Investing basics—before and after retirement
When you retire, the basic investing guidance is likely the same as it was before.
- Holding a thoughtfully diversified portfolio can help you balance the risk in different market conditions.
- The closer you are to needing the money, the lower the risk you should consider taking with it.
- The farther out you are, the more risk and potential return you may want to consider seeking.
- Retirement savings—even when you’re in retirement—should be treated as a long-term investment account, not a trading account.
But before you retire, your goal is to grow your savings. And after you retire, your goal may be to spend your savings. So while the risk versus time recommendations are likely the same, your financial strategies may be different.
Changing from one strategy to another isn’t like flipping a switch. It’s important to start to gradually consider derisking your investments, which may include a strategy of adding a greater percentage of bonds and less aggressive investments and lessening the portion that’s in higher-risk assets like equities. Generally, this process starts 10 to 15 years before retirement so that it’s a gradual and thoughtful change.
Why are inflation and interest rates considered risks for retirement?
Inflation risk is the concern that the value of your money isn’t keeping up with rising prices, and it’s an especially critical matter in retirement. Why? Because generally, the U.S. Federal Reserve wants to manage inflation to a long-term target of 2% or 3%, which means that your investments need to earn at least that much to keep up. And if inflation is higher than that target, it’s even harder to keep up.
For example, let’s look at someone who’s invested very conservatively and is only generating a return of 1.5% on investments. If inflation is at 3.0%, the money has lost purchasing power. Although the account value has increased, it didn’t keep pace with the increase in costs of goods and services.
So although the accepted guidance is to be more conservative with your investment strategy as you get closer to retirement, it’s important to make sure your money isn’t invested so conservatively that it’s losing value.
Changing interest rates are a risk for your savings because they affect the stock market and bonds. Generally, when interest rates are low, many people and companies invest in stocks rather than bonds in the hope of better returns in the stock market. But as interest rates go up, a strategy of investing in bonds usually becomes more attractive—especially for people nearing retirement.
There are a lot of factors to consider, but in short, when interest rates rise, the price of existing bonds (and bond funds) will fall. The opposite is also true: When rates fall, prices rise. It’s also important to understand the timeframe involved when investing in bonds. Long-term bonds tend to fluctuate more than short-term bonds when interest rates change—although they tend to fluctuate less than stock prices.
A budget to help you decide when you’ll need income
If you’ve never followed a budget, now is a good time to consider starting. It’s not likely in your best interest to take all the money out of your savings at once, especially if the market is down at the time. Taking it all out at once could also push you into a higher tax bracket. It’ll be helpful to have an idea of how much money you’ll need and when.
So create a budget to look at your expenses, not just for this year, but over the next few decades. How much are you going to need to access every year?
This could help you keep the money you’ll need in the near future in low-risk investments and still give you the chance to invest some with more risk and potential return for later.
Investment strategies to consider after retirement
After you retire, you’ll want to consider not only an investment’s risk and return profile, but also its ability to generate income. There are a few investment types that offer income:
- Dividend stocks and preferred stocks
- Certificates of deposit (CDs)
- Stable value funds
Dividend stocks and preferred stocks
Although stocks tend to fluctuate more in value than other investments, you may decide it’s worth the risk to consider a strategy of investing in individual company stocks or stock funds (mutual funds) to potentially get regular dividend payments—although it’s important to do your research because not all companies or stock funds pay dividends.
Dividend stocks—Make sure you’re aware of the potential tax implications of ordinary and qualified dividends. Ordinary dividends are taxable as ordinary income. Qualified dividends may be taxed as capital gains, which may be lower.
While a strategy of dividend/income-producing investments can be an appealing way to generate income during retirement, a strategy of diversifying with some more aggressive stocks may help maintain purchasing power.
Different industries thrive or struggle in different economic environments, which is another reason to consider diversifying among industries and among asset classes. Although these results aren’t guaranteed, historically, we’ve seen these patterns:
- During periods of sustained stock market growth (e.g., bull markets), these typical growth sectors could have potential appeal, although they generally don’t pay dividends.
- Consumer discretionary
- In the early stages of economic growth after a recession, value sectors tend to perform better, and they often provide dividends.
- Auto manufacturers
- During a recession, when markets are falling, defensive sectors historically have held up better, and they tend to provide dividends.
- Aerospace and military defense manufacturers
- Consumer staples
- Certain types of healthcare, such as large pharmaceuticals
Preferred stocks—Although all stock comes with risk, preferred stock offers some protection in case the underlying company declares bankruptcy. Dividends on preferred stock are paid out before those on common stock (but they’re still not guaranteed).
Another important difference is that preferred stock actually behaves more like bonds, but carries a higher interest-rate risk than traditional bonds.
Annuities are contracts offered by insurance companies that agree to pay you a certain amount of money at a certain time and for a certain period of time. The regular payments can help you create an income stream by providing a dependable amount of money for the stated period. There are a few different types of annuities, and you should make sure you understand which one may be suitable for your needs. Also, be sure you understand the fee structure, potential penalties, and whether or not any residual value goes to your beneficiaries at the time of your death.
When you buy a bond, you’re actually loaning the money to the government or institution that offers it. Bonds grow to a stated value at their maturity, which may create income if you sell at maturity. But up until that date, their price can fluctuate with changing market conditions and interest rates. One way to help reduce the need to sell bonds before they mature is to buy bonds with different maturities—this is called bond laddering. For example, if you know there’s money you won’t need until the latter part of your retirement, you could consider purchasing 10-year and 20-year bonds, with the plan to sell them at maturity.
CDs are considered cash equivalents because they usually offer a low-risk way to save money and earn a small return. They’re also FDIC insured, although the amount that’s covered depends on the category. When you open a CD, you lock into a timeframe and interest rate for the amount of the deposit. Something you can consider is to ladder these so that they’re ready when you need them.
Stable value funds
If you keep any money in a workplace retirement plan, such as a 401(k), after you retire, you may be able to invest in stable value funds (if offered by the plan). These are low-risk investments offered by insurance companies that seek to guarantee your principal and can pay you a low but steady income stream in retirement.
Planning your retirement income requires a new way of thinking
After earning a paycheck and saving for so many years, it can be hard to switch to planning how and when you’ll receive your income in retirement. It requires looking at all your potential sources of income—different retirement accounts, investments and savings accounts, rental properties, working in retirement, selling your home—and deciding when to turn them into usable cash. You want to live a pleasant lifestyle, but you also don’t want to run out of money while you still have living to do. Putting together a plan can help. You may also want to work with a financial professional, such as a certified public accountant or a registered investment adviser, to help you sort out some of the more complex tax and investment aspects of retirement income planning.
For complete information about a particular investment option, please read the fund prospectus or offering memorandum/trust document. You should carefully consider the objectives, risks, charges and expenses before investing. The prospectus or offering memorandum/trust document contains this and other important information about the investment option and investment company. Please read the prospectus or offering memorandum/trust document carefully before you invest or send money. Prospectus or offering memorandum/trust document may only be available in English.
There is no guarantee that any investment strategy will achieve its objectives. Past performance does not guarantee future results.
Diversification does not guarantee a profit or eliminate the risk of a loss.
As market conditions change, so may the risk/reward potential of these investment types.
All mutual funds are subject to market risk and will fluctuate in value.
Stable value portfolios typically invest in a diversified portfolio of bonds and enter into wrapper agreements with financial companies to prevent fluctuations in their share prices. Although a portfolio will seek to maintain a stable value, there is a risk that it will not be able to do so, and participants may lose their investment if both the fund's investment portfolio and the wrapper provider fail.
Investing involves risks, including the potential loss of principal. These products carry many individual risks, including some that are unique to each fund. Please see each fund’s prospectus to learn all of the risks associated with each investment.
It is your responsibility to select and monitor your investment options to meet your retirement objectives. You should review your investment strategy at least annually. You may also want to consult your own independent investment or tax advisor or legal counsel.
The content of this document is for general information only and is believed to be accurate and reliable as of the posting date, but may be subject to change. It is not intended to provide investment, tax, plan design, or legal advice (unless otherwise indicated). Please consult your own independent advisor as to any investment, tax, or legal statements made.