Don’t Bet Your Retirement on Stocks: Follow These Four Tips (2024)

Gambling can be a fun little pastime between friends — or a disaster.

There’s a difference, for example, between losing a $100 bet on your favorite NFL team and running out of money at age 90.

Over the long term, stocks outperform bonds. So, stock market investments should be one component of a plan you use to prevent your savings from running dry before the end of a retirement that can last 20 or 30 years or longer.

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Some of the planning advice you might get about how to allocate your savings, however, may not fully address the risks of these investments. And the amount of savings itself will not guarantee your retirement.

Don’t bet in Monte Carlo

Many planning projections predict how long your savings will last based on Monte Carlo simulations. While providing you with probabilities of success or failure, they fail to:

  • Recognize that investors do not achieve average market returns
  • Consider financial behavioral changes when withdrawing capital
  • Reflect substantial late-in-retirement expenses
  • Maximize after-tax income or legacy and plan separately for qualified and after-tax accounts
  • Consider lifetime annuity payments as a key source of income

To illustrate the first point, my article YOU Are the Biggest Threat to Your Retirement Plan, suggests that some investors find it difficult to maintain their positions in volatile markets. And studies show that investors lose 1% to 4% on their returns when they are not in the stock markets. This could mean five or more years in lost income.

For this and other reasons, one expert in the field, Wade Pfau, said, “Monte Carlo simulations communicate false safety.”

How to increase your odds of winning

To start, I recommend that everyone who intends to keep a significant portion of retirement savings in the stock market create a personalized plan for retirement income.

And to increase your odds, here are four tips to consider in your planning (more on each below):

  • Add lifetime annuities to the mix so your income doesn’t run out
  • Use a high-dividend stock portfolio for current income from personal savings and a balanced portfolio with stocks and bonds for IRA withdrawals
  • Use a conservative estimate of long-term stock market performance in your planning
  • Build in a monitoring and replanning process that enables you to adjust your plan in real time to market conditions and life events

With this approach to your planning, we can change our thinking and consider our stock investments as part of an informed plan, not as a gamble.

1. Add lifetime annuity payments

These add safety to your portfolio. They come in different flavors, but the “plain vanilla” version is purchased from a life insurance company at a fixed rate and sends you monthly payments for the rest of your life. You might decide to start payments at various times as you anticipate inflation, health care or other large costs.

Many advisers don’t understand or offer annuities, but 90% of retirees with annuity payments as part of their retirement income feel more confident about their retirement plan. Over the past 18 months, annuity payments available on new purchases have increased by 25% to 45%. It’s a good time to consider them.

2. Use a high-dividend stock portfolio

Pick stock portfolios, whether ETFs, mutual funds or managed accounts, that help to support the income goal, manage risk and lower taxes. Here are two portfolios to consider:

  • High-dividend stock portfolios. Some stocks are historically less risky than others. High-dividend equities, invested in companies that have shown stability and a willingness to return profits to their stockholders, don’t usually boast skyrocketing share prices in the tracking indexes. But they do produce those reasonably predictable dividends that you can spend on whatever you want, and the right portfolio also shows increasing income. Investing from your personal savings gives you some tax benefits.
  • Balanced portfolio. Another portion of your savings can then be invested in a portfolio within your IRA that is balanced between bonds and stocks. When you’re 73 (the age rises to 75 in 2033), the IRS will begin to ask for the taxes that you didn’t pay as you built your retirement savings. Those required minimum distributions (RMDs) will have less market risk if withdrawals can be split between stocks and bonds. Rebalancing your portfolio by selling stocks to buy bonds, for instance, also comes with a tax advantage when it occurs within your IRA because market performance is tax-deferred until you withdraw money.

3. Use a conservative estimate of stock market returns

When you take it slow and easy, you’re less likely to be disappointed. The markets have had many ups and downs over the past few years. Some were scary, some were exhilarating. Stick to the middle range and plan for other income sources that can make up losses as the market roller-coaster ride continues. We provide plans based around 8%, 6% and 4% stock market returns — which have been achieved by a broad-based stock index in 50%, 70% and 90%, respectively, of long-term market periods.

As a standalone investment, that index returning 4% per year would accumulate in 25 years to just 39% of the value at 8% per year. However, a Go2Income plan with stocks returning 4% for 25 years — and employing the tips suggested above — would deliver 88% of the cumulative income for plans assuming 8%.

4. Build in a monitoring and replanning process

No matter how diversified your portfolio or how smart your adviser, you can’t avoid some market volatility. While including lifetime annuities and other guaranteed contracts, it’s important that you adjust your plan by reviewing your allocation, and setting your inflation expectation on your plan income.

I wrote about this approach in my article Has Bad Economic News in 2022 Hurt Your Retirement Plans?, which addressed the impact of falling stock and bond prices in 2022 on our sample investor’s plan income. While the investment portfolio fell 20%, her plan income dropped only 9%, and she could eliminate that decrease by assuming a lower inflation rate going forward.

Every scenario is unique, so that’s why monitoring and replanning makes sense.

A little bit of research will show how to create a plan that will provide growing and guaranteed income during retirement even in worst-case scenarios. Most of the time, you can also meet other objectives, like legacy goals and caregiver costs.

Visit Go2Income, answer a few simple questions, and start testing a plan that gives you a starting income and suits your specific needs. It’s easy, and our support staff will be available to help you through the process.

related content

  • Can Your Retirement Income Plan Cover Unplanned Expenses?
  • Are You Worried About Running Out of Money in Retirement?
  • Why So Many Experts Consider Annuities a Win for Retirees
  • Can AI Plan Your Retirement Better Than I Can?
  • How to Fix Social Security and What to Do While We Wait


This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

Don’t Bet Your Retirement on Stocks: Follow These Four Tips (2024)


What is the 4 rule in retirement? ›

The 4% rule limits annual withdrawals from your retirement accounts to 4% of the total balance in your first year of retirement. That means if you retire with $1 million saved, you'd take out $40,000. According to the rule, this amount is safe enough that you won't risk running out of money during a 30-year retirement.

Should a 70 year old be in the stock market? ›

Conventional wisdom holds that when you hit your 70s, you should adjust your investment portfolio so it leans heavily toward low-risk bonds and cash accounts and away from higher-risk stocks and mutual funds. That strategy still has merit, according to many financial advisors.

How much should a 72 year old retire with? ›

How Much Should a 70-Year-Old Have in Savings? Financial experts generally recommend saving anywhere from $1 million to $2 million for retirement. If you consider an average retirement savings of $426,000 for those in the 65 to 74-year-old range, the numbers obviously don't match up.

Should seniors invest in the stock market? ›

You might have switched to the spending phase of your retirement plan, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't invest any longer, or plan for market volatility. Investing is a smart financial move to make regardless of what stage you're at in life.

How long will $1 million last in retirement? ›

Around the U.S., a $1 million nest egg can cover an average of 18.9 years worth of living expenses, GoBankingRates found. But where you retire can have a profound impact on how far your money goes, ranging from as a little as 10 years in Hawaii to more than than 20 years in more than a dozen states.

What is the average 401k balance for a 65 year old? ›


How to invest $100k at 70 years old? ›

Consider these options to grow $100,000 for retirement:
  1. Invest in stocks and stock funds.
  2. Consider indexed annuities.
  3. Leverage T-bills, bonds and savings accounts.
  4. Take advantage of 401(k) and IRA catch-up provisions.
  5. Extend your retirement age.
Nov 20, 2023

At what age should you get out of the stock market? ›

There are no set ages to get into or to get out of the stock market. While older clients may want to reduce their investing risk as they age, this doesn't necessarily mean they should be totally out of the stock market.

How much money should you have in the stock market if you're 75? ›

For example, if you're 30, you should keep 70% of your portfolio in stocks. If you're 70, you should keep 30% of your portfolio in stocks. However, with Americans living longer and longer, many financial planners are now recommending that the rule should be closer to 110 or 120 minus your age.

What is the $1000 a month rule for retirement? ›

One example is the $1,000/month rule. Created by Wes Moss, a Certified Financial Planner, this strategy helps individuals visualize how much savings they should have in retirement. According to Moss, you should plan to have $240,000 saved for every $1,000 of disposable income in retirement.

What is the average Social Security check? ›

Social Security offers a monthly benefit check to many kinds of recipients. As of December 2023, the average check is $1,767.03, according to the Social Security Administration – but that amount can differ drastically depending on the type of recipient. In fact, retirees typically make more than the overall average.

What is the best stock for retirees? ›

Along with Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE), and The Proctor and Gamble Company (NYSE:PG), Realty Income Corporation (NYSE:O) is one of the best retirement stocks to buy according to the media.

Do seniors pay taxes on stocks? ›

The IRS allows no specific tax exemptions for seniors on capital gains. As discussed, a back-end tax-advantaged retirement account like the Roth IRA is really as close as you can get.

Should a retiree pull money out of stock market? ›

Over the long term, stocks outperform bonds. So, stock market investments should be one component of a plan you use to prevent your savings from running dry before the end of a retirement that can last 20 or 30 years or longer.

Why the 4 rule no longer works for retirees? ›

It's a rigid rule.

It also assumes you never have years where you spend more, or less, than the inflation increase. This isn't how most people spend in retirement. Expenses may change from one year to the next, and the amount you spend may change throughout retirement.

How long will my money last using the 4 rule? ›

This rule is based on research finding that if you invested at least 50% of your money in stocks and the rest in bonds, you'd have a strong likelihood of being able to withdraw an inflation-adjusted 4% of your nest egg every year for 30 years (and possibly longer, depending on your investment return over that time).

How do you calculate the 4 rule? ›

The 4% Rule for Retirement Explained

As a result, the Rule is useful for both retirees and pre-retirees. The basics of the 4% Rule: You take annual income out of your retirement savings starting with 4% of your retirement savings. Income that rises each year with inflation.

At what age is 401k withdrawal tax free? ›

Once you reach 59½, you can take distributions from your 401(k) plan without being subject to the 10% penalty. However, that doesn't mean there are no consequences. All withdrawals from your 401(k), even those taken after age 59½, are subject to ordinary income taxes.

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