Without a work income, outside of any National Superannuation entitlement, you rely on your retirement savings and investments to generate and provide a steady income. So, you need a well-designed plan to weather short-term market fluctuations while ensuring the preservation and growth of their investments over the long term (to outpace inflation).
Plus, having a structured plan can help you stay on track with your goals and objectives. You need to consistently review where you’re at and how your investments are performing, to ensure you don’t fall behind.
Many people view retirement as the destination, but it’s actually a journey in itself, and potentially a long one at that. With the average retiree spending 20-25 years in retirement, you need a nuanced approach when it comes to managing volatility over time.
There are different strategies to do that, one of which is the ‘bucket’ (or cascading) approach. Here’s how it works:
Essentially, the ‘bucket approach’ allows you to have three (or more) investment horizons ticking along at the same time. It can be the nuanced strategy you need to make your money go the distance.
Market risk isn’t the only risk you need to be aware of when it comes to managing your retirement finances. Click the links to learn more about some of the other risks you should be aware of: inflation, longevity, diversification and sequencing risks.
When investment markets are turbulent, a structured plan is your lifeboat. Firstly, if you’re looking at winding down your career, you need to determine if and when you can retire and ensure that you can afford a comfortable retirement lifestyle. Secondly, as you approach retirement, it’s important to keep in mind that your investments typically have less time to recover from market downturns.
Volatile market conditions can put a dent in your retirement savings, potentially reducing the funds you’ll have available. But that doesn’t mean you have to run for cover. In fact, with high inflation, you need a nuanced strategy that accounts for both short and long-term financial needs. In other words…
If you reduce your investment risk too early, you may miss out on investment growth opportunities – and inflation might erode the value of your investment faster. If you don’t reduce your risk, though, market volatility may expose your investments to significant short-term losses just as you’re about to retire (sequencing risk).
So, striking the right balance between risk and growth potential is critical. And one way to do that is through a ‘bucket’ (or cascading) approach.
In short, you can split your retirement funds into three or more imaginary ‘buckets’ – short term, medium term and long term. Then, you’ll invest each bucket according to its own investment horizon.
For example, the money you need within the first three years might be held in cash or term deposits. The funds that you plan to use in the following three or four years could go into a low-risk or balanced fund. Lastly, anything beyond the seven-year timeframe you might put in a growth fund. This strategy allows you to manage and take advantage of market volatility, with three (or more) investment strategies ticking along at the same time.
In the lead-up to retirement, you need a clear overview of where your future income will come from.
The more income sources you have, the more flexibility you can enjoy. For example, if you own your home, you may have the option to downsize it and use the equity released to complement your income. You may also consider other income sources such as rental income from an investment property or semi-retirement whereby you scale back your working week. Alternatively, you may have a business that can support your income needs even after you retire.
Diversification of income sources in retirement can be a good strategy to help you manage market volatility in your investments.
The market is constantly changing, and volatility is just part of the investment landscape. But don't let it catch you off guard. Instead of reacting impulsively to market fluctuations, take a proactive approach to investing.
One way to be proactive is to choose an investment strategy that fits your risk tolerance. This means avoiding impulsive decisions and instead selecting an approach that aligns with your long-term goals.
With over 10 years left until retirement, your portfolio can probably still handle short-term volatility. So unless your personal tolerance of risk has reduced, it’s likely to still be a good idea to choose higher-risk investment options for (potentially) higher returns.
And of course, diversification is also a key component of a proactive approach. Now is a good time to think about all the tools and strategies you have available, and plug any gaps you identify.
At this stage of life, it’s also appropriate to get more serious about your retirement planning. Make sure you get your thinking and ideas about the future on paper and document a strategy to help you achieve those ideas and goals. This will provide a reference point from which to make proactive decisions about your investments, regardless of what the market is doing at any point in time.
What income sources will you have in retirement? Diversifying your future retirement income source is another way to manage volatility and achieve peace of mind. Potential income-generation tools include (but are not limited to):
It’s important to note that different assets come with different risks and benefits. Take a closer look at what you have in place, and consider your big financial picture. Can you afford to expand your strategy and incorporate other income sources? Which tools can help you spread out the risk and make the most of volatility?
Many people think that a market downturn equates to a loss of money. In fact, the actual loss only occurs when you sell or switch your investments during the downturn.
During the Covid-induced downturn of March 2020, many people tried to ‘protect’ their funds against volatility by moving them to lower-risk options. However, this led them to sell their investments when the market was low and miss out on the recovery. Little did they know that the market would bounce back only a few weeks later.
This highlights the value of avoiding impulsive decisions and sticking to your investment plan. Essentially, if your risk profile and circumstances remain unchanged, you can ignore short-term market fluctuations and focus on the long-haul journey.
If the market is going through a rough patch, and depending on your personal situation and objectives, you could actually benefit from it by increasing your contributions. It’s a bit like getting a discount on your favourite item at the supermarket, except in this case, you get to buy more shares or units at the lower price and be in the front seat when the market bounces back.
Of course, the past never predicts the future, but the lessons in history show that markets recovered from periods of turmoil. And if retirement is still over 10 years away, the value of your investments has plenty of time to go up and recover.
There will always be ups and downs in the market: volatility is a natural feature of investing. But rather than reacting to it, it’s important to be proactive. This involves selecting an investment strategy based on your risk tolerance, rather than making impulsive decisions.
The longer your investment timeframe, generally the more short-term volatility your investments can probably handle, as they have more time to recover. Additionally, diversifying your investment portfolio is another proactive approach. You could start by building a foundation with a KiwiSaver plan, and gradually expand your portfolio over time.
When it comes to managing volatility, it’s also appropriate to consider diversifying your future retirement income. There are different income-generation tools available, each carrying its own risks and benefits. These include (but are not limited to):
At this stage of life, you might start exploring some of these avenues if your financial situation permits. Many people start building their financial life with KiwiSaver, then add their first home to the mix. In time, this can pave the way to an investment property, and maybe a wider property portfolio.
Alternatively, if you own your own business (or plan to in the future), this could provide the framework for retirement income or a nest egg.
A market downturn doesn’t mean you’ve lost money. In fact, you haven’t lost any money until you sell your investments or switch them when the market is low.
This is what happened during the Covid-related downturn of March 2020, when many people switched their KiwiSaver funds to lower-risk options in an attempt to protect their money from anticipated volatility. However, all they did was sell when the market was low, and subsequently miss out on the recovery only a few weeks later.
This highlights the importance of staying the course, by investing according to your risk profile. In a nutshell, if your risk profile and your circumstances haven’t changed, you can probably ignore short-term market movements and focus on the long term.
When managing volatility, a lot depends on your investment goal and time horizon. If retirement is your primary focus, you may want to invest with growth in mind to maximize your returns over the long term.
But if your goal is to buy your first home soon, you may need to de-risk your home deposit investments and focus on more stable options, to ensure your savings are secure until you have the keys to your new home. Once that's done, you can refocus your strategy on the long term.
Timing the market is nearly impossible, and making one-off lump sum investments can be risky. That’s where dollar-cost averaging comes in. By making regular contributions, you can take the guesswork out of buying a fluctuating asset and take advantage of buying at a lower cost when the market is low.
If you're employed and contributing to KiwiSaver, you're already using this strategy. Every month, both you and your employer make contributions to your account.
But dollar-cost averaging isn't just limited to KiwiSaver. You can also apply this strategy by regularly investing a set amount in other managed funds. This allows you to steadily build your portfolio over time and potentially benefit from market fluctuations.
Markets will always go up and down – it’s their nature. But rather than responding to volatility, which can lead to ill-timed decisions, the key thing is to be proactive about it. This means choosing an investment strategy based on your risk profile.
Generally speaking, the longer your investment horizon, the more risk (short-term volatility) your investments can withstand because they have time to bounce back. We’ll return to this in a moment.Another way to be proactive is to hold a diversified investment portfolio. But you don’t have to do it all in one go: for the time being, you can start building the foundation with a KiwiSaver plan. This brings us to the next point…
Instead of trying to time the market and making one-off lump sum investments, dollar-cost averaging means making regular contributions, at regular intervals, regardless of the ups and downs in the market.
For example, you may invest $200 each month in the same managed fund, rather than trying to time the market or follow investing trends. This way, you can take the guesswork out of buying a fluctuating asset. You’ll automatically buy more units or individual assets when prices are down and less when prices are up.
If you’re employed and invest in KiwiSaver, you already use this strategy. Every month your contributions and your employer contributions are added to your KiwiSaver account, and unless your contribution rate or income changes, the amount you invest is always the same.
Your risk profile is made up of two components:
For example, if you have 30-40 years until retirement, it’s very important to invest with growth in mind, rather than focusing on protecting your money. Simply put, even if you are uncomfortable with market volatility, you may want to choose a higher-risk portfolio (e.g., growth or aggressive), to take advantage of higher potential long-term returns.
On the other hand, if you’re planning to use your savings (like your KiwiSaver funds) to buy your first home within the next two or three years, then ‘two or three years’ becomes your investment horizon. You will probably need to consider de-risking your home deposit investments until the keys to your first home are safely in your hands. After that, you can refocus your strategy on the long term.
Click here to request an invitation.
We would like to hear from you. Please send us a message by filling out the form below and we will get back with you shortly.