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Approaching Retirement? Here's How You Should Think About Your Stock Investments

By Brian Withers and Jason Hall - Jan 31, 2021 at 6:00AM

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There's no one-size-fits-all approach.

Investing in growth stocks is a great way to build long-term wealth. But as you approach retirement age, should you stick with these often-volatile investments or adjust your portfolio to focus on more value-oriented stocks? In this Fool Live video clip from Jan. 14, Motley Fool contributors Brian Withers and Jason Hall answer a viewer question and discuss what investors should consider as they approach retirement. 

Brian Withers: I was going to hit Darrin from the U.K. first, with six vote ups. Was 100 percent invested in growth stocks, tech, cloud, MercadoLibre (MELI 5.84%), The Trade Desk (TTD 4.25%), Square (SQ 5.54%), etc. Saw a huge increase, doubling since March, he owns 80 stocks, five years from retirement, so skimmed off some profit, 25%, and shifted to Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B 4.02%), warehouse REITs, Brookfield Renewable (BEP 2.94%)(BEPC 4.80%). The question is "madness?" I love it. Again, I'll say that we can't provide personal advice, but as you get older, generally, the thought is the retirement specialists and financial advisors and all that stuff will tell you to move to more conservative, cash-conserving investing because tech stocks and these high-growth stocks have a lot of volatility and if you need the money in the next three to five years, actually, the Fool recommends it actually, be out of the stock market. But I would just say that [if] that's [something that] helps you sleep at night and feel better about where you are, and I don't know where you are in your life situation. A lot of our portfolio decisions have to do with that. But if it's comfortable for you and helps you sleep tonight, more power to you, I think that's great.

Jason Hall: Yeah. I want to just to tack on one thing that I think it's really important to be specific about. I'm still 20 years from retirement, maybe less, if things go incredibly well and my wife and I decide to pull a Brian Withers because we can and retire in our 50s, that'll be great, but we're not planning to retire until we're in our 60s. But here's the thing, here's how I think about it. Once I start getting closer to retirement and this is where I encourage anybody that's closer to retirement to think about it. Don't look at your portfolio and think about the upside possibility, but start thinking about the downside implications.

The reason stocks are great ways to build wealth, is because, over long periods of time, they've proven to be great generators of growth. The downside is they're incredibly volatile. Consider the implications. Let's go back to February 21st, market peaked. March 23rd, market had lost 35 percent of its value. Now, rocketed up 70 something percent between then and now, I think we saw it's essentially gained back all of its losses in about six months. That is not typical for a market downturn. You're typically looking at one to 1-2-3-plus years. You go back to the dot-com bubble. The market took a dozen years to fully recover.

I think as an investor, you have to think about those [situations] as you move closer to no longer just growing for the sake of getting to a point where you have that wealth. You have to start thinking about protecting that wealth because the downside implications mean you have to keep working. They mean you can't retire and start shaving off more and more of that and start applying strategies to build out a stable source of cash as you need it over a three to five year period. I would strongly encourage anybody that's close to retirement, really at any age, Robert Brokamp's work over at Rule Your Retirement is valuable and worth it.

Withers: It's second to none.

Hall: If you want to start thinking strategically about making sure you're making the right decisions to rule your retirement, check out Rule Your Retirement.

Withers: Now I'll just mention, too. I'm highly concentrated on my stock portfolio, but I have a huge cash position that I just replenished here the first week of the year. I think I have at least two years of cash, given our current spend rate.

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Stocks Mentioned

Mercadolibre, Inc. Stock Quote
Mercadolibre, Inc.
MELI
$739.46 (5.84%) $40.82
Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Stock Quote
Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
BRK.B
$278.28 (4.02%) $10.76
Brookfield Renewable Partners L.P. Stock Quote
Brookfield Renewable Partners L.P.
BEP
$35.06 (2.94%) $1.00
Block, Inc. Stock Quote
Block, Inc.
SQ
$71.00 (5.54%) $3.73
The Trade Desk Stock Quote
The Trade Desk
TTD
$49.49 (4.25%) $2.02
Brookfield Renewable Corporation Inc. Stock Quote
Brookfield Renewable Corporation Inc.
BEPC
$36.43 (4.80%) $1.67

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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