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Protecting Retirement Income

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Overview of ‘An Advisor’s Guide to Protecting Retirement Income’

A 60/40 portfolio has been the bread-and-butter strategy that helped millions of investors retire comfortably in the past, and to varying degrees it remains the foundation upon which many of the traditional approaches to retirement accounts continue to be built.

On the other hand, many in the investment industry have steadily come to the realization that we are facing a 60/40 problem, and the usual methods may not be capable of allowing the next generation to also retire well.

The need for a more modern approach to retirement income has arguably never been greater due to the:

  • Potential end of the post-Global Financial Crisis bull market in equities
  • Prospect of the first sustained rising U.S. interest rate environment in more than 40 years
  • Highest inflation level in four decades

Just one of these is usually enough to cause concern for an investor, but the prospect of all three happening at once is potentially catastrophic for a retiree.

Over the years, new philosophies and strategies have been developed that attempt to enhance retirement income, with many focused on adjusting investor behavior in terms of withdrawal rates, addressing sequence of returns risk, or both. However, a drawback associated with the popular methods is that they aren’t very dynamic. This puts them at odds with the market, which is characterized by constant change. Target-date funds, balanced portfolios, and even the bucket system are somewhat adaptive in that they adjust as an investor gets closer to and progresses through retirement, but their modifications are driven by a human factor (age), not the market environment.

An alternative is to create a dynamic glidepath that is adaptive, with the adjustments driven by what’s happening in the market an any particular time irrespective of the investor’s age or retirement year. A dynamic portfolio can dramatically adjust its allocations with the goal of continually taking advantage of strong-performing asset classes while also minimizing exposure to those showing weakness. This means the portfolio can look dramatically different depending on the market conditions at the time of and throughout retirement.

This Guide considers whether the more dynamic glidepath approach warrants further attention from financial advisors. To analyze the matter, the authors:

  • Consider what’s at stake for investors who are in or nearing retirement
  • Address the primary considerations for financial advisors and their clients, including withdrawal rate, sequence of returns, inflation, life expectancy, and suitability
  • Review the historically preferred methods for protecting retirement income
  • Analyze data that compares the performance of a traditional glidepath portfolio to a dynamic glidepath alternative
  • Conduct a longer-term stress test of the traditional versus dynamic glidepath portfolios by reviewing data about the best and worst times to retire since 1928

Let’s talk if you’d like to discuss the author’s findings or how to use the Guide.


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Opinions expressed in this commentary reflect subjective judgments of the author based on conditions at the time of writing and are subject to change without notice.

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