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“Retirement Investors Flock Back to Stocks”

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WSJ Front Page Headlines

[By Rick Kahler MS CFP® http://www.KahlerFinancial.com]

Rick Kahler CFP“Retirement Investors Flock Back to Stocks” was the front page headline of The Wall Street Journal on May 2, 2014.

I retweeted it to my Twitter feed, adding, “Just In Time to Ride Them to the Bottom Again.”


Five years ago some of those same investors were abandoning stocks in sheer panic. In early March 2009, the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit a low of 6700. Many financial advisors spent hours listening to frightened clients wanting to sell out their entire portfolios and go to cash. It was an exhausting and traumatic period for doctors, financial advisors and clients.

Calm and Steady

Those who followed advisors’ recommendations to stay the course certainly came out on top. Their portfolios recovered nicely, with double-digit annualized returns for the past five years. Even over the past 10 years, most diversified portfolios earned very respectable returns far in excess of bank CD’s or bond yields.

Panic and Fear

Unfortunately, those who panicked and sold out paid an incredibly high price for the momentary relief of getting off the market roller coaster. Many of them kept their money on the sidelines until recently, waiting until “things were better” to reinvest.


Apparently that time has come. Here are some numbers from the WSJ article:

Retirement investors have recently increased their stock holdings by almost 40% from the market lows. Today, bond and money market funds make up only 25% of retirement plans, and 67% of new 401(k) contributions go toward purchasing stocks.

In 2007, bond and money market funds accounted for 21% of retirement plans. At the market top in October 2007, the average new 401(k) contribution going into stocks was 69%. Within 18 months stocks had declined almost 60% from their highs.


Do you see any potential correlations here? I have little doubt these individual investors, mistiming the market once more, are setting themselves up to get slaughtered all over again.

But, what about those who did get out of the markets five years ago and now realize they made a big mistake? Suppose you’ve learned the wisdom of staying in the market with a well-diversified portfolio. How do you get back in without waiting for the next crash?

Three Strategies:

Here are three strategies to rebuild your portfolio.

First, don’t go all in, but move into the market gradually with “dollar cost averaging.” Over the next two years, methodically (monthly or quarterly) buy into a diversified mixture of asset classes. If the market turns downward, which carries a high probability, you will buy into a falling market. You will also reduce the possibility of a huge market drop that might cause you to panic and sell out again.

Second, allocate your purchases to a mixture of US and international stocks, as well as options such as real estate investment trust (REIT) funds, commodity funds, managed futures funds, Treasury Inflation Protected (TIPs) bond funds, high yield bond funds, and high quality bond funds.

Finally, once your two-year dollar cost averaging is done and you are fully invested into your asset classes, rebalance at least once a year to maintain your original allocations as the values of the assets change.

For example, if you have allocated 30% of your portfolio to stocks, purchase more if stocks add up to less than 30% or sell some if they are over 30%.

Bull markets


The research suggests there is a high probability that things will end badly for individual investors who try to time the markets. A few will succeed, but will confuse their “skill” with the fact they just got lucky. A methodical approach, however, provides a strategy to help you hold on, even in the face of market ups and downs.


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6 Responses

  1. Boomer Bust ?

    Rick, so what happens to the markets when all the baby boomers retire?


    Get ready for big 401(k) outflows, this study warns.



  2. Are we in the third-biggest stock bubble in US history?

    Stocks haven’t been this overvalued since the market peaks of 1999 and 1929, according to a new research report.




  3. Don’t Flock Back – Dump these Investments Now?

    At this point, it makes sense to rebalance your holdings and reduce risk.


    Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s ‘sell’ list is a good place to start.



  4. Fed Concern With Repeat of 1937 Policy Blunder Echoed by Markets


    Rick – The specter of 1937 is weighing on the minds of top Federal Reserve officials as they work on a road map for unwinding their unprecedented economic stimulus.




  5. Near perfect sell signal says stocks should drop?

    It’s the No. 1 question puzzling traders right now: How can prices for high-yield bonds be falling and prices for stocks rising, when they’ve so reliably traded in tandem in the past?




  6. “Sequence of returns” rears its ugly head

    The so-called Sequence-of-returns risk is magnified when spending down assets in a down market. Sequence of return is the order in which your investments get returns or losses. When retirees begin withdrawing money from their investments, the returns during the first few years can have a major impact on their wealth.

    Say you have $1 million and you think you can sustain a $40,000 annual withdrawal but the market in the first year of your withdrawal goes down 50 percent. Now each dollar you take out is like taking $2. Worse, the market just went down 50 percent but now you need a 100 percent return to get back to where you were.

    The sequence of your return can have an enormous effect on how long your assets last. Interestingly, if the sequence of returns is reversed and gains precede losses, then the portfolio thrives.

    Good luck.



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