Near retirement? Here’s how to protect your retirement savings from market volatility.

The closer you get to a big life and financial goal like retirement, the more that swings in the stock market can cause swings in your emotions. But feelings and money rarely make good bedfellows, especially if you’re about to cross that long-planned retirement finish line.

“When markets go down, people look at their investment statements and don’t like the numbers,” says Heather Winston, assistant director of financial advice and planning at Principal®. “That’s normal. But changing your investments because of what you see on a statement versus a longer-term view may not be rational.”

When markets seem unsteady, can you keep worries in check and create a near investment retirement strategy? Yes. These investing tips can help.

Investing tip No. 1: Focus on your retirement goals and achievements, not the news headlines.

Stock markets go up and down every day. News headlines tend to follow. And big changes in financial markets, even when they last just a single day, get lots of attention.

That immediacy may cause you to lose sight of what you’ve been working toward all along. “It’s normal to worry about investment losses, but don’t forget about the gains you’ve made over the years,” Winston says. “Keep thinking further ahead, not just about what happened today or this week.”

If you haven’t already done so, creating clear retirement goals with specific timelines can help. If you do have goals, check in to make sure they haven’t changed. “A solid plan can help anchor your emotions and help keep you from making costly snap decisions,” Winston says.

Investing tip No. 2: Control what you can.

Nothing you do will affect the trajectory of the market. But those market movements give you an opportunity to review and adjust your contributions accordingly. You could:

Investing tip No. 3: Match your investment risk with your age and risk tolerance.

If you’ve checked in on your retirement savings during a period of volatility and noticed lots of seesawing in value, it’s possible your current mix of investments, called an asset allocation, could use some adjusting. Options include:

  • Aligning your investment risk with your retirement age goal. When you’re younger and have more time in the market, more risk may make sense. “The safest choice may not always be your best option if you want long-term growth,” Winston says. But as you edge closer to retirement, a less risky investment mix may help focus less on big gains and more on stability. Use this short quiz (PDF) to check in on your risk tolerance.
  • Switching to a target date fund (TDF) or managed account, which automatically matches your goal retirement age with an investment and rebalancing strategy. (Learn more about TDFs).

Investing tip No. 4: Check in with a financial professional.

“Listening to the news for investment advice can be like diagnosing yourself using medical articles from the internet—informative, but not always applicable to your situation,” Winston says. “If you want to know how market moves could affect you and your plans for retirement, you may need more personalized attention.”

A financial professional can help talk you through what’s happening in the markets that you don’t understand, “even if the conversation validates what you already know,” Winston says.

What’s next?

1 Kahneman, D. and Tversky, A. “Advances in prospect theory: Cumulative representation of uncertainty.” Journal of Risk and Uncertainty. 5(4): pages 297-323. 1992

About Target Date investment options:

Target date portfolios are managed toward a particular target date, or the approximate date the investor is expected to start withdrawing money from the portfolio. As each target date portfolio approaches its target date, the investment mix becomes more conservative by increasing exposure to generally more conservative investments and reducing exposure to typically more aggressive investments. Neither the principal nor the underlying assets of target date portfolios are guaranteed at any time, including the target date. Investment risk remains at all times. Asset allocation and diversification do not ensure a profit or protect against a loss. Be sure to see the relevant prospectus or offering document for full discussion of a target date investment option including determination of when the portfolio achieves its most conservative allocation.

Important Information

Increasing your contribution does not guarantee you put yourself in a better spot.

Investing involves risk, including possible loss of principal.

Asset allocation and diversification does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss. Equity investment options involve greater risk, including heightened volatility, than fixed-income investment options. Fixed-income investments are subject to interest rate risk; as interest rates rise their value will decline. International and global investing involves greater risks such as currency fluctuations, political/social instability and differing accounting standards.  These risks are magnified in emerging markets.

There is no guarantee that a target date investment will provide adequate income at or through retirement.  Participants may also choose a portfolio with a target date that does not match the intended retirement date. Compare the different portfolios to see how the mix of investments might shift.

Investment advisory products offered through Principal Advised Services, LLC. Principal Advised Services is a member of the Principal Financial Group®, Des Moines, IA 50392.

The subject matter in this communication is educational only and provided with the understanding that Principal® is not rendering legal, accounting, investment advice or tax advice. You should consult with appropriate counsel or other advisors on all matters pertaining to legal, tax, investment or accounting obligations and requirements.

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