Your retirement is something to look forward to. You won’t have to work anymore, and you can rely on your savings to enjoy the rest of your life. Retirement investing is an important way to help support that goal.
Many people who are planning for retirement have goals for when and how they want to retire. For example, they may want to retire by age 60 with $2 million in the bank. Overall, this vision is good; it helps you know how much to save every year and gives you grounds for how to rebalance your portfolio.
But sometimes retirement investing doesn’t go as planned, and there are a number of unexpected turns that could prevent you from retiring—if you aren’t prepared for them.
Unexpected Turns That Effect Retirement Investing
These are some of the most common unexpected turns that could prevent you from retiring the way you’d like:
A downturn in the stock market. The stock market is a volatile place, and individual stocks within the market are even more volatile. Though the overall trend is a positive one, scoring something like 10 percent a year over a 10-year average, a bad year could easily wipe out a fourth of your assets, or even more (depending on where you’re invested).
If that’s the case, your glorious plans for a luxurious retirement could be eliminated by one wayward turn if you’re invested heavily in the stock market.
A housing market disturbance. Housing prices are volatile, too, though not nearly as volatile as the stock market. Housing prices are more cyclical, and downturns tend to last for several years.
If you have much of your money tied up in real estate, and housing prices end up collapsing, you could be stuck in place indefinitely until prices recover. Not only will the price of your properties fall, it may also become more difficult to unload your house (or find tenants to rent it).
A medical or similar emergency. Medical bills are the single greatest cause for bankruptcy in the United States. Even with a decent insurance plan and a reasonable level of savings in place, it’s possible that a medical emergency or another sudden need for funds could interfere with your plans for retirement.
If you develop a chronic condition, such as one that requires ongoing treatment and medication, it may also increase your ongoing expenses, which could require you to save more money before you can retire feasibly.
A sudden change in your income leading up to retirement. You may also experience a drastic change in your income in the years leading up to your retirement. If you’ve calculated your necessary savings precisely, this could bear a massive impact on your ability to save enough money for retirement.
For example, if you lose your job, or if you’re no longer able to collect rent from a specific property, it could put you tens of thousands of dollars behind on your savings and call for you to draw from your savings prematurely.
An increase in expenses. A corollary to a decrease in income, an increase in expenses could similarly interfere with your ability to retire. Of course, minor expenses like groceries and utility bills won’t make an impact on your retirement savings, but a new responsibility like supporting a family member could cost you significantly.
General Retirement Investing Strategies
There are specific ways to prepare for these specific unexpected turns, but there are also general strategies you can use to prepare yourself from the unexpected:
- Diversify your portfolio. You’ve heard the advice a million times in different forms, but it bears repeating. Diversifying your portfolio is the single greatest protective measure you can take for your investments. Invest your assets in a number of different vehicles, and don’t rely too heavily on any one strategy.
- Always estimate conservatively. If you think you’ll need $1.5 million, plan to save $1.8 million. If you think you can retire by 55, aim to retire by 50 and plan to retire by 60. The more conservatively you estimate, the more wiggle room you’ll have for your investments.
- Have backup plans and be ready to change. The average person changes careers between five and seven times in a lifetime. Even if you think you’ll be in your current job forever, there’s always the chance that something will change—and you need to learn to embrace it. Always have a backup plan ready, and don’t be afraid to change.
No matter what, your retirement plan isn’t going to go exactly the way you think it will. It may go better, worse, or somewhere in between, but the better prepared you are for the unexpected, the better your chances will be to recover—regardless of what the fates have in store for you.
As of this writing, Jenna Cyprus did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.