After you retire, how much money can you withdraw from your portfolio? Many advisers say that a safe initial withdrawal rate is about 4.5 percent of the portfolio’s value: $4,500 for every $100,000 you have invested. With a balanced mix of stocks and bonds, you can increase that amount to match inflation and be reasonably sure that your portfolio will provide cash flow for 30 years.

What if you want to withdraw, say, 5.5 percent in Year One of your retirement? That’s risky, but you can reduce the risk by adding flexibility to your withdrawal strategy:

* Reduce the scheduled withdrawal amount by 10 percent when your portfolio values drops sharply. If you were going to take $30,000 from your portfolio, for example, you might cut that to $27,000 after a severe bear market.

* Similarly, plan on increasing the scheduled withdrawal amount by 10 percent–say, from $30,000 to $33,000–after a strong bull market.

This technique will give you more money to spend yet still reduce the risk that your portfolio will be depleted during a long retirement.

For steady retirement income, consider a laddered bond portfolio. Such a ladder would contain individual bonds that mature at specific future dates, generating the amount of income that will be needed then. The bonds in your ladder should increase in size so that you will receive more money as they mature, allowing your spending to keep up with inflation.

Unlike bond funds, individual bonds have no expenses, which helps boost your returns. However, individual bonds typically go six months between interest payments. Therefore, you might want to hold bonds from different issuers so that you receive interest payments each month.

* You can use the bond interest for spending, if necessary.

* Alternatively, you can rely upon bond redemptions, at maturity, for spending money. If so, the bond interest can go into stock funds, for long-term growth.

As your bonds mature, your ladder will be missing a rung. If your ladder then has no bonds longer than nine years, for example, you might sell some stocks to provide enough cash to buy a 10-year bond, restoring your ladder.