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Investing Through Life’s Stages

Key Points

» Factors That Affect Your InvestmentDecisions
» Growth or Income
» Time and Risk Tolerance
» Sample Asset Allocations
» Sound Strategies for Everyone
» Investing for Life Stages
» Discipline and a Financial Advisor Can Help
» Points to remember

Investing is a lifelong process. The sooner you start, the better
off you’ll be in the long run. It’s best to start saving
and investing as soon as you start earning money, even if it’s
only $10 a paycheck. The discipline and skills you learn will
benefit you for the rest of your life. But no matter how old you
are when you start thinking seriously about saving and investing,
it’s never too late to begin.

The first part of a successful lifelong investment strategy is
disciplined savings habits. Regardless of whether you are saving
for retirement, a new house, or just that extravagant dining room
set, you will need to develop rigid savings habits. Regular
contributions to savings or investment accounts are often the most
productive; and if you can automate them, they are even

Factors That Affect Your Investment Decisions 

Once you begin saving on a regular basis, you’ll soon have to
decide how to invest the money you are saving. Regardless of what
financial stage of life you are in, you will have to decide what
your needs are and how comfortable you are with risk.

Growth or Income 

What do you need the money for? The answer to this question will
help determine whether you want to put your savings into investment
products that produce income for you, or that concentrate on
growing the value of your investment. For instance, a retirement
fund does not need to produce income until you retire, so your
investing strategy should focus on growth until you are close to
retirement. After you retire, you’ll want to draw income from
your investment while keeping your principal intact to the extent

Time and Risk Tolerance 

All investing involves a certain amount of risk. How well you
tolerate price fluctuations in your investments will need to be
balanced against your required rate of return in determining the
amount of risk your investments should carry. An offsetting factor
to risk is time. If you plan to hold an investment for a long time,
you will probably tolerate more risk because you have the time to
make up any losses you may experience early on. For a shorter-term
investment, such as saving to buy a house, you probably want to
take on less risk and have more liquidity in your

Sample Asset Allocations 

Low Moderate Aggressive
% Treasury Bills 30 30 20 10 10 10
% Bonds 40 30 30 40 30 20
% Growth Stocks 30 30 40 30 50 70
% Small Caps 0 0 0 10 0 0
% International 0 10 10 10 10 0

Chart illustrates sample portfolio asset allocations: Low Risk
(those nearing or in retirement); Moderate Risk (middle-aged
investors); Aggressive Risk (younger investors).

Allocations are presented only as examples and are not intended
as investment advice. Please consult a financial advisor if you
have any questions about how these examples apply to your

Sound Strategies for Everyone 

Everyone lives his or her life differently, and everyone has
complicated emotions about money, so investment decisions are
highly personal and unique to each person. But there are some basic
rules that apply to most investors.

  • To provide liquidity for emergencies, you should probably
    always have a cash reserve in a money market fund1 or
    traditional savings account or CD, no matter what your life
  • Also, if you can tolerate even a little risk, you should
    probably always have some portion of your portfolio in stocks to
    help protect your savings from being devalued due to
  • Another good idea is scheduling annual reviews of your
    investments with a financial advisor. This habit will keep you up
    to date on your investments and help spot potential problems in
    your investment strategy.
  • Finally, every investment decision should include tax
    considerations. Investments can be taxable, tax deferred, or tax
    free. You should be aware of the taxable status of your investments
    and take that into account when setting up and reviewing an
    investment strategy.

Investing for Life Stages 

Although everyone’s attitude toward investing and money is
different, most investors share some common situations throughout
their lives. For instance, where you are in your life cycle
certainly affects how you invest for retirement, but what about
other life stages that aren’t so closely related to age?

Let’s say you’re 40 and expecting your first child.
You’ll need to decide how to balance your finances to account
for the additional expenses of a child. Perhaps you’ll need to
supplement your income with income-producing investments. Moreover,
your child will be entering college at about the time you’re
ready to retire! In these circumstances, your growth and income
needs most certainly will change, and maybe your risk
tolerance as well.

The following are some major life events that most of us share, and
some investment decisions that you may want to consider:

When you get your first “real”

  • Start a savings account to build a cash reserve.
  • Start a retirement fund and make regular monthly contributions,
    no matter how small.

When you get a raise:

  • Increase your contribution to your company-sponsored retirement
  • Invest after-tax dollars in municipal bonds that offer
    tax-exempt interest.
  • Increase your cash reserves.

When you get married:

  • Determine your new investment contributions and allocations,
    taking into account your combined income and expenses.

When you want to buy your first

  • Invest some of your non-retirement savings in a short-term
    investment specifically for funding your down payment, closing, and
    moving costs.

When you have a baby:

  • Increase your cash reserves.
  • Increase your life insurance.
  • Start a college fund.

When you change jobs:

  • Review your investment strategy and asset allocation to
    accommodate a new salary and a different benefits package.
  • Consider your distribution options for your company’s
    retirement savings or pension plan. You may want to roll over money
    into a new plan or IRA.

When all your children have moved out
of the house:

  • Boost your retirement savings contributions.

When you reach 55:

  • Review your retirement fund asset allocation to accommodate the
    shorter time frame for your investments.
  • Continue saving for retirement.

When you retire:

  • Carefully study the options you may have for taking money from
    your company retirement plan. Discuss your alternatives with your
    financial advisor.
  • Review your combined potential income after retirement and
    reallocate your investments to provide the income you need while
    still providing for some growth in capital to help beat inflation
    and fund your later years.

Discipline and a Financial Advisor Can Help 

One of the hardest things about investing is disciplining yourself
to save an appropriate portion of your income regularly so that you
can meet your investment goals. And if you’re not fascinated
with investing, it’s probably also hard to force yourself to
review your financial situation and investment strategy on a
regular basis. Establishing a relationship with a trusted financial
advisor can go a long way toward helping you practice smart money
management over your entire lifetime.

Points to Remember 

  1. The first step in a successful lifelong investment strategy is
    to develop disciplined savings habits.
  2. Throughout life, you should assess your need for growth or
  3. You will have to determine your overall tolerance to risk and
    regularly reassess your tolerance. Education and a long-range
    investment goal can help raise your risk tolerance.
  4. An offsetting factor to risk is time.
  5. You should probably always have a cash reserve in a money
    market fund, traditional savings account, or CD.
  6. You should probably always have some portion of your portfolio
    in stocks to help protect your investment from being devalued due
    to inflation.
  7. Increase regular investment contributions when your financial
    situation improves.
  8. Start separate investment funds for specific purposes, such as
    a fund for college or the down payment for a house.
  9. Schedule annual reviews of your investments.

1An investment in a money market fund is not insured or
guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any
other government agency. Although the fund seeks to preserve the
value of your investment at $1.00 per share, it is possible to lose
money by investing in the fund.

© 2010 Standard & Poor’s Financial Communications. All
rights reserved.