Finding the Right Investment Mix
From the Merrill Edge Minute e-newsletter.
- Retirement asset management is no longer as simple as more bonds, fewer stocks.
- Dividing your assets into two buckets — one for regular income and easily accessible short-term money, the other for long-term growth potential — may help you create a more comfortable and sustainable retirement.
In the current post-recession global economy, static financial strategies, at any age, carry significant risk. Even when you retire, your portfolio will have to be flexible enough to meet competing financial objectives: guaranteed income — without locking in low interest rates — and growth to outlast your longevity.
A comprehensive approach to retirement allocation should take into account your expenses and risk tolerance, with the goal of providing ample income so you can avoid selling investments when values are low. To begin developing an allocation strategy, consider dividing your total portfolio into short-term consumption and longer-term income replacement. The ideal portfolio should supplement your Social Security and any pension income throughout your retirement and provide consistent liquidity to meet expenses for the next several years.
Easy Access First
Your short-term portfolio should provide peace of mind through income and liquidity. High-quality bonds, Treasury inflation-protected securities (TIPS), and FDIC-insured certificates of deposit (CDs) and savings accounts are intended to offer stable, planned income with relatively low risk. Holding dividend-producing stocks can also augment your regular income. These assets are intended to be less volatile, so it may be less likely that you will have to tap your longer-term investments to fill a sudden income gap.
You may also want to create a bond ladder, says Bill Hunter, director, IRA Product Management, Merrill Lynch. With this strategy, you "ladder" your bond portfolio by buying individual bonds with staggered maturity dates. The bonds come due regularly, and you can then reinvest the principal at prevailing interest rates after taking any needed cash. That way you're less susceptible to the changing interest rate environment — you'll never have to reinvest all your bonds when rates are at their lowest.
To generate even more consistent cash flow, consider investing in an immediate (or income) annuity that offers a payment guaranteed by an insurance company for the rest of your life.1
Your long-term growth portfolio should be selected with an eye toward keeping pace with inflation and periodically replenishing your short-term holdings — essentially providing another source of income. In the short term, you want to take little risk, but in the long term, being too conservative can sometimes result in giving up higher potential returns and cause you to deplete your assets too quickly to last your lifetime.
Having this portfolio invested more aggressively may provide flexibility in deciding when to sell assets. If you have growth-seeking investments in your long-term bucket, they may generate a high enough return to allow you to replenish your short-term bucket without having to sell investments when they're down. If you invest too conservatively, you might come up short for cash and be forced to sell at lows. Always keep your own time horizon, risk tolerance and long-term goals in mind.
One product that can offer a level of security with growth potential is a variable annuity. Variable annuities are long-term investments designed for retirement purposes. They offer optional benefits (available for an additional cost) that can provide a guaranteed lifetime income stream — often 5% of principal — but may be higher or lower depending on the age when you start receiving income.1 Your guaranteed lifetime income stream may increase if your underlying investments, also called "subaccounts," perform well.
In the context of the two-bucket approach discussed above, a variable annuity would be an allocation within the long-term growth portfolio, and the guaranteed income stream a variable annuity generates would help consistently replenish the assets in the short-term consumption bucket.
The Choice Is Yours
The most important point to remember is that no single retirement strategy is right for everyone. "It depends on your risk tolerance, your goals and your investment philosophy," says Hunter, adding that your plan must also be able to change along with life circumstances. "Make sure it's as flexible and dynamic as you need it to be."
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- Check out the Retirement Evaluator to help you see where you stand in your current retirement preparations.
- Learn more about annuities and how they can help you prepare for retirement.
1 Guarantees are subject to the claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company.
Investing involves risk, including the possible loss of the principal value invested. Dividend payments are not guaranteed, and are paid only when declared by an issuer's board of directors. The amount of a dividend payment, if any, can vary over time. Bond values fluctuate in price so the value of your investment can go down depending on market conditions. The two main risks related to fixed income investing are interest rate risk and credit risk. Typically, when interest rates rise, there is a corresponding decline in the market value of bonds. Credit risk refers to the possibility that the issuer of the bond will not be able to make principal and interest payments. Bond portfolio laddering does not reduce market risk, and the principal and yield of investment securities will fluctuate with changes in market conditions.
Asset allocation, diversification and rebalancing do not ensure a profit or protect against loss in declining markets.
The investment strategies discussed are not appropriate for every investor and should be considered given a person's investment objectives, financial situation and particular needs. Clients should review with a Merrill Edge Financial Solutions Advisor the terms, conditions and risks involved with specific products and services.
Merrill Edge and its Financial Solutions Advisors do not provide tax,accounting or legal advice. Any tax statements contained herein were not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of avoiding U.S. federal, state or local tax penalties. Please consult your own independent advisor as to any tax, accounting or legal statements made herein.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT VARIABLE ANNUITIES: Variable annuities are long-term investments designed to help meet retirement needs. Like most investments, variable annuities include certain fees and expenses, such as administrative fees, sales charges and mortality risk expense charges. The return and principal value of variable annuities are subject to market fluctuations, investment risk and possible loss of principal so that, when redeemed, variable annuities may be worth more or less than the original amount invested.
Withdrawals are taxable as ordinary income to the extent of gain, and if made before age 59½ may also be subject to a 10% additional federal tax. Early surrender charges may also apply.
All annuity contract and rider guarantees, including optional benefits and any fixed subaccount crediting rates or annuity payout rates, are backed by the claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company. They are not backed by Merrill Lynch or its affiliates, nor do Merrill Lynch or its affiliates make any representations or guarantees regarding the claims paying ability of the issuing insurance company.
Variable annuities are sold by prospectus only. Before investing, investors should carefully consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses of the variable annuity and its underlying investment options. The current contract prospectus and underlying fund prospectuses provide this and other important information. Please contact a Merrill Edge Financial Solutions Advisor to obtain the prospectuses. Please read the prospectuses carefully before investing or sending money.
Investment products offered through MLPF&S and insurance and annuity products offered through Merrill Lynch Life Agency, Inc.:
|Are Not FDIC Insured
||Are Not Bank Guaranteed
||May Lose Value
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Federal Government Agency
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Merrill Lynch Life Agency Inc. is a licensed insurance agency and a wholly owned subsidiary of BAC.
The content should not be construed as investment advice.
Opinions are subject to change due to market conditions and fluctuations. Any investments or strategies presented do not take into account the investment objectives or financial needs of particular investors. It is important that you consider this information in the context of your personal risk tolerance, time horizon and investment goals. Always consult with personal professionals before making any investment decisions.