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U-shaped Asset Allocation


Freshly-minted financial planners invariably are taught that a worker should begin saving for retirement by heavily weighting stocks, not bonds . . . 80% stocks/20% bonds.

As they approach middle age, workers should remove some equity risk from their portfolios by reducing their exposure to stocks . . . say, 60%/40%.

As they approach retirement, it should drop even more . . . say, 40% stocks/60% bonds.

Some recent research published in the Journal of Financial Planning suggests the allocation to stock should begin increasing at some point after retirement.  The most critical period for retirees is the few years prior to retirement, when the stock market might crash at the worst possible time for them, plus the first few years after retirement, when they must cope with income decreasing faster than expenses.  The research cited several examples, but I think the assumptions drove the results and therefore discount the research.

However, in this strange market, I agree with their conclusion, i.e., holding a large allocation of stocks in a retiree’s senior years is not imprudent.  Interest rates will not provide enough for retirees to live on, whereas dividends on a portfolio rich in high-dividend stocks, master limited partnerships, real estate investment trusts, and closed-end funds just might give them that income . . . as well as the courage to face retirement.

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