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She’s 5 Years From Retirement: What’s the Right Asset Allocation Strategy?

By Motley Fool Staff – Jun 4, 2019 at 3:50PM

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Being 90% in stocks and mutual funds is OK when you have a long time horizon for your investments, less so when it’s shorter.

If Abigail Van Buren and Ann Landers had teamed up and become personal finance and investing experts -- and if they'd kept working into the podcast era -- one can imagine the result might have been a little bit like the Motley Fool Answers' monthly mailbag episodes. (Though they probably would have done less "awfulizing.") Certainly, there are plenty of us who could use some guidance in the money realm -- so many, in fact, that two advice givers are hardly enough. So for this podcast, hosts Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp have brought back one of their more popular guests, senior analyst Emily Flippen, to chime in.

In this segment, questioner Susan is looking ahead to retirement in about five years and worries that her portfolio is too stock heavy. But more conservative investments, with their low returns, don't appeal to her. Now she's wondering if putting a bigger slice of her pie into target-date funds would be a good way to get the safety she needs. Not exactly, say the Fools, and here's why.

To catch full episodes of all The Motley Fool's free podcasts, check out our podcast center. A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on May 29, 2019.

Alison Southwick: All right. Let's just start the fun. Here we go! Here we go from Susan. "I am about five years, I hope, away from retirement currently with about 60% of my retirement investments in mutual funds and about 40% in individual stocks. Of the money in mutual funds, about 5% is held in target date funds.

"I know that I should probably start pulling money out of the market in the next year or two to start building my cushion for retirement income, but I'm reluctant to get completely out of the market, especially since rates for savings accounts and CDs are still so low. Is it Foolish or just foolish to think that I can stash some of my money in a target date fund before it's completely pulled out of the market?"

Robert Brokamp: Let's start by discussing how much money you should have in and out of the stock market when you're within five years of retirement. If you look at a range of 2025 target retirement funds -- basically funds for people who are going to retire around 2025 -- you'll see that they keep about 35% to 45% of the assets out of stocks and then reach about a 50-50% mix by the time you reach retirement. But there's a broad range. If you look at T. Rowe Price's, they're more aggressive. BlackRock's are more conservative. So if you're going to choose a target retirement fund, you definitely want to choose one that is lining up with your risk tolerance.

For what it's worth, the model portfolios in my Rule Your Retirement service are a little more aggressive, so when you're about 10 years from retirement, I think you should have about 25% of your money out of the stock market moving to about 40% out of the market by the time you retire.

For someone like you within five years of retirement -- just so you know -- historically over five-year holding periods, stocks have made money about 85% of the time. What if you're in that 15% time [period]? Then you might have to put off your retirement plan. That may be fine for you, but I definitely think, based on what you said, you probably should have more out of the stock market than you do.

Now you can do it on your own or you can do what you're suggesting, and that is put more money in target retirement funds and let them do that sort of management for you. Just know that putting money in a target date fund is a mix of stocks and bonds, so they're not necessarily super-safe investments. Just keep that in mind.

Alison Southwick has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Robert Brokamp, CFP has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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