In Your 60s? The Principles of Asset Allocation for Retirement
When it comes to your retirement planning portfolio, there’s a big trade-off that you’ll likely need to consider: safety versus growth.
Considering that many retirees want their savings to last a lifetime, safety is often top of mind – that means a “capital preservation” investment strategy and a focus on low-volatility investments.
But that very need can make the safety mindset a risk in itself. Lower volatility can spell danger when it comes to making your savings last, especially if you’re withdrawing more than your account earns every year.
So how do you strike the right balance? Let’s start with the principles before diving into what you can do in your personal situation.
Capital Preservation and the need for income
Safety of savings isn’t the only reason a retiree might favor a capital preservation strategy.
The need for consistent annual income is another important factor. Even if that income is lower than it “might” have been with higher average growth, knowing that they’ll be able to withdraw a certain amount every year means a lot to many retirees.
Of course, this might work more effectively if you don’t need to take a significant amount of income from your portfolio (as opposed to other sources), or if your income needs are relatively modest. It can also make sense if you have significant savings on a dollar basis.
What often gets overlooked
With longevity inching higher for retirees, it’s increasingly important to consider whether your portfolio can keep pace with you for the long haul.
Two factors that are often overlooked in the safety mindset are inflation and the long-term effects of using principal for income.
Inflation is currently 1.9%, which probably doesn’t seem like much. But over the course of a 20- or 30-year retirement, inflation can completely change your dollar income needs.
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This is even more important when you factor in that not all spending categories experience the same inflation rates. One recent estimate found that medical costs will rise 6% in 2017 and are expected to grow another 6.5% in 2018.
This number is shockingly high, and 2017 represented a 10-year low.
Drawing down principal is similar: it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that a little bit of principal won’t make a big difference. In fact, the effects add up over time, and they can be significant.
If you’re planning to use your principal for income, be sure to run the numbers carefully to help minimize the risk that you’ll draw down too quickly.
Growth and longevity risk
Managing the need for long-term sustainable income is where the growth mindset comes in.
For retirees who need to stretch their savings as far as possible – meaning higher and longer-lasting income – investing for long-term growth can make sense.
Riskier equity-based investment strategies tend to have higher average returns over a long period. That mean that you may be able to choose a higher withdrawal rate without risking too much loss of principal.
Even if you withdraw conservatively, keeping your portfolio growing can help mitigate risk factors like higher ongoing healthcare expenses, a sudden health crisis, or changing budget needs.
The risks of a growth strategy
That said, pursuing growth is not without risk. The biggest risk is a drop in the market that impacts your portfolio’s ability to grow and your ability to generate income.
Generally speaking, if you want to pursue a growth strategy, it is advisable to have other income sources in place that you can turn to in times of market trouble. The best way to keep your assets growing over the long-haul is to keep them invested during downturns, rather than withdrawing for income.
If you can reduce or eliminate your need for portfolio income when the market goes south, you will make it easier to achieve the benefits of long-term growth.
Developing your own approach
Once you understand the principles of capital preservation versus growth, consider how they relate to your needs.
Take the following factors into account:
- Your retirement income needs and budget
- Your retirement income sources
- Your total asset base
- Any specific risk factors that you might be facing, like reliance on your portfolio for income or a chronic health condition
- Your legacy plans and preferences – do you want to leave money behind for your heirs, or is your full capital base fair game for retirement income?
Together, your financial profile and your preferences will help guide as you start researching the investment strategies that can make sense for you. Working with an advisor can help: here at Vitucci & Associates we have specialized calculators and tools that can help you make better projections, as well as experienced advisors who can help you align your goals with the reality of your finances.
Special section: Retirement income planning
One of the hardest parts of retirement investing has nothing to do with stocks and bonds: retirement income.
How much money do you need? How might your needs change? The answers to these questions vary widely from one person to another, but there are two major spending categories you’ll want to think about carefully:
- Lifestyle factors
Lifestyle factors include your housings costs – including taxes and maintenance – and your hobbies, travel plans, and everyday budgets for groceries and entertainment.
In our experience, many retirees have a more active lifestyle in the first decade or so of retirement, and start to enjoy a slower pace later on. That means you might be spending more on hobbies and travel in early retirement than you’d expect, and you may see some of that spending redirected towards medical or other needs later.
Finally, take a good look at your housing situation. For example, you might be hale and hearty now, but if you happen to have mobility problems down the road it could be difficult to stay in your 3-story condo.
So plan ahead – the longer onramp you have for these types of decisions the better, as you can consider your options, get all the information you need, and shop around for possible solutions.
- Medical costs
This is a big spending area for retirement and a major risk factor for financial security.
Be sure to have a serious and honest look at your health, what you can do to manage it, and what your potential needs are around insurance and long-term care. An extended stay in a nursing home can decimate your financial plans if you aren’t prepared – so it’s important to be prepared.
Second, keep in mind that healthcare spending tends to rise over the course of life: a Federal Reserve study found that average spending on medical needs doubles between ages 70 and 90. On average, Americans over 90 spend more than $25,000 per year on medical expenses.
Even if you have the best Medicare plan and private coverage, you will still be shouldering part of this burden – factor in inflation and you can see how serious it is.
Make your retirement transition a smooth one
Transitioning into retirement can be stressful and confusing. How do you know you’ve done everything you need to? Download our free guide to transitioning into retirement to find out. Your Retirement Transition Plan covers all the major areas you need to address before you take the leap into retirement, with topics ranging from health to housing, insurance to investment.
Click here to download Your Retirement Transition Plan free today!
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