirement Goals

At the end of the day, the goal during the accumulation period is to get the highest overall return on your investment with the proper amount of volatility that you can handle watching the ups and downs. If you keep a diversified portfolio of funds, you should have the opportunity to weather the highs and the lows of the market; however, when you get within 10 years of your planned retirement, it can make sense to seek additional help to make sure the transition between stages is a smooth one.

Once retired and in the decumulation phase, there are many different considerations. To begin, cash flow planning is modified.

The Decumulation Investment Strategy Stage

Cash flow financial planning in the decumulation stage still has a budgeting constraint, although there can be some greater flexibility due to market fluctuations. Example:

Let’s assume you have a $1,000,000 portfolio and your financial plan called for a 6% return on your investment and a 4% withdrawal. That would mean your end of your account is planning on being up $20,000 after your made $60,000 and withdrew $40,000.

What if instead of earning 6% you were able to earn 8% in that year? That would mean an additional 2% or $20,000 is now able to be spent with staying on financial track based on your plan. Now that might sound great, but does it mean that you have to spend $20,000 less if the market goes down? Not necessarily and that’s because of the investment planning.

The Retirement Decumulation Stage - The 3 Investment Buckets

When entering into the retirement decumulation stage, it can be useful to view your savings in three separate investment buckets.

  1. Your growth bucket - It looks a lot like the bucket used during all those years accumulating. In this bucket you have your:

  • Diversified equities found in mutual funds

  • Index funds

  • Stock portfolios.

This bucket should be pictured adjacent to a Texas creek. When the creek is flowing this bucket can fill up fast, but when the sun comes out in the middle of summer, evaporation happens fast.

2. Your fixed income bucket - It looks a lot different than the growth bucket. This bucket hangs in a tree in Florida. It’s shaded and it’s humid, so it doesn’t have the same evaporation that the growth bucket has, but it also only fills up when it rains. Luckily, Florida’s rainy season is summer when the Texas creeks get low.

3. Your emergency fund of savings - This bucket is the one that you keep at the bottom of your well. It’s nice and cool down there and some rain can make its way there in the shape of interest.

Unfortunately, there are some animals at the bottom of the well that drink out of that bucket, whether you use the money in that bucket. Those animals are called inflation. We must be careful to put the right amount in this bucket because those animals have grown quite large recently.

What is a Retirement Decumulation Plan?

A retirement decumulation plan is one where the investments are structured in a specific way to provide a stream of income and a higher level of protection from the general ups and downs of the stock market.

What is a Retirement Accumulation Plan?

Investment Classifications


It’s not really a case of accumulation vs decumulation as both the accumulation and decumulation stages of financial planning are important, they are distinct and unique in how we approach them. It’s important to have a good budget, stay on target, and fill up the right buckets during the right times of your life. The Creme Wealth Team specializes in empowering clients to keep more of their earnings while making money make sense. Reach out today for your complimentary assessment.

Any opinions are those of Andrew Cremé and not necessarily those of Raymond James. This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. The information contained in this blog does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. Investments mentioned may not be suitable for all investors. Individual investor's results will vary. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or a loss regardless of strategy selected. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation.

Investors should carefully consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses of mutual funds before investing. The prospectus and summary prospectus contains this and other information about mutual funds. The prospectus and summary prospectus is available from your financial advisor and should be read carefully before investing.


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