Financial planner Patricia Stallworth spends her days helping people prepare for the “brand new journey” that is retirement.
“It’s a leap into being irrelevant, as it were, because after working for 30, 40 years it becomes a whole new lifestyle change,” Stallworth told Insider.
“It is one that you have to adjust to, whether you decide to keep working in some capacity or you decide that you’re just going to totally quit everything. It becomes a big adjustment for people at that point,” said Stallworth, the CEO of PS Worth, a fee-only financial planning and education firm.
Whether she’s meeting with a client who hasn’t given a thought to their retirement strategy or a client who has already done most of the planning on their own, Stallworth said she doles out one commonly unwelcome piece of advice.
“Investing is still important regardless of your age — that’s the one thing [retirees] don’t want to hear,” Stallworth said. “It’s like, ‘What do you mean I have to continue investing? Can I stop now? Or can I just go get some bonds?'”
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Stock market investing is intimidating to a lot of people. It might be attractive when returns are up, Stallworth said, but when things go south, investors tend to flee.
Many retirees would rather put their cash in a savings account or CD to keep it safe, Stallworth said, but that offers little to no growth after inflation is accounted for. Even a portfolio of bonds — a less risky investment than stocks — won’t sustain a comfortable retirement for three or more decades.
“It used to be that everybody could just put all their money in bonds and just leave it there and they would be OK. Well, no, not today, that strategy doesn’t work,” Stallworth said. “You really need to think about continuing to invest so that you can stay ahead of inflation, stay ahead of taxes, and things like that.”
The common wisdom is to have a greater percentage of your portfolio invested in stocks when you’re young, and gradually dial it back as you get older. The idea is that most people can afford to take on more risk when they have several decades of earning potential and compound growth ahead of them.
That may be true, but even retirees have some runway to recover from stock market dips if their portfolio is allocated wisely. This is a reason why investing for income rather than growth is a viable strategy for people who are near retirement age.
“People are living so much longer today that the old strategies are not working,” Stallworth said. “They will run out of money before they run out of life in many cases.”
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