Photo of someone looking at stock market performance on their phone.

Can you be friends with a bear (market)? 5 investment options to consider

It may seem like investments are “on sale” right now. Do you jump into a bear market? And if so, where? How?

Before you start, kick the tires on your financial plan, to make sure you’re ready.

  • You have or are working on an emergency fund, with three to six months of expenses saved in an account that’s liquid and accessible.
  • You’ve paid down credit card debt or any other high interest debts or loans. (The lower your credit utilization ratio, the better.)
  • You’re contributing to your workplace retirement plan, putting away at least enough to get a company match.
  • You’re protecting your income and assets. You have enough life insurance to take care of those you love and disability insurance to help protect your income if you become ill and unable to work.

If you have reviewed these basics and you still have money at the end of the month, here’s a quick look at further investment options to consider.

1. Increase your deferral to your 401(k) or other workplace retirement plan.

The maximum amount you can contribute each year through elective salary deferrals is $19,500.1 And if you’re 50 or older, you can also make a “catch up” contribution of up to $6,500.2

“Bumping up your deferral, even by 1 or 2%, may not seem like much. But with the power of compounding earnings, it can make a big difference over 20 or 30 years,” says Heather Winston, CFP®, assistant director of financial advice and planning for Principal®. Also, weigh the difference between saving in a tax-deferred account vs. a taxable one.

Winston says if your account has taken a dip, increasing your contributions may help you reach your retirement goal sooner. If the markets have dropped, the money you defer to your retirement plan may go further by allowing you to buy more shares.

To get started: If you have a retirement account from your employer with services by Principal, you can log in to increase your contribution. First time logging in? Here’s how you create an account.

2. Add to your traditional or Roth Individual Retirement Account (IRA).

Good news: You have until July 15, 2020, to make a 2019 contribution to an IRA, thanks to recent legislation. (And you can always make a 2020 contribution now, too.)

The maximum annual contribution to a traditional IRA is $6,000. If you’re 50 or older, the IRA catch-up contribution limit is $1,000. (Read the basics of IRAs.)

Depending how much money you make and if you’re not covered by a retirement plan at work, you may be able to deduct all or a portion of your traditional IRA contributions from your taxes (details are on the IRS website). The more you save today, the more you’ll likely have years down the road.

With a Roth IRA, you can contribute up to $6,000 per year using after-tax money. If you’re 50 or older, you can add an extra $1,000 per year. To contribute the full amount to a Roth IRA, you need to make less than:

  • $124,000 if you’re single or file as head of household.
  • $196,000 if you’re married filing jointly.

You can withdraw your annual Roth IRA contributions without taxes or penalties at any time. If you have earnings, you can withdraw them tax-free in retirement.3

To get started: Review our IRA solutions to see what may be best for you.

Tip: Monitor and rebalance. If you’re investing in the market through a retirement plan, IRA, stocks, or mutual funds, consider putting this on your to-do list annually: Rebalance your portfolio (PDF) and make sure you have a diverse mix of investment options within various asset classes. A financial professional can help you learn how to do that.

3. Open a brokerage account, if you don’t already have one.

If you’ve never invested in stocks and mutual funds outside of your workplace retirement plan or IRAs, you could start by opening a brokerage account. (Not sure if you’re ready? Read “Four signs you’re ready to start investing.”)

You’ll need to know your risk tolerance. A risk profile (PDF) places you on a scale somewhere between conservative (more averse to risk) and aggressive (more tolerant of risk). Your profile can help you select investments and build a portfolio at a level of risk you’re comfortable with, while continuing to work toward your goals.

This year is a good test of investors’ tolerance for risk. If you find yourself worrying about whether your portfolio is gaining or losing day-to-day, or certainly if you’re losing sleep, you may need to adjust your risk profile. When your risk tolerance matches your investment portfolio, volatile times can be less concerning for you.

To get started: Connect with a financial professional to discuss your options.

Asset classes you might consider

If you invest, consider diversifying—spreading your money across multiple types of investments—to help reduce the risk of losing money.

  • Large companies and technology stocks will likely continue to perform well.
  • Look at small companies and sectors like energy, materials, consumer discretionary (non-essential goods and services), and financials to improve.
  • Stocks in emerging countries may perform better than those in developed countries outside the United States.
  • For bonds, go for higher yields on high quality corporate and municipal bonds at short-intermediate maturities.

Read more from Robert F. Baur, Ph.D., executive director and chief global economist for Principal in his May 2020 “Economic Insights” (PDF).

4. Set aside money in a 529 savings plan for a child or grandchild.

A 529 savings plan allows you to invest your money to be used for qualified education expenses such as college, apprenticeship programs, and K-12. This includes tuition, room and board, mandatory fees, and textbooks. You designate how and where it’s spent.

Before opening an account, get a full understanding of the plan, including its tax benefits, fees, expenses, and investment options. You can open a 529 plan offered by any state, so shop around for the one that best suits your needs.

To get started: If you’re interested in learning about our 529 plan, visit scholarsedge529.com.

5. Contribute more to a Health Savings Account (HSA).

If you’re enrolled in a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP), you can add a total of $3,550 a year for single coverage or a max of $7,100 for family coverage in 2020. If you’re over age 55 but under 65, you can also make “catch-up” contributions to your HSA, to the tune of $1,000 more per year.

An HSA offers a triple advantage on federal income taxes: Money put in isn’t taxed, it grows tax-free, and you’re not taxed when you take money out for medical expenses. Plus you decide how the funds are invested, and how you’ll use the money for health care expenses.

To get started: Talk to your employer’s human resources department about how to contribute more to an HSA associated with your HDHP.

What’s next?

1 Some retirement plans may have set a lower limit, so check the details of your own employer’s plan.

2 Some retirement plans may not allow catch-up contributions.

3 Your account must be open for five years and you must be over age 59½ (or another exception) to be eligible for qualified tax-free withdrawals of earnings. Special ordering rules apply to Roth IRA contributions.

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board) owns the CFP® certification mark, the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification mark, and the CFP® certification mark (with plaque design) logo in the United States, which it authorizes use of by individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.

Carefully consider the Fund’s objectives, risks, charges, and expenses. Contact your financial professional or visit principal.com for a prospectus, or summary prospectus if available, containing this and other information. Please read it carefully before investing.

Asset allocation and diversification do not ensure a profit or protect against a loss.

Investing involves risk, including possible loss of principal.

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

Principal® does not make available products related to Health Savings Accounts.​

The commentary represents the opinions of Principal Global Investors. It should not be considered investment advice. No forecast based on the opinions expressed can be guaranteed and may be subject to change without notice. No investment strategy, such as diversification, can guarantee profit or protect against loss.

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