4 Ways to Adjust Your Retirement Portfolio for Market Downturns

By Chika


Last Updated: October 8, 2022



When you are many years from retiring, plummeting markets may not appear to be a major concern.

Even so, you can continue to save, purchase equities when they're on bargain, and set yourself up for a future rebound.

However, if you're retired, you might worry that you don't have enough time to wait for a recovery. That amplifies the benefit of having a long-term strategy, but even with a solid plan in place, it could be challenging to continue with your approach.

Corrections in stock market are a normal part of investing.

But experiencing downturns close to, or early in retirement can be nerve wrecking. This is why your retirement income strategy should be founded on conservative expectations, backed up by a stress-tested withdrawal rate that has been proven to be effective during volatile markets.

Many retirees won't have to worry or change their strategy at all if they have a solid plan in place. Nevertheless, you may look for chances to be strategic in your choice of how to make money and what you decide to sell.



4 Steps You Can Take to Weather Market Downturns

1. Have a strong plan.

Having a strong plan in place keeps you on track, preventing you from making changes during a down market.

The main concern for the majority of people approaching or in retirement is:

How much can I withdraw from savings without running out of money too soon?

When you retire, you can accomplish this by capping withdrawals at 4% to 5% of your initial balance and making annual adjustments for inflation.

Apart from your essential needs, your retirement plan should also include an income strategy that guarantees money (to cover housing, food, and other essential expenses) and a solid emergency fund for the unexpected expenses. 


2. Consider cash before selling securities.

Selling stocks during a downturn might result in a portfolio having a lower equity exposure than what is required for your plan.

This could affect your performance after a potential recovery and turn what might otherwise be a brief market dip into a setback for your portfolio returns. 

Cash can be a useful hedge in a bearish market. As such, it is important to consider delaying the need to sell equities while the market is down by using the cash portion of your portfolio or savings.


3. Be strategic with Social Security.

Delaying Social Security benefits makes sense for many people since the greater monthly payment you receive will help you pay for your retirement.

However, you might want to think twice and apply for social security a little earlier if you are short on funds and considering selling equities in a bear market.

If you are between the ages of 62 and your full retirement age, you are eligible to apply for retirement benefits now and can suspend them once you reach your full retirement age before the age of 70.

Using this method, you can increase your income right away while keeping your money invested for a prospective economic recovery.


4. If you do sell, be tax-smart.

Even if you have a strategy in place to try to weather market downturns, you could still need to sell securities to raise money for bills, restock the cash section of your portfolio, rebalance it, or purchase appealing securities during the downturn.

Here are some things to remember.

Rebalance your portfolio to suit the times.

Markets operate in cycles, so it's important that you tweak and rebalance your portfolio to reflect the economic realities of the time. 

You might wish to sell bonds first if the decline in equities has made your portfolio more heavily weighted toward bonds. By doing so, you might raise money while keeping your equities invested in case of a prospective recovery.

Consider rebalancing out of stocks if, on the other hand, your portfolio contains more equities than your long-term investment plan requires.

Start by selling investments you no longer want.

Investments that no longer suit your strategy or whose viewpoint or features have altered since you purchased them can be a good candidate for sale. Even if you have to sell to make money, it may be a fantastic chance to organize your portfolio.

Take advantage of tax loss harvesting.

If you are looking to sell, you may want to consider tax-loss harvesting strategies to reduce capital gains tax from your sales.

This entails prioritizing losing assets for sale. A loss on the sale of a security can be used to offset any realized investment gains, and then reduce taxable income by up to $3,000 annually. However, you should be careful of wash-trading. If you are unsure of how to use tax-loss harvesting, you can contact a professional. 

Consider short-term vs. long-term capital gains.

Long-term securities holdings are those that last for more than a year.

When the security is subsequently sold for a profit, the long-term gains are taxed at the top federal rate of 20% as opposed to the short-term gains' rate of 37%. 

An easy approach to prevent paying higher tax rates is to be aware of holding periods. Taxes are obviously just one factor among many. Before trading, it's crucial to take the risk and expected return into account for each investment.



Adjusting Your Retirement Portfolio for Market Downturns

Particularly for retirees who are living off of their assets or those close to retirement, stock market downturn can be emotionally demanding.

Although you have little control over the direction that the markets go, you can be strategic about your income strategy and the portfolio adjustments you make when the economy is struggling.

The key is having a strategy designed for both good and bad times. It can be a good idea to adjust your portfolio or consult with a financial expert if you don't have one or are unsure whether your plan is still the best option for you.

Photo by Kampus Production


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