How to deal with volatile markets as you approach retirement

Retirement is an important milestone that often comes after years (or decades) of careful planning. For those who’ve saved diligently and are nearing the end of their careers, the mere thought of market volatility can send shivers down their spines. Will a sudden drop in the value of their portfolios impact their ability to retire? Will they really have enough money to live off of for the rest of their lives? Should they put their retirement plans on hold so they can maintain a steady paycheck?

If you are in this situation, now is a good time to assess whether you have the right plan in place to help you transition confidently into retirement, no matter what happens in the broader market. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

1. Pick your retirement date.

If you haven’t already, take time now to decide the year and month when you (and potentially your spouse or partner) want to retire. You may find it is closer than you think, just a few years away. Or you may decide you want to extend your time in the workforce — whether it’s continuing your current career or moving into a new full or part-time role. Either way, your answer can have a big impact on your investment decisions from this point forward.

2. Ensure your investments are diversified.

Various parts of the market react to headlines and economic drivers differently. For those nearing retirement, the recent spike in volatility is a reminder of how having a broadly diversified portfolio can help reduce your investing risk. The goal of diversification is that if some of your investments lose value, those losses could be offset by gains with other investments.

How do you know if you’re properly diversified? The simplest answer is to check to see that your portfolio contains a mix of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, short-term cash investments, savings and other investing vehicles that take into account your goals and comfort-level with risk. Going a step further, ensure you understand how each asset or investment in your portfolio is helping you reach your financial goals. If you’re unsure or want a second opinion, consider consulting a financial advisor for guidance.

3. Balance your need for protection with growth.

Protecting your portfolio from current or future market downturns becomes more important as you approach the day when you start living off your savings. Consider investing the money you plan to use for income in the first few years of retirement more conservatively in liquid vehicles that are easy to access. This can help give you peace of mind that you are prepared to handle upcoming expenses should the markets swing.

It’s also important to remember that your retirement could last 20, 30 or even 40 years. Balance your need for protection with continuing to grow your nest egg. Assets you won’t need for some time could be more aggressively positioned. At a minimum, ensure your assets can keep on pace with rising inflation.

When the market moves, it’s an opportunity to compare your investment strategy to your goals. Are you on track? No matter the answer, there are steps you can take to feel more confident about your ability to retire when and how you want to. For additional help talk to a financial advisor who is willing to discuss your personal circumstances and provide guidance on how to manage your money for today’s market.

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