Objective information about financial planning, investments, and retirement plans

Stock Market Highs and Your Retirement

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The S&P 500 Index reached another record high today, closing at 2488. This is a long way from the market bottom of 677 for the index in March of 2009. Today’s rally was deemed a “relief rally” by some reporters on CNBC, perhaps due in part to hurricane Irma being a bit less severe than expected and that North Korea hasn’t tested any additional nuclear weapons lately.

So far 2017 has been a good year for the markets with the S&P 500 up over 11.5% year-to-date. The Dow and other benchmarks have hit several record highs during the year as well. This in spite of the hurricanes in Texas and Florida, questions and issues surrounding the Trump administration and the situation with North Korea.

Difference Between Stocks and Bonds

At some point we are bound to see a stock market correction of some magnitude, hopefully not on the order of the 2008-09 financial crisis. As someone saving for retirement what should you do now?

Review and rebalance 

During the last market decline there were many stories about how our 401(k) accounts had become “201(k)s.” The PBS Frontline special The Retirement Gamble put much of the blame on Wall Street and they are right to an extent, especially as it pertains to the overall market drop.

However, some of the folks who experienced losses well in excess of the market averages were victims of their own over-allocation to stocks. This might have been their own doing or the result of poor financial advice.

This is the time to review your portfolio allocation and rebalance if needed.  For example your plan might call for a 60% allocation to stocks but with the gains that stocks have experienced you might now be at 70% or more.  This is great as long as the market continues to rise, but you are at increased risk should the market head down.  It may be time to consider paring equities back and to implement a strategy for doing this.

Financial Planning is vital

If you don’t have a financial plan in place, or if the last one you’ve done is old and outdated, this is a great time to have one done. Do it yourself if you’re comfortable or hire a fee-only financial advisor to help you.

If you have a financial plan this is an ideal time to review it and see where you are relative to your goals. Has the market rally accelerated the amount you’ve accumulated for retirement relative to where you had thought you’d be at this point? If so this is a good time to revisit your asset allocation and perhaps reduce your overall risk.

Learn from the past 

It is said that fear and greed are the two main drivers of the stock market. Some of the experts on shows like CNBC seem to feel that the market still has some upside. Maybe they’re right. However don’t get carried away and let greed guide your investing decisions.

Manage your portfolio with an eye towards downside risk. This doesn’t mean the markets won’t keep going up or that you should sell everything and go to cash. What it does mean is that you need to use your good common sense and keep your portfolio allocated in a fashion that is consistent with your retirement goals, your time horizon and your risk tolerance.

Approaching retirement and want another opinion on where you stand? Not sure if you are invested properly for your situation? Check out my Financial Review/Second Opinion for Individuals service.

Please contact me with any thoughts or suggestions about anything you’ve read here at The Chicago Financial Planner. Don’t miss any future posts, please subscribe via email. Please check out the Hire Me tab to learn more about my freelance financial writing and financial consulting services.  

Photo credit:  Phillip Taylor PT

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Comments

  1. This is great advice. Rebalancing and assessing where you’re at every once and awhile is a really good idea. I’m a bit worried that we may see a “market correction” soon, but I’m in no spot to predict when that may happen. I will just continue to invest and stick to my long-term plan.

    • Roger Wohlner says:

      Thanks for your comment Jake. Rebalancing is about risk control in my opinion and while its tempting to let things run when the markets are on a tear history has a nasty habit of repeating itself.

  2. As an investor, as soon as you find yourself wondering what to do based on the current market conditions, you know you’ve made some serious mistakes. Investing isn’t about reacting to the latest news or the current market level. As you say, it’s about having a well-thought out plan and executing it consistently. If you’ve done that, there is never any confusion.

  3. I have always been strong on stocks and have never felt comfortable in bonds. I am OK with CDs and money market funds. My portfolio is 65 in stocks and 35 in fixed stuff. As I am 62, I am being told to reduce my stock holdings. Does this really make sense when fixed income returns are so lousy? What are appropriate rules of thumbs as far as percentages? I know 100-age (62)=38% in stocks, but is this really a good rule of thumb?
    Anyway great post Roger; really appreciate your insight!

    • Roger Wohlner says:

      Steven its hard to say what is right for you or anyone else in this type of forum. My biggest concern is that investors don’t take the attitude “… it’s different this time..” because it never is. A financial plan with an asset allocation that includes a level of risk that appropriate for your situation is a great start. Going too heavy (what ever too heavy is for you) exposes you to more downside risk than perhaps is right for you at your age. Rebalancing and asset allocation are about risk control first. I do agree that bonds carry risk and at the very least investors should consider lower durations.

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