The Dallas Morning News

4 ways retirees can ride out drops

Tips include tweaking of asset allocation, using a bucket strategy

- Financial Advice for Blue Collar America. Janet Kidd Stewart, Tribune News Service

When stock market volatility spikes, financial advisers typically remind investors they have time to keep the money invested and let it ride out the cycle, but what about people already in retirement?

As a whole, people in their 70s and beyond used to have very little invested in stocks, but that has changed in recent years due to low savings rates and longer life expectancy, said Kathryn Bruzas Hauer, a financial adviser in Aiken, S.C., and author of

To make up the difference, advisers have urged retirees to hold more stocks, which have proved to be a better inflation hedge than other asset classes over long periods of time.

Today, it’s not uncommon for retirees in their 60s and 70s to have about 50 percent of their nest eggs invested in stocks in the hopes of beating inflation over the long run, Hauer said.

And while many of them say they are comfortabl­e with that risk level, the recent market plunges surely rattled more than a few.

Here are four things for retirees to keep in mind:

1. Don’t panic, but you can adjust.

“You’re not married to your risk tolerance,” Hauer said. By the same token, she advises clients to make tweaks to their asset allocation, perhaps adjusting stock levels by 20 percent or so, rather than going all in or out.

2. Think in bucket terms.

If volatility continues, it becomes even more important to manage portfolio withdrawal­s to avoid selling stocks into a downturn. Some advisers adhere to a strict bucket strategy, which involves investing money in separate sleeves earmarked for specific phases or years in retirement. Others simply manage a portfolio focused on total return, but they segment a certain number of years’ worth of living expenses — or their required minimum distributi­ons — to hold in cash. That way, a retiree in theory is able to avoid selling when stocks are down.

3. Mind your RMDs.

Speaking of those required distributi­ons that must come out of 401(k)s and IRAs beginning in the year one turns 70½, remember that just because you’re required to pay tax on that money now, it doesn’t mean you have to spend it. It sounds obvious, but sometimes retirees get in a mind-set that they can simply spend their RMDs, forgetting that if they substantia­lly outlive their life expectancy or their account balances drop significan­tly, they’ll need extra cash to meet expenses.

4. Life isn’t always short.

While many older clients may feel overexpose­d in the stock market, particular­ly in recent days, they should keep in mind that even people in their mid-60s can live another three decades or more, said Austin Frye, a financial planner and founder of Frye Financial Center in Aventura, Fla.

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