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Market Downturn Has American Retirees Worried

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1Northwestern Mutual study

2Research link

After 10 years of bull market gains, the recent downturn has kept many retirees up at night. If outliving your money was a worry before, it’s now a real and serious concern.

Watching your asset balances drop is difficult, but the big issue for retirees is something called sequence of returns risk. Basically, retirement income projections are based on year-after-year growth. An average return is used to account for dips. But if you have steep negative returns early on, your portfolio will not perform as expected. 

For those in retirement, it’s more important now than ever to review your retirement plan with an unbiased, fiduciary financial advisor before making any substantial investment changes. 

Here’s the main reason you should check in with an advisor right now: It’s going to take time for markets to return to their previous levels -- and you need to plan accordingly. Emotionally-charged decisions to sell off large quantities of stocks or other investments now lock in losses, removing any chance for future growth. Research suggests that working with a financial advisor can result in up to 4% additional investment returns1 and some mutual fund returns can average 10% each year2.

If you don’t have a financial advisor, our no-cost, five-minute tool can help match you with up to three near you. All advisors on the platform are fiduciaries, legally bound to act in your best interest. Each is registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or the appropriate state regulator and any licenses or credentials are current. We also screen advisors for pending or valid regulatory disclosures within the past 10 years.

For long-range peace of mind—and better sleep—use this checklist to prepare your finances for whatever lies ahead.

1. Cover basic expenses with guaranteed income. 

Since Social Security, pension and fixed annuity payments are not affected by market volatility, it’s a good idea to use that money for regular bills like food, utilities and mortgage payments. If you don’t have enough guaranteed income to cover these expenses, you may want to look into buying a fixed annuity. A financial advisor can help determine the best option for you.

2. Increase your liquidity. 

The general rule of thumb is to keep one or two years of costs (beyond basic expenses) as cash or cash equivalents. This way, you can ride out market lows and reduce your sequence of returns risk.  

3. Reassess your reliance on dividends and bond income. 

When times are tough, companies often cut or even cancel dividends. Check where your dividends are coming from and if those companies are historically hurt by recessions. It may make sense to increase your bond holdings. If you’re not sure how to do this, a fiduciary financial advisor can assess your situation and make unbiased recommendations.

4. Get your estate in order. 

If you haven’t already, now is the time to write your will, living will, power of attorney and other directives. If you alone manage your family’s finances, you should also make sure your spouse or other beneficiary has your account numbers, logins and passwords.  

5. Call in a professional. 

Many of these steps—buying an annuity, increasing your bond holdings, parking more money as cash— are easier done with a fiduciary financial advisor's help. If you don't have an advisor, SmartAsset's no-cost, no obligation tool will help you find a qualified advisor for you, based on your specific financial situation.

Now you can get matched with up to three local fiduciary investment advisors that have been rigorously screened for regulatory disclosures and to confirm their licenses. The entire matching process takes just a few minutes.

Follow These Steps to Get Matched With the Right Advisor for You

1. Simply enter your ZIP code below.

2. After you enter your ZIP code and answer questions about your financial goals, you can compare up to three advisors local to you and decide which to work with.

3. Enjoy a better financial future!

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