If you want to retire comfortably, you have to make sure that you set up your financial plan to address the major risks you'll face once you stop earning money from work. It's important to identify your key financial threats and establish a balanced portfolio that is designed to take those threats off the table.
Committing to a few smart strategies will give you flexibility, clarity, and control over your finances in retirement. Then, you can stop worrying about having enough money to survive, and instead focus on a rewarding and fun lifestyle.
1. Review your asset allocation
If you want to feel comfortable with your retirement plan, then you need to make sure that your investment portfolio is set up to manage the most relevant risks. For retirees, volatility might be the most salient threat if it's not managed correctly.
When you're living off accumulated assets, it can be disastrous if those assets decline in value. Without fail, the stock market moves up and down over the years, and these fluctuations can be pretty drastic in the short term. Selling out your stocks at the bottom of a bear market to cover living expenses is a mistake that might cause your plan to fail. To avoid this, make sure you are properly allocated to bonds, cash, and other uncorrelated, low-volatility assets. When the market crashes, your asset value won't decline nearly as much.
2. Don't forget about growth
Inflation and longevity risk are two other common threats to your retirement plan, and there are well-documented tactics to address them. While you should take care to limit volatility, as we noted above, you can't abandon growth entirely. Investing to keep your assets growing is a great way to keep up with rising costs of living and ensuring that you won't outlive your savings.
Inflation eats away at your buying power each year, and this is especially challenging for retirees who won't be benefiting from increasing wages over time. This problem is exacerbated by swelling healthcare costs and rising standards of living (think about expenses for cellphones, streaming services, and casual dining that weren't nearly as meaningful in household budgets 30 years ago).
The true costs of lifestyle in retirement are likely to outpace official inflation measurements, so it's going to be challenging to simply live off interest income for multiple decades.
It's obviously beneficial to have a larger pool of assets later in retirement from which you can draw cash, and that requires you to maintain some growth investments in the portfolio.
Make sure you have assets that appreciate along with inflation, such as stocks, real estate, and TIPS. You can't let concerns about volatility push you completely out of the market. Instead, find a balance between growth and stability based on your age and financial needs.
3. Invest for dividends
Investment income is important for retirees -- rather than selling stocks and bonds to pay for lifestyle, it's nice to have dividends and interest checks flowing into your bank account. Not all stocks pay dividends, but the ones that do are often mature, stable companies without huge growth potential. Instead of reinvesting their earnings into marketing, product development, and new hires, they return a portion of reliable cash flows to shareholders each quarter.
It's easy to focus on the high-growth rockstars in the stock market, but retirees should make sure that their allocation includes some dividend stocks. Consider some Dividend Aristocrats to identify those with an extensive and consistent history of making increasing distributions to shareholders.
You can also use ETFs that are designed to invest exclusively in high-quality dividend stocks. Utilizing these stocks will deliver income along with the opportunity to appreciate and offset inflation.