Savings Rate – the four pot solution

four pot solution
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87 Responses

  1. Brian says:

    This is very interesting, and something I’ve been struggling to try and model. Would appreciate a copy of the spreadsheet if you get a spare moment.

  2. Dwayne says:

    Hi Mike, just found this article via Monevator and would love a copy of your spreadsheet. Glad you took the time to put all this into a spreadsheet and talk about it!

  3. Andrew says:

    Hi Mike
    Thank you for this. Interesting read – bit older than 30 but would like to understand in more detail. To this end I need to print out the article and read it properly whilst having the spreadsheet open…if you would email it over then that would be great, thank you.

  4. ajb26 says:

    Fantastic resource, have been looking for something UK-centric like this for ages! Please can I get a copy?

  5. Martyn says:

    Mike, Thanks for the great post – I have been trying to do something similar but my spreadsheet skills aren’t up to this yet. I would appreciate it if you could send me a copy of the spreadsheet if possible. Many thanks.

  6. Rich says:

    Hi Mike,
    Came across this on a link from Monevator, will now bookmark it. I would love a copy of the spreadsheet

  7. Emily says:

    Wow, I’ve been looking for something just like this! I would really appreciate a copy of the sheet as well.

  8. Jo says:

    Interesting post. Could you please send me a copy of the spreadsheet? Thanks.

  9. sas says:

    I have been trying to model this also any chance I could get a copy

  10. Lee G says:

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for your efforts on this. You’ve managed to put a lot of the planning calculations of getting to FIRE in one place. I’d like to take a look at the spreadsheet if you don’t mind sharing? I love a good spreadsheet!

    Thanks again,

  11. David Quinlan says:

    Really helpful. Can you send me a copy please?

  12. Mark says:

    Would be great if you could share this spreadsheet

    • Mark says:

      Hi Mike,

      Excellent sheet… one thing I’d like to change is the state retirement age as I will have to be at least 68 years old before I receive any state pension. What is the easiest way to do this in your file?

      • Mike Rawson says:

        I think that should be pretty easy. Change the 66 at the top right of the yellow input panel to 68.

        Then go to the cell in the green waterfall panel to the right of “Needed for 60-66”. The formula is K11*6 and you want it to be K11*8 for 68.

  13. Lynn says:

    This is interesting as I’ve been muddling through something like this for a while with far less precision. I’d be keen to try yours if you’ll email it to me. One of the reasons I gave up on precision is trying to take account of being in a relationship where each half of the couple have different levels in their pots but are planning to retire at the same time and share their resources. Any advice on modifying the spreadsheet to account for this would be appreciated.

  14. Hello,
    My Dad just sent me a link to this page – and it is exactly what I have been trying to work out myself. But your model looks so much better than I could manage! I would also really appreciate a copy of your sheet that I can edit myself.
    Thank you.

  15. Keith says:

    Hi Mike

    Would appreciate a copy of the file/link as I am in the FIRE stage (looks tight if market crashes) and have my own modelling along similar lines so very interested to compare



  16. Gary says:

    Hi Mike like others i found your blog from Monevator’s weekend roundup, and would really appreciate a copy of the spreadsheet to step through. A question would the strategy still be to use ISA’s to fund the buffer between FIRE and 55 if you had other un-sheltered savings and investments available ??

    • Mike Rawson says:

      Hi Gary,,

      There’s no cell in the sheet for non-sheltered money. One way to approach this would be to work out what income that money could generate and reduce your living expenses by that amount.

      But the real question is why do you have unsheltered money when you can put £15K a year into ISAs and £40K a year into SIPPs?

      • The Squirreler says:

        Hi Mike, thanks for taking the time to both put this together and then provide such a detailed run through of its workings- it looks like it will be really useful for anyone who is building their FIRE pot. Would really appreciate getting a copy so I can see how I am tracking!

      • The Squirreler says:

        I guess you can end up in a position where your pension pot has enough and as your overall aim is to retire early you need to front load to enable earlier retirement. For example our collective pension pots have around £450k in them and we are still 20 years away from being able to access these. Therefore, although we could continue to squirrel away into this pot above our employee/employer contributions we actually want to fill isas and any excess is also squirreled outside of the pension/ISA wrappers.

        • Mike Rawson says:

          It’s more complicated than that, but that’s the thinking behind the spreadsheet.

          You have four pots of money that you can access at four different ages, and you need to work out how much to put in each so that you end up with the earliest possible retirement age.

          • The Squirreler says:

            Yeah that makes sense. I was just trying to explain why you might have stuff outside of the tax wrappers – ISA /pension – that you raised.

  17. Jon says:

    Thanks for this, followed your post and built my own version of the sheet but would appreciate a copy of yours to see if we get the same results 😉 if you would please?

  18. Stephen says:

    Also just found this via Monevator. Grateful for a copy of the xls if you are happy to share it. Look fwd to reading some of your past and future articles.

  19. Barrie says:

    Hi Mike, found you through Monevators Weekend Reading link. I would love an editable copy if not too much trouble. Looks like a great piece of work. I’ve book marked you to my favourites for future reading and signed up to the Newsletter. Many thanks !!!

  20. Degsy says:

    Interesting article. I’d appreciate a copy of the spreadsheet so I can better understand your model and approach.

  21. Raymond says:

    Please can I have a copy of the spreadsheet.


  22. MaxDiver says:

    Interesting the way you spell everything out and I also like that you can characterise different stages (when do you have access to your SIPP etc…).
    Do you have a column for inheritance from rich aunt’s? 😛
    (and can I have a copy of the sheet please)

    • Mike Rawson says:

      Hi Donall,

      There’s no cell in the sheet for non-tax-sheltered money, such as an inheritance.

      As I suggested to Gary, one way to approach this would be to work out what income that money could generate and reduce your living expenses by that amount.

      And get as much of it into tax-shelters as you can!

  23. John says:

    Another also directed here by Monevator. Seems like a very useful spreadsheet. Could I have a copy please?

  24. puj says:

    Interesting stuff, id also like a copy of the spreadsheet if possible.

  25. Matt says:

    Hi Mike,

    Like many others in the comments above, I’ve found your site via Monevator’s weekend-reading links.

    May I have a copy of this very pertinent and useful-looking spreadsheet please?

    I love spreadsheets (*rubs hands*)…

    One question (which may have come-up already, apologies if I’ve missed it) – how does it handle rent as opposed to home-ownership/a mortage? What about the transition from renting to owning a home ?

    • Mike Rawson says:

      Rent is just part of your living expenses. I treat property separately, and just work out how much per year you need to pay off your mortgage.

      I assume that you want to have your mortgage paid off by the time you stop earning.

      If you want to keep renting, just add your rent into your living expenses.

  26. RH says:


    Very interesting reading. Found my way here via Monevator… will be reading further after this!

    I’d love a copy of the spreadsheet you have created please.



  27. Rob says:

    Very interesting piece, I’d love a copy of the spreadsheet too. The gap between retiring and pensions kicking in has been in the back of my mind for a while and I’ve gone no further than that! This seems like a good place to start.
    My wife has a university pension which, from what I can remember, is broken into various parts some final salary, some average salary as the scheme has tried to adjust to lower expected returns and longer life expectancy, hopefully this will spur me into looking at this as well.

  28. Tony says:

    Hi Mike.
    Would like a copy of your four pots spreadsheet if possible. I have Isa’s, Sipp, house nearly paid off and a DC pension all with significant sums in them.. Made redundant last December at 55! , so would like to see if it shows if I am able to retire now…..
    Great site.. Will add to my favourites..

  29. Pete says:

    Please could I have a copy of the spread sheet. Looks interesting.

  30. David says:

    I would also appreciate a copy of the spreadsheet please.

  31. James says:

    Would appreciate the spreadsheet too please 🙂

  32. ian says:

    Looks like a fantastic spreadsheet and you’ve done all the hard work figuring out the four pot method of calculation (which I had previously out off trying to analyse as it seemed like too much work).
    I have started building my own version based on your method, but got sick of it after getting as far as the ‘can phase 2 start’ calculation and then seeing here was still the waterfall stuff to do as well… Also interestingly had slightly different results on the calculations that’s shown in your example and I couldn’t figure out why.
    So would you be kind enough to send me a copy of e completed sheet also to play around with?

  33. Grainne says:

    Could I also have a copy pretty please? I have a civil service work pension and I’m starting a S&S ISA but I hadnt thought of getting a sipp. If early retirement and financial independence is my end goal should I be starting one up? I was thinking of starting a lifetime isa when they come next year, though you cant get it until your 60, 5years later than a sipp. Great blog may thanks, G.

  34. Helen says:

    And another new, impressed reader. I have another much simpler version of a calculator that I created myself but would v much like to try yours. Could you send it to me please?

  35. Paul P says:

    Hi Mike, thanks for all the great info on the site. It’s good to find a FIRE blogger who sees the value of a mixed active/passive investment strategy (and explains why!). There’s a lot of passive evangelism out there on other FIRE blogs and it’s good to be reassured that others share my thinking. I’ve been trying to work out how best to divide my contributions between pensions / isa for some time now through a number of separate calculations, but with limited success, so i would really appreciate a copy of this spreadsheet. Thanks and keep up the good work!

  36. Lucy says:

    Morning, I too would love the opportunity to input my details into the spreadsheet and see when I might be able to retire to the seaside, thanks!

  37. Katie says:

    Love me a good spreadsheet and this would help me so much to work out whether to put money into SIPPs, please can you send me the spreadsheet? Aiming to retire by husband’s 40th birthday (just over two years away) so currently not putting anything into SIPPs as don’t want to wait 15 years to access them! But maybe your spreadsheet will prove we should be putting money into it. Thank you it would be so helpful!

  38. Matthew says:

    I’m 25 and currently planning my financial future, I would be really grateful if you could send me a copy of this spreadsheet.

    What’s your opinion on the new Lifetime ISA on FIRE?! Government top up on a tax free account, but you can’t access it until 60 …

    • Mike Rawson says:

      Hi Matthew,

      I’ve sent you the link to the spreadsheet.

      I think you need to see the LISA for what it is – more government support for the housing market, rather than a savings vehicle. If you leave it until 60, it’s worse than a pension (eg. SIPP – available from 55) and offers only basic rate tax relief.

      It’s only advantage is to grow your deposit for a house tax-free.

      • Ian Calvert says:

        “If you leave it until 60, it’s worse than a pension (eg. SIPP – available from 55) and offers only basic rate tax relief.”

        This isn’t right, since a pension is taxed on the way out but the LISA is not.

        For totals over the personal allowance, it actually works out as equivalent to a salary sacrifice pension for a basic rate taxpayer.

        Salary Sacrifice:

        Net cost £68, Pension value £100. £25 tax free + (£75 * 0.8) = £85 withdrawn


        Net cost £68, end value £68 * 125% = £85

        • Mike Rawson says:

          HI Ian,

          I meant that you can access a SIPP before a LISA. Since access seems to be the main reason why young people prefer ISAs to SIPPs, I can’t see that the LISA would be more attractive to those saving for retirement.

          Plus you can only save £4K per year until age 50, which isn’t enough on its own for retirement.

          As it currently stands, the LISA is just a government ploy to prop up the housing market. It may evolve into something more, but I’m not sure yet that May supports it the way that Osborne did.

          • Ian Calvert says:

            > I can’t see that the LISA would be more attractive to those saving for retirement.

            I assume these people are planning to live past 60? It’s worth more than a SIPP for a basic rate taxpayer for any income over the personal allowance withdrawn over that age.

            > Plus you can only save £4K per year until age 50, which isn’t enough on its own for retirement.

            No, but that is still a pot of £150,000 + growth that you can save up from 20-50. With 3% real growth (assuming allowed contributions rise with inflation) then that’s £242k by the time you’re 50 and then £327 with another 10 years to grow. At £18k/year withdrawal and 2% growth at withdrawal that’s 22 years.

            I don’t know why you’d class it as “not a savings vehicle”.

          • Mike Rawson says:

            Hi Ian,

            I don’t think we’re going to agree here.
            – a pot of £150K going in is entirely inadequate, and so is £327K coming out – you need closer to £1M in the UK.
            – there are plenty of posts on my website explaining how much you need
            – but the main point is that the people who won’t put money into a pot they can access at 55, are unlikely to put money into a pot they can’t access before 60.

            Of course I get the point about living past 60 – that’s the entire reason I did the four-pot spreadsheet.
            – I have a discussion every week with someone who prefers ISAs to pensions because they can get the money out anytime, and I always explain that if they plan to live beyond 55, they should think about pensions, too.

            So, in theory, basic-rate savers might like the LISA, but, in practice, it’s hard to get basic rate taxpayers to save for their long-term future (and harder to get them to invest in equities rather than cash).

            Why do you think the LISA was introduced? We already had ISAs (TEE) and SIPPs (EET). The only extra in the LISA is the bonus towards a deposit (as per the Help-to-Buy ISA).

            My basic point is that only someone planning to buy a property would see the LISA as significantly helpful to their goals.
            – Please don’t let me stop you taking one out if you think it will help, but it’s not the answer to our country’s problem with retirement savings

            We need higher contributions into workplace pensions than the planned 8% pa.
            – Personally I would make them compulsory, as in Australia.

  39. Ashley England says:

    Another person after a copy of this excellent looking spreadsheet!

  40. Michael says:

    Reddit sent me here – /r/fireuk to be precise. This spreadsheet looks like a polished version of what I’ve been stumbling towards in my own Excelling – would love a link please!

  41. James says:

    Hi Mike,

    Also here from reddit and love your blog, can’t believe I’ve not come across it before.

    As someone starting out on their FIRE journey I’d also appreciate a link to the spreadsheet.



  42. James says:

    HI Mike,

    I am a contractor with a LTD company and I’m fortunate enough to be able to FIRE at 40 (currently 30), however all the calculations fall apart for me and it just says #Value in most fields… any thoughts?

  43. MrMP says:

    Hi, I love the spreadsheet, thanks for making it open to the public. One thing, my DB pension is actually accessible at 55. How can I edit the sheet to accommodate for this?

    • Mike Rawson says:

      To be honest, I’m not sure what happens if you change cell F3 from 60 to 55. I’ve never come across a DB pension accessible at 55. Are you taking early retirement, or are you in a specialised profession?

      It might be best to treat your work pension as part of your SIPP by working out the present value of your future DB pension (using your real growth rate, which defaults to 3% in the sheet).

      Then you could set your DB pension income to zero and add the value to your current SIPP value.

      Let me know how it works out.

      • MrMP says:

        Thanks for replying Mike. Perhaps it’s not technically a DB pension. It’s the LGPS2014 scheme if you’re familiar with that?

        I’m not at early retirement levels yet, but I’m trying to formulate a strategy.

        I’ll look to modify this as you suggested and see how it look. Thanks again.

        • Mike Rawson says:

          Never heard of it until now but it looks as though future contributions are linked by default to Normal State Pension Age, so 66+ (depending on your age). So I think you are talking about early retirement.

          They supply reduction factors for early retirement here:

          So you would need to reduce your projected pension before working out the present value of that reduced pension.

          Or you could take the reduced annual income and subtract that from the living expenses you need to retire.

          • MrMP says:

            Yes that sounds about right. It’s linked to state pension age, but you can withdraw anytime after 55, at a reduced rate, as you have linked above.

            Good idea about reducing the required living expenses to take this into consideration. I think I’ll have a go at that.

  44. Les says:

    Hi Mike
    I am new to your site and it is a fantastic resource. Thank you so much for compiling such an informative and useful resource. Having been a financial delinquent for too long I am learning fast. I would like to run a Four Pots FIRE projection using your spreadsheet, which I have downloaded.
    I am already 55, with a small collection of personal pensions, a partly paid-off house and a small deferred DB pension. How would you advise I start the entries to the spreadsheet ?

    • Mike Rawson says:

      Hi Les,

      You are a bit of an edge case. The main point of the spreadsheet is to work out how to split money between ISAs and SIPPs, to determine when you can safely retire before being able to access your SIPP (ie. before age 55). This was what was missing from the other spreadsheets that I had seen.

      Since you are already 55, the basic question is much simpler. You either have enough income from the personal pensions to retire on, or you don’t. You don’t mention any ISAs, so I’ll assume you don’t have them. (You also need a plan for paying off the rest of your house.)

      If you don’t have enough pension income to retire now, then the other option to explore is – assuming you have a fairly big DB pension coming at say age 60 – could you run down the personal pensions to get you to age 60?

      And then when you get to 60, would you have enough left to supplement the DB pension for the next 30 years?

      You’ll need to be pretty confident about saying yes to those two questions if you want to go down that route.

      Hope this helps – let me know if I’ve misunderstood anything.

      • Les says:

        Hi Mike
        An edge case is a pretty good description. I have no ISAs, my DB wont be sufficient to retire on after 63 (the current retirement date for that pot) and I’m assuming I will have to work and keep drawing a salary (and make pension contributions) to age 65, at which point my mortgage will be paid – if I don’t find a way to pay it sooner. I’m exploring the option of value investing in equities to grow my SIPP, so studying and learning hard on how to approach that in a sensible way. I’m looking forward to the advice and tips from your website and fellow contributors.

  45. Yung says:

    Hello Mike,

    Great article, any chance of sending me a copy of your splendid spreadsheet?

  46. Ed says:

    Hi Mike,

    Amazing sheet. I just had one or two questions…

    Using cell G10 as an example (workplace contributions), it looks like you are taking personal contributions (C10) and then multiplying by 2 – I presume this is assuming a 100% employer match? (e.g. if I contribute £500 per month, the employer will match 100% of that giving me a total of £1000). Is that right?

    Also, could you just explain the reasoning behind cell L2? I can’t quite see how you’re deriving that value as a net income figure (especially if you’re using C10*2 again which I assume includes employer contributions?) I’m sure I’m just missing some very simple logic!

    Many thanks, Ed

    • Mike Rawson says:

      Hi Ed,

      I assume you mean G20 as G10 is blank. Yes, I assume matched contributions to the work pension. You’d need to change the formula in column G from row 20 down if your matching scheme is different.

      I think you are confusing net income with after-tax wages. The point of L2 is to contribute to L3, the savings rate.

      So we need to include all the money that goes into ISAs and pensions, plus the living expenses. That the is the potential amount that could be saved, and we compare this to the amount that actually was saved.

      Some people would include taxes as well, but I don’t, since you don’t control them.

      Hope this helps,


  47. Ed says:

    Hi Mike,

    Do you have an updated version of this sheet?

    Columns O-R don’t seem to be populated..?

    Also, cells N8 and N9 seem to have ’19’ – which I assume should be L6 – hardcoded into the formula…

    • Mike Rawson says:

      Hi Ed,

      There’s no updated version. Those rows are populated, but they only display when certain conditions are met.

      The 19 in N8 and N9 is a row offset derived from the layout of the sheet – it’s a coincidence that the number of rows matches the time to FIRE in the example data.



  48. Alex says:

    Hi Mike,

    Found this site through the Mr Money Mustache forum. The spreadsheet sounds exactly what I’m after, I’d really appreciate a link to it.

    Many thanks!

  1. April 30, 2016

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Savings Rate – the four pot solution

by Mike Rawson time to read: 7 min