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Don’t let low rates sink your retirement plans

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Posted: Monday, August 13, 2012 9:49 am

Over the past few years, if you’ve taken out a mortgage or another consumer loan, you’ve probably welcomed the low interest rates you may have received. But as an investor, if you’ve kept any retirement savings in fixed-rate investment vehicles, you may have seen low rates in a less favorable light. And that’s why it may be time for you take a closer look at your financial strategy for working toward the retirement lifestyle you’ve envisioned.

Of course, you can always hope that interest rates will rise, and perhaps they will. As you may know, the Federal Reserve has kept interest rates at record lows in recent years to stimulate lending and thereby boost the economy. But rates can’t get much lower, and if inflation were to heat up, the Fed could reverse course by starting to raise rates.

However, if you’re going to do a good job of building financial assets for retirement, you really can’t afford to play “wait-and-see” with interest rates. Instead, consider the following moves:

• Rebalance your portfolio. No matter what your situation, it’s a good idea to periodically rebalance your investment portfolio to help ensure it still reflects your risk tolerance, time horizon and long-term goals. If you’re concerned about low rates harming your future investment income, you have more reason than ever to review your portfolio and make adjustments as needed, relative to your objectives. For example, if it seems that your portfolio has become “overweighted” in any one vehicle, you may need to change your investment mix, keeping in mind your individual risk tolerance.

• Redefine “retirement.” Retiring from one career doesn’t have to mean retiring from work altogether. If you decide to work part time, do some consulting or even open your own small business, you may be able to earn enough income to take some of the “pressure” off your investment portfolio in terms of providing you with the money you need to live on during retirement. Also, by working during your nominal retirement years, you may be able to delay taking Social Security until you’re a little older, when your monthly checks can be larger.

• Review your withdrawal strategy. During your retirement, the amount you choose to withdraw from your investments each year will depend on several factors, including the size of your portfolio and the amount of income it is providing. As you chart your retirement strategy, you’ll need to factor in a realistic withdrawal rate.

• Re-examine sources of investment income. You may want part of your retirement income to come from investments that offer protection of principal. If so, you don’t have to settle for the lowest-rate vehicles. By looking at the various alternatives and blending them with your overall portfolio, you may be able to boost your income without significantly increasing your investment risk.

In short, just because interest rates are low, you don’t have to lower your retirement expectations — as long as you plan ahead and explore your options.

This article was written by Edward Jones for Cyndi Newburn, an Edward Jones financial advisor in Ahwatukee Foothills. Reach her at (480) 460-1149.

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