How to invest wisely for retirement - the safety versus growth dilemma

Aug 20, 2019
Young couple looking at tablet

You’re a few years from retirement, or even five to 10 years away, and the worst-case scenario passes through your mind. What if the stock markets plummet and drag down your nest egg, putting your retirement plan in jeopardy?

Not terribly long ago, the solution to this worry was to invest in fixed-income investments. There was even a widely accepted rule of thumb: Invest your age in fixed-income and invest the rest in equities. For example, a person aged 60 would hold 60% fixed-income and 40% equities. Interest rates on fixed-income investments were high enough to provide for retirement savings.

But today? Interest rates are low and we’re living longer. Holding too much fixed-income may prevent you from reaching your investment goal and fail to generate enough retirement income to last 25 to 30 years, or longer.

And there you have the dilemma. Emphasize equities to fund a long retirement and put your nest egg at risk. Focus on fixed-income to play it safe and you may fall short of your investment objective.

How to get both security and growth potential

How can you get protection for your capital along with long-term growth potential? Fortunately, there are strategies that can help – consider the following.

Multiple time horizons

With this strategy, sometimes called the “bucket approach” you divide your available investments into several streams, each with a different plan to suit each time horizon. For example, if you plan to retire in five years, you’ll have a short-term program of lower-risk holdings designed to hold its own against a market downturn. This can help you retire on schedule. You’ll have a growth-oriented program that’s longer-term and able to withstand some volatility — to see you through the 20 to 30 years you’ll spend in retirement. And you may possibly have a medium-term program designed for the initial years of retirement.

Investments with guarantees

Some types of investment funds, such as segregated funds, offer to protect some or all of your principal with a guarantee. The guarantee acts as a safety net, allowing you to pursue growth-oriented investment funds, but may come with a trade-off of higher management expense ratios (MERs) or lower potential returns.

Gradual asset allocation shift

You can gradually decrease equity holdings and increase fixed-income over time. In fact, some products manage the shift automatically on an annual basis. Implementing this strategy over several years helps to protect you from the risk of converting all your equities to fixed-income when the market is at a low point.

Customize your approach

Whichever strategy you choose, it can be customized to suit your needs, based on a variety of factors. For example:

  • Will your portfolio be providing income for both you and your spouse or just you?
     
  • Will you have other income sources during retirement?
     
  • Will you have financial commitments during retirement, such as supporting a dependent adult child?

In all of this, of course, you must remain true to your personal investment profile.

Don’t increase equities beyond your risk tolerance to meet an investment goal, even if a bull market tempts you in pre-retirement years. If your goal is in question, you’re better off saving more, delaying retirement, working during your initial retirement years or scaling back your retirement lifestyle.

For most people, investing changes when retirement is on the horizon. We can help you develop an investment program that provides near-term security and long-term growth.

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