A lot of personal finance advice is about saving for retirement. But the need for saving and investing doesn’t stop once you’re done working; seniors also need to maintain a sound investment strategy during retirement.
Retirees face several challenges that make investing after 65 necessary, including maintaining safe income streams, outpacing inflation, and avoiding the risk of running out of money. Here are some tips seniors may consider as they choose the right path for investing after retirement.
1. Assess Income Sources and Budget
Once in retirement, seniors likely don’t have an income stream from a steady paycheck. Instead, retirees utilize a mix of sources to pay the bills, such as Social Security, withdrawals from retirement and savings accounts, and perhaps passive sources of income such as rental properties. This change, going from relying on a regular salary to relying on savings and investments to fund a particular lifestyle, can be daunting.
Retirees should first understand where their income is coming from and how much is coming in to help navigate this financial change. This initial step can help establish a budget that allows them to comfortably cover typical retirement expenses and map out discretionary spending or new investments in their golden years.
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2. Track Down Forgotten 401(k)s and Other Lost Money
If you changed jobs during your career, it’s possible that you left an old 401(k) behind. As of May 2023, there were 29.2 million forgotten or left-behind 401(k) accounts, according to estimates by Capitalize, a company that helps with 401(k) rollovers. These forgotten accounts hold about $1.65 trillion in assets.
To determine if you have a forgotten 401(k), make a list of every company you worked for and where you participated in a 401(k) plan. Contact them to see if they still have an account in your name. If a company no longer exists, or if it merged with another company, check with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Visit the DOL website, where you can track down your former company’s Form 5500, which is required to be filed annually for employee benefit plans. That should give you contact information you can reach out to or at least tell you who your 401(k) plan’s administrator was.
If you still can’t find a forgotten 401(k), you could try the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits. Be aware that you’ll need to supply your Social Security number to search on their website. Another option is to check the website for the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, which may be able to help you find unclaimed funds, including an old 401(k). Check under every state that you’ve lived and worked in.
If and when you find an old 401(k), you can roll it over into an IRA. If you don’t yet have an IRA, you can set one up. From there, you can invest the money as you see fit.
3. Understand Time Horizon and Risk
Retirees must consider time horizon and risk in post-retirement investment plans. Time horizon is the amount of time an individual has to invest before reaching a financial goal or needing the investment earnings for living expenses.
Time horizon significantly affects risk tolerance, which is the balance an individual is willing to strike between risk and reward. Generally speaking, seniors with a time horizon of a decade or more might choose to invest in riskier assets, such as stocks, because they feel they may have time to ride out any short-term downturns in the market. Individuals with a short time horizon of just a few years may stick to more conservative investments, such as bonds, where they can benefit from capital preservation and interest income.
4. Consider Diversification
Diversification involves spreading out investment across different asset classes, such as stocks, bonds, real estate, and cash. Diversification also involves spreading investments out among factors such as sector, size, and geography within each asset class.
It is important to consider diversification when investing after retirement. Diversification may help investors protect their portfolios from the risk and volatility unique to a specific type of investment, although there is still risk involved. Retirees do not want to concentrate a portfolio with any one asset, which may increase volatility during a period when they want a low risk tolerance.
5. Rebalance Regularly
A retiree’s financial goals, risk tolerance, and time horizon generally affect the desired asset allocation in an investment portfolio. However, those initial goals and risk considerations can change during a retiree’s golden years.
Additionally, the market is constantly in flux, shifting the proportions of assets a person holds. It may make sense to rebalance the assets inside a portfolio regularly.
Rebalancing a portfolio can be thought of like the routine upkeep of your investments. For example, if a portfolio has an asset allocation of 70% bonds and 30% stocks and the stocks do well during a year, they might make up a higher percentage of a portfolio than planned. By the end of the year, the asset allocation may be 65% bonds and 35% stocks. The investor may want to rebalance by selling stock and buying more conservative assets, such as bonds, to ensure the portfolio’s asset allocation is in line with their goals. Alternatively, they may use other income to make new bond investments.
6. Keep an Eye on Inflation
Retirees living on a fixed income may be negatively affected by rising inflation. As prices increase, the fixed income that an individual relies on will be worth less the following year. For example, if an individual receives $1,000 a month in a fixed income and inflation rises by a 4% annual rate, then that $1,000 monthly income will be worth $960 in today’s money.
Investments that pay out a fixed interest rate, such as bonds, are most vulnerable to inflation risk as inflation may outpace the earned interest rate. Some other assets may outpace inflation, such as stocks, real estate investment trusts (REITs), or inflation-protected securities.
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Smart, Safer Investment Options for Retirees
Retirees have a lot of choices when it comes to making new investments. But their financial goals, age, and risk tolerance can impact which investments they choose to make. Here are a few investments for seniors in retirement with those factors in mind.
Cash is the most stable way to hold money, and it is a necessary part of a retiree’s financial portfolio. Keeping cash on hand can help cover necessities like housing, utilities, food, and clothes.
Retirees can put a portion of their cash in a money market account or a high-yield savings account to earn interest while having easy access to their cash. However, the interest paid out in typical savings or checking accounts tends to be very low and may not beat the inflation rate. That means the money in these accounts may slowly lose its value over time.
By comparison, some high-yield savings accounts pay nearly 5% interest, compared to the 0.47% national average rate.
Bonds generally don’t offer the same potential for high returns as stocks and other assets, but they may have advantages for investing after retirement. Bonds typically pay interest regularly, such as twice a year, which may provide investors with a predictable income desired in retirement. Also, if investors hold a bond to maturity, they typically get back their entire principal, which can help preserve their savings while investing.
However, it’s important to be aware that while bonds are considered by investors to be a less risky investment, it’s still possible to lose money investing in them. For instance, a bond issuer may fail to make interest payments and default on the bond. Retirees should be aware of the risks involved when considering bonds.
Various types of bonds may help investors preserve capital and realize interest income during retirement, including relatively safe U.S. Treasuries. Additionally, Treasury-Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) are bonds that hedge against inflation, which can be helpful for retirees worried about rising prices.
Stocks are considered a risky investment; they tend to be more volatile than more conservative assets like bonds or certificates of deposit. Though investing in stocks can potentially lead to significant returns, it also means there is the potential for big losses that many retirees may not be able to stomach. However, there may be value in investing in stocks for seniors.
Stock investments may help ensure a portfolio experiences capital gains that outpace inflation and have enough income in the later decades of their retirement. It may not make sense for older investors to chase returns from higher risk stocks like tech start-ups. Instead, retirees may look for proven companies whose stocks offer steady growth. Retirees may consider investing in companies that provide stable dividend payouts that generate a regular income source.
Certificates of Deposit
Certificates of deposit, otherwise known as CDs, are low-risk investments that may offer higher interest rates than typical savings accounts. Investors put their money in a CD and choose a term, or length of time, that the bank will hold their money. The term length is generally anywhere from one month to 20 years, and during this period, the investor can’t touch the money until the term is up. Once the term is over, the investor gets the principal back, plus interest. Typically, the longer the investor’s money is in the account, the more interest the bank will pay.
Fixed annuities may provide retirees with a regular income, bolster the gains from other investments, and supplement savings. In short, an annuity is a contract with an insurance company. The buyer pays into the annuity for a certain number of years, and the insurance company pays back the money in monthly payments. Essentially, an individual is paying the insurance company to take on the risk of outliving their retirement savings.
Investing for retirement should begin as soon as possible, ideally through a tax-advantaged retirement account. But the need for a sound investing strategy doesn’t stop once you hit retirement. You need to ensure that your savings and investments are working for you throughout your golden years.
Another step that can help you manage your retirement savings is doing a 401(k) rollover, where you move funds from an old account to a rollover IRA. You can even search for a lost or forgotten 401(k) to roll over into an IRA.
Ready to invest for your retirement? It’s easy to get started when you open a traditional or Roth IRA with SoFi. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).
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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Investment Risk: Diversification can help reduce some investment risk. It cannot guarantee profit, or fully protect in a down market.