It has been a full five years since the 2008 market crash, which wiped out $2 trillion or 20 percent of Americans’ retirement savings. This Great Recession rolled through and wiped out many older American’s dreams for the future. The economic downturn has reshaped the concept of traditional investing and confidence in our free market and its wealth-building promise.
The market has recently returned to near historic highs, and still the anxiety of retirement investing lingers among investors. When negative headlines or an economic report hit the news, they often trigger a flight response that can impact our financial health. Many investors have stayed completely out of the market since 2009, and have not participated in the strong returns we have had in the market since then. A recent LIMRA study reports that 49 percent of Americans are not currently contributing to any type of retirement plan (LIMRA Retirement Research, May 9, 2012). A survey by Harris Interactive found that Americans are more afraid of investing in the stock market than they are of losing their jobs, public speaking, or even dying (Harris Poll Equitrend, 2013). So how do we prepare financially for retirement in this present environment? How can we shed the fears of the recent recession, and the fact that the market seems to be very high now and may sell off again? How can we get back on track?
Continue investing regularly and stay invested
Set up a systematic investing plan, or continue to put aside into your employer’s plan and other tax-advantaged vehicles. We should be investing 15 percent of our income into long-term investments (for retirement). If you are not there… just do it. If you haven’t started, don’t delay… just do it. If you’re age 50 or over, you may be able to make additional plan contributions with “catch up” provisions. Don’t worry about what your account will be worth the next statement, or next quarter; you are investing for the return you may achieve 10 years or more from now… just do it! Try to resist the impulse to change your investment strategy with every news headline or opinion; stay the course.
Diversify your investments
Spreading your investments over several “asset classes” is a biblical precept: “Send your grain across the seas, and in time, profits will flow back to you. But divide your investments among many places, for you do not know what risks might lie ahead.” (Ecclesiastes 11:1-2 ). In other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Spread your risk over a variety of investments. Divide your investments so that they all don’t respond to market forces in the same way at the same time. Ideally, if your investments in one class are performing poorly, assets in another class may be doing better and stabilize your portfolio. The U.S. market may be overvalued now, but other markets may be undervalued. It always best to stay diversified.
Know thyself – Choose investments that are right for you
What is riskier: investing too conservatively or too aggressively? The fact is, there is no right answer. What is important is that there is an assessment of the purpose of the investment (what it will do for you) and the risk tolerance that you personally have (everyone is different). Once you have an understanding of these areas and how your strategy fulfills your plan, stick with the plan, and annually reassess progress. It is important that you identify your goals first; that will determine what type of investment strategy or investment option is best. The problem is that the world is marketing a product that they make sound good for us, but that does not fit our needs at all. Without knowledge of our goals, we can easily fall prey to the world’s very slick marketing.
Remember you are a steward
Anxiety about money and retirement is high, and rises with every shudder in the financial market. People are sick about the money they lost in their accounts or regret not participating in recent positive markets. We need to remember that we are just temporary overseers of the provision that God passes through our hands. We need to be faithful to get wisdom and understanding, pray about our choices, and then act with faithfulness to multiply the talents (e.g. money) God gives us. When we have done all this, we can allow God to be to be the one who multiplies it, or not. We are not called to success, just faithfulness. So, don’t worry, cast off anxiety, and get on track . . . just do it!
Please call Jeff for a no cost, no obligation financial review to get prepared for 2014. You can also request a free copy of 2014 Investor’s Almanac of Market & Economic Forecast; just email Jeff.
Jeffery Masters is President of Jeffery W. Masters & Associates and a Locally Endorsed Investment Advisor by Dave Ramsey. Reach Jeff at [email protected].