People’s attitudes towards money obviously change as they get older. The crucial middle years of 40-60 are a time when people generally focus the most on saving, accumulating wealth, and pondering the concept of retirement. While people often attempt to hit major savings goals in their 30’s, lifestyle changes including marriage and family, along with business establishment often push savings goals back 10-15 years. Not that saving is ever an easy task: In the 40-60 range, people often deal with college-related expenses for kids, aging parents who need help, deaths in the family, divorce, etc. All of these events pose challenges and opportunities of their own. So how exactly are people in this 40-60 age range dealing with all of the recent market volatility? Studies show they are reducing risk and hoarding cash to make sure their capital lasts for as long possible.
During the 90’s, periods of volatility would often give people an opportunity to buy stocks at cheaper prices. Investors understood volatility to be a normal part of the process of buying stocks. That mentality was reinforced by a stock market which, for the most part, moved up throughout the 80’s and 90’s at a comfortable annualized rate. However, the volatility of the past decade is having an opposite effect on some. The volatility has been so fierce for so long that some investors, worried about hitting 50 with the same savings they had at 40, are going to cash, short-term bonds and fixed-rate investment products offered by insurance companies.
Can we really blame investors for thinking this way? An argument could easily be made that with ballooning deficits in the US, a bond crisis in Europe, a prolonged housing slump, inflation, and high unemployment, we may have another decade of tepid, or non-existent economic growth here in the US.
The prospect of a sideways or downward stock market over the next decade may not be manageable for many investors who have serious intentions of retiring in the next 10-15 years. Rather than relying on the randomness of the stock market, these jittery investors will entertain options such as a transitional retirement or working part-time during retirement. In the meanwhile, they will hoard cash in bank accounts rather than adding money to stock and bond investment programs. While working part-time in retirement may not be desirable, it beats the prospect of not retiring at all.
At the end of the day, these planning decisions boil down to an individual’s lifestyle, long-term goals and risk tolerance. From what I’ve observed, the intense volatility of late has people on the edge of their seat—and not in a good way. Investors seem less willing to take on risk now than they have been in years past.
As always, feel free to e-mail me with questions or comments.
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