Here are some tips to stay on track with your retirement and short-term goals amid choppy markets

Personal finance

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You may not want to check your 401(k) statement for a while.

If you do, you may see a drop in your balance, as a recent market rout has sent the S&P 500 Index into bear market territory as of Monday. A “bear market” happens when equity markets are down 20% or more.

Your statement may also include new illustrations that show just how much monthly income your current savings will give you in retirement.

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Taken together, that may prompt some savers to panic.

But instead of making any rash moves, experts say it would be wiser to instead stop and consider taking some more deliberate, strategic steps.

Remember better days are coming

The best and worst days tend to be clustered together, data from J.P. Morgan shows. If you sell, you may miss the upside — and that will cost you.

“Trying to time the market is likely going to result in you missing out on some really, really good days,” said Jordan Jackson, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan.

On April 29, the market was down 3.6% for the day. Then, five days later, on May 4, the market rallied 2.99%.

You want to make sure your portfolio is balanced.
Rita Assaf
vice president of retirement leadership at Fidelity Investments

Moreover, on March 7, the S&P 500 was down about 2.95%. Two days later, on March 9, the index was up 2.57%.

The best and worst days tend to be clustered together, Jackson said. Moreover, if you miss out on the upswing, it’s hard to make up for those lost gains.

Revisit your retirement allocations

When planning for your retirement, it is wise to have a healthy mix of equities and bonds that match your time horizon.

Ideally, your diversified investment strategy will expose you to different areas of the market to help manage your overall portfolio risk, according to Rita Assaf, vice president of retirement leadership at Fidelity Investments. That includes U.S. small cap, large cap and international stocks, as well as investment grade bonds.

Because stocks have generally climbed for a prolonged period of time, it’s also important to check to make sure that your portfolio has not drifted to a higher equity allocation than you originally intended, Assaf said.

“You want to make sure your portfolio is balanced and that your equity allocation is in line with your goals,” Assaf said.

Don’t lose sight of near-term goals

While long-term retirement investors want to stay the course, those with shorter time horizons – say three to five years out – should take a different approach.

That may include a down payment to buy a home or a couple of years’ worth of spending needs if you’re already in retirement.

For those goals, your main goal should be principal preservation, according to Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com.

“Don’t be tempted to chase returns at the expense of principal preservation or easy access when needed,” he said.

With the Federal Reserve is poised to raise interest rates, the good news is savers with near-term goals will likely be rewarded with higher returns on their money.

Online savings accounts are “absolutely” an option that may fill these savers’ needs, McBride said. What’s more, these online accounts will likely be among the first to raise their rates in response to the Fed’s actions.

Certificates of deposit may also be another suitable choice. But it would be wise to choose a six-month CD and then adjust your strategy, rather than locking in a multi-year CD at this time, McBride said.

Similarly, I bonds have been touted as an inflation hedge, as they will provide a 9.62% interest rate in the coming months.

But there are limitations, McBride said. For one, you cannot cash an I bond in the first year. Moreover, if you cash out before the five-year mark, you will forfeit three months’ interest.

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