The past nine months have been brutal for stock investors. Those who are years away from retirement may, at this point, be sitting tight and waiting for things to improve. But near- and current retirees are in a different and more frightening situation.

It's one thing to see your IRA or 401(k) plan balance plunge when retirement is nowhere near. It's another thing to see those lower numbers on screen at a time when you may be gearing up to start taking withdrawals, or you're already in the process of doing so.

In a recent Nationwide survey, 62% of savers aged 45 and over said they're worried about the impact of market volatility on their retirement income. And that's a valid concern. But it's also one you can address so you don't have to sweat a stock market downturn when you're on the cusp of retirement (or in the midst of it).

A person at a laptop resting their head on their hands.

Image source: Getty Images.

Set yourself up to weather the storm

Retirees who are tapping their nest eggs right now may be losing money in the course of doing so. But those investing appropriately for their age may not be losing a dime.

The reality is that we can't predict when stocks might dip or, worse yet, plunge into bear market territory. There are so many different factors that can impact stock prices, including inflation, global conflicts, and the state of the U.S. labor market.

As such, you might enter retirement at a time when the stock market is strong only for it to plunge into correction or bear market territory a year or two later. And the best way to protect yourself from losses in that sort of scenario is to make sure your assets are allocated appropriately.

For one thing, you should limit your stock holdings once you've entered retirement and are withdrawing from your savings consistently. The extent to which you remain invested in stocks might hinge on factors like your personal tolerance for risk and the different income sources you have at your disposal at that stage of life. But if you're in your late 60s or 70s, you may not want to have more than 50% of your assets in stocks.

If you follow that rule, though, and shift over to less volatile investments like bonds at the right time, then you might set yourself up to breeze through a stock market downturn by leaving the stock portion of your portfolio untapped. That means avoiding losses -- and stress.

Another important move? Set aside enough money in cash to cover a good two years' worth of senior living costs. That way, you won't have to touch investments at all during periods of instability.

Right now, a lot of retirees may be sweating it out due to recent stock market conditions. If you don't want to land in a position where market volatility messes with your retirement -- and your head -- then make sure your assets are distributed in a manner that gives you the protection you need.