Well, done, retiree: You've done the hard work of saving and investing. Now it's time to enjoy the fruits of your labor and foresight. If you're following a pattern common to your demographic, you're generally invested in safe, dividend-paying stocks that will provide you with income throughout your golden years.
But if you're in your 70s, your average life expectancy is anywhere from nine to 16 more years, according to the Social Security Administration. And you could conceivably live to be over 100, so it's worth considering finding a few growth plays to add into the mix.
With that in mind, here are three stocks to consider if you're in your 70s.
Historically, no low-risk stock has been a better performer than Berkshire Hathaway. The conglomerate run by Warren Buffet has consistently beat the market, growing from 1964-2014 at a compound annual rate of 21.6%, compared to around 9% for the S&P 500. Though Berkshire's growth rate has slowed in recent years, it's still outperformed the broad-market index over the last five years, and the company's strength lies in bear markets rather than the bull market we've had for the last seven years.
Buffett's insurance companies, financial stocks, stable consumer-facing brands like Coca-Cola and Kraft Heinz, and a few industrial companies form a diversified conglomerate that is well-suited to withstand any recession. And as a retiree, the first rule of investing should be to avoid losing wealth.
Berkshire does not pay a dividend, but shareholders have been willing to accept that trade-off as Buffett accumulates cash in order to go "hunting for elephants," as he likes to say, buying big companies like recent acquisitions Heinz and Precision Castparts. With the float from insurance premiums used to generate returns and add more subsidiaries, Berkshire is a unique company and should continue to outperform.
2. General Motors (NYSE:GM)
The automaker may not offer the steady cash flow typical of a retirement stock, but shares are so cheap right now that it's worth ignoring that factor. The stock currently trades at a P/E of 4, meaning over the last year it's made a quarter of its market cap in profits, or about $12 billion. No other company as is big and as cheap as GM, and it offers a dividend of 5% to boot.
GM got a bad rap after declaring bankruptcy during the financial crisis, but that move allowed it to shed bloat, cut expenses and revamp itself into the highly profitable company it is today. It's also aggressively buying back shares, taking advantage of its low stock price, and has crushed earnings estimates in its last four quarterly reports.
Change is afoot in the auto industry as the race to develop self-driving cars heats up, but however it plays out, GM figures to be a significant player. It acquired self-driving tech start-up Cruise Automation, and also bought a 10% stake in Lyft, the No. 2 ride-sharing company, and formed a strategic partnership with it. Auto manufacturing capacity will also continue to be important the self-driving era. Market-watchers have witnessed Tesla struggle to ramp up production even though it sold less than 1% of the cars that GM did last year. Its infrastructure gives GM an advantage over tech companies like Google and Uber as it develops its own self-driving technologies.
Google-parent Alphabet may not seem like a typical retirement stock. Tech stocks are seen as riskier than the market as a whole, especially for anyone who remembers the dot-com bubble bursting. But Alphabet, which brings in the vast majority of its revenue from advertising, is different, and carries a much lower risk than a device-maker such as Apple.
Google's search engine may be the strongest monopoly in the business world. Its utility is so ubiquitous that the brand has become a verb. It's also a giant cash cow for the company, as Alphabet's profit is now approaching $20 billion.
Like Berkshire Hathaway, the company has also made acquisitions and diversified itself to become almost a tech version of a conglomerate. In addition to its dominant search engine, Alphabet has built strong positions with YouTube, Android, its smart-home device Nest, and is considered to have the leading technology for self-driving cars. Like Berkshire, this is also a company that is largely resistant to potential recessions, and is likely to fare better than the broader market should the economy take a turn for the worse.
Alphabet does not currently offer a dividend, but it could start paying one in the next few years as its cash hoard is approaching $80 billion. Last October, it announced its first share buyback, indicating it's warming up to the idea of returning capital to shareholders, and pressure is growing from investors for it to pay a dividend. As its cash balance swells, that clamor should only get louder, making a dividend all the more likely.