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Traditional Investing May Decrease Your Retirement Lifestyle

In 1991, investors needed to know only two things about the positioning of their investment portfolio as they entered retirement; move to a higher allocation of bonds, and fill the rest of the portfolio with large, well-known American stocks. Amazingly, this simplistic approach proved quite successful throughout the 1990’s. However, investors facing retirement investment decisions today are unfortunately in a far more precarious position.

Just a few years ago, investors witnessed the culmination of a multiple-decade bull market for large U.S. stocks. Despite the recent three-year bear market, large U.S. stocks, historically speaking, are still in the top ten percent of highest valuations ever. The outlook for bonds is not much better. We are now facing what appears to be the finale of a twenty-year bond bull market. This is because bond prices tend to move in the opposite direction of interest rates. With interest rates steadily declining for the past twenty years, bonds enjoyed an unprecedented period of excellent performance. Now that interest rates are near all-time lows, continued strong performance from bonds is unlikely.

For investors with a lengthy investment time horizon (twenty years or more), an extended market correction may not be so damaging. But those that have an intermediate timeframe (ten to fifteen years) sub-standard returns in both the equity and fixed income markets may prove disastrous for investors nearing or who are already in retirement. To add to these difficulties, inflation is likely to gradually increase. With bonds and stocks poised for at least a decade of mediocre performance (4% to 5%, according to legendary investors Warren Buffett and Bill Gross), where will retired investors and those nearing retirement turn?

The well-diversified portfolio, much as it has in years past, will still serve the retired and near-retired investor well. The difference this time, is that investors must be willing to incorporate different asset classes into their portfolio; asset classes that do not normally move in the same direction with one another. This means that they typically react differently to market conditions, and thus offer downside protection when one of the asset classes may be underperforming. Examples of such asset classes are hedge-like investments, commodities, and real estate (in the form of Real Estate Investment Trusts). While these investments may sound complicated and risky, they are not. Actually, most are less risky than most domestic stock portfolios and are available in a standard mutual fund format. These types of investments have helped investors essentially avoid losses for the past three years.

These types of investments, when combined with more traditional investments like stocks and bonds, can produce superior performance with significantly less risk, in fact, almost bond-like risk. Although bonds do not fare well in rising interest rate markets, certain fixed income investments will do well when interest rates rise because the rate of return they receive will adjust upward. Examples of these include stable value funds, bank loan funds, and TIPS (Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities).

By investing their portfolios in the manner described above, retired individuals, and those nearing retirement, will be able to preserve wealth, receive cash flow from their portfolio, and stay ahead of inflation while obtaining returns not possible from the standard large U.S. stock and bond mix that served investors so well in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

For further information, contact Louis P. Stanasolovich, CFP™ at (412) 635-9210 or e-mail him at

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