Monday, June 22, 2009

For Older Investors, Old Rules May Not Apply

This article from Your Money section of New York Times, 19 June 2009

Published: June 19, 2009

The stock market’s damage has already been done. And if you’re one of those people near or already in retirement, you already know you’re going to have to work longer, save more or spend less...

...This economic downturn has been steep enough and frightening enough to undermine the idea that the stock market, over time, will always deliver. So a lot of investors have retreated to a more conservative stance.

The wisdom of that move is debatable. The investment industry warns that becoming too defensive is costly in the long run. Its argument goes something like this: People are living longer, retirement may last 25 or 30 years and stocks are supposed to protect you from the ravages of inflation. And since stocks tend to outpace most investments over long periods of time, the industry says, your savings will do all right in the end.

But some people are no longer comfortable with that logic...

...So what should retirees and pre-retirees make of all of this?

“If another decline in the market is going to bankrupt you or put you out of business or destroy your retirement account, you should not go back into the stock market,” said John C. Bogle, the founder of Vanguard and viewed by many as the father of index investing. “It’s not complicated. The stock market can go up and down a lot and nobody really knows how much and when.”

What’s worked for Mr. Bogle may not work for you, but his method isn’t a bad place to start. “I have this threadbare rule that has worked very well for me,” he said in an interview this week. “Your bond position should equal your age.” Mr. Bogle, by the way, is 80 years old.