INVESTING BASICS

No matter how much experience you have with investing, here are some time-tested strategies that can help you make informed choices as you select and manage your investments.

Allocate Wisely

Allocation means deciding what percentage of your portfolio goes into each asset class. You’ll want to periodically review your investment decisions and you may rebalance funds among asset classes.

  • An asset class is a group of securities that have similar financial characteristics. The primary asset classes are equities (stocks), real estate, fixed income (bonds), money market, guaranteed (annuities), and multi-asset investments like Lifecycle Funds.
  • How you divide your money among broad asset classes is often more important than your specific investment choices of “winners” within those classes. A landmark 10-year study of large pension funds found that over 90% of the variation in total portfolio return was determined by long-term asset allocation, while less than 5% of the return was the result of specific investment selections.
  • Review and re-evaluate your investment decisions over time, rebalancing funds among asset classes as necessary. For example, if the value of your investments in stocks or bonds has grown significantly higher than other types of investments, you might want to rebalance that accumulation to other parts of your portfolio to keep the percentage of stocks, bonds or other asset classes in line with your initial allocation.
  • If you include several asset classes in your long-term portfolio, the upward movement of one asset class may help offset the downward movement of another as economic and market conditions change over time.
  • Rebalancing does not protect against loss or guarantee that an investor's goal or objectives will be met. It will help you in your efforts to maintain specific asset breakdowns in asset classes.

For some guidance about asset allocations for various risk tolerances, review the model investment mixes. There is no guarantee that asset allocation reduces risk or increases returns.

Ask for Help When You Need it

For assistance with these and any other questions, contact TIAA-CREF for advice and guidance.

Consider Other Savings and Investments

Take into consideration the nature and allocation of all assets you may be accumulating for retirement.

  • How will Social Security benefits affect your retirement planning?
  • Have you considered consolidating multiple Individual Retirement Accounts into one account to simplify your statement and asset allocation reviews? Check the terms of your existing investments. Rollovers and transfers may be subject to differences in features, costs, and surrender charges. Indirect transfers may be subject to taxation and penalties. Consult your tax advisor regarding your situation.

Diversify

A well-diversified portfolio can help provide a measure of stability by mitigating the ups and downs of any one type of investment.

  • Different types of investments may perform better than others at different times. Diversifying your asset allocation helps manage risk by spreading it over a variety of investments. It can keep you from being overexposed to a major downturn in one type of investment.
  • Build a portfolio that includes different types of investments or asset classes, such as stocks, bonds, and money market investments, as well as real estate and guaranteed accounts.
  • How much you allocate to each asset class and the investment options within those classes will depend on your own goals, preferences, and risk tolerance.

For some guidance about asset allocations for various risk tolerances, review the model investment mixes.

Remember: Diversification is a technique to help reduce risk. However, there is no guarantee that diversification will protect against a loss of income.

Keep Your Perspective

Any time horizon will include both market upswings and downturns. Let your long-term or short-term horizon perspective influence your allocation decisions.

When you're investing for retirement, you are typically investing for the long term.

  • As a long-term investor, consider having a portion of your portfolio invested in stocks.
  • You may want to ride out volatility in the market while you pursue potentially stronger returns from stocks.

If you have a short investing time horizon:

  • You may want to handle market volatility by drawing on other savings to fund current needs, rather than selling stocks that may have declined. That can give your equity investments time to potentially recover their value.

As you approach retirement, you may be less willing to take risks within your retirement portfolio.

  • Consider moving your accumulated funds to more conservative accounts.
  • To keep pace with inflation, your money will have to keep working even after you retire, so maintain growth potential for the years when you make withdrawals.

Pay Attention to Expenses

Over time, investment fees and expenses have an impact on your bottom line. Always review essential data before you invest in any fund; take note of all fees.

  • In addition to considering the investment company’s track record, review their policies on individual fund sales charges or load fees (not all companies have them), investment management or advisory fees, transaction fees and operating expenses.
  • All other things being equal (like your initial investment and rate of return), expense charges can make a substantial difference in your investment account total over the years. (Though lower expenses do not necessarily translate into higher performance.) It's important to understand the significance of every fee.

Understand Investment Risk

Risk is the possibility that an investment you make won’t grow in value, or won’t grow as much as you’d like it to. It is also possible to lose money through investing. A key element of successful investing is balancing risk and reward.

For a detailed discussion of risk as it affects any particular fund or investment, consult the prospectus for that fund or investment. A prospectus for each investment is offered via the “Investment Options” section of your retirement plan.

There are many factors or types of risks that can affect an investment:

  • Market risk
  • Company risk
  • Foreign investment risks
  • Interest-rate risk
  • Credit risk
  • Illiquid security risk
  • Prepayment risk
  • Extension risk

The risk most investors are most familiar with is market risk, or the possibility that the market will shift and you’ll lose money. Inflation is another common risk. As an example, if inflation is 3% and your return is 3%, your "real or inflation-adjusted return" is 0%.

Also important is your willingness to live with risk:

  • Will you be able to psychologically tolerate the potential ups and downs of your investment mix?
  • Will you be financially able to weather the potential fluctuations of market volatility?

For some understanding of your own risk tolerance, use the Investment Mix Tool.


 

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