I have a retired friend who knows he needs growth to ensure his nest egg will last throughout retirement, but at the same time is nervous about the investing in the stock market. Any advice for how he should invest?–D.F.
First, let me say that I don’t blame you (I mean your friend) for being skittish. Even though stock prices have more than tripled after bottoming out in the wake of the financial crisis a little more than eight years ago and now stand at or near record highs, there’s that nagging concern in the back of many investors’ minds that the market could suddenly reverse course and we could be looking at another major selloff and a prolonged slump.
And, of course, at some point that will happen, as it has many times before. We just don’t know when or what will trigger the downturn. So the question is how do we invest our nest egg so we can take advantage of stocks’ potential for long-term growth without leaving ourselves too vulnerable to devastating setbacks that could jeopardize our retirement security?
The answer comes down to balance. But not just balance in an investing sense, or creating an investing strategy that reflects an acceptable tradeoff between risk and reward. I’m talking about balance in an emotional sense too, achieving a level of equanimity that helps us keep our composure when the markets are in turmoil, so we don’t do something we’ll later regret, like selling stocks in a panic at depressed prices.
The first step toward achieving investing balance is to build a portfolio of stocks and bonds that can generate acceptable returns while also providing reasonable downside protection. For help in creating such a stocks-bonds mix, you can go to Vanguard’s free risk tolerance-asset allocation tool.
The tool will also give you a sense of how such a blend of stocks and bonds has performed in the past, and you can also see how many years the various portfolios have suffered a loss and how each has performed on average over many decades.
You shouldn’t think of this as any sort of guarantee of how a given combination of stocks and bonds will fare in the future. If anything, many pros believe average returns going ahead for both stocks and bonds will be considerably lower than in the past. But at least you’ll have a good idea of how different mixes have behaved under a variety of market conditions.
In your zeal to protect yourself against setbacks, however, you…