7 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Savings

Financial advisers offer advice about shielding assets from future market drops.

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Baby boomers are understandably concerned about preventing their retirement investments from losing money. A recent Financial Planning Association and MetLife online survey asked 1,068 financial advisers with baby boomer clients how investors approaching retirement can shield assets from future stock market slumps. Here is how the financial planners say baby boomers should protect their nest eggs.

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Diversify. Most financial advisers (83 percent) say baby boomer retirement planning should be largely about protecting your portfolio from market losses rather than participating in market gains (17 percent). Some 74 percent of financial advisers recommend a diversified portfolio as the primary way to avoid excessive losses on the verge of retirement.

Build up a cash cushion. Baby boomers shouldn’t do all their saving in retirement accounts. Most financial advisers (70 percent) say retirement investors need an emergency fund in cash to pay for large and unexpected expenses. You don’t want to have to dip into your retirement accounts early, and be hit with the resulting taxes and penalties, just because your car breaks down.

Eliminate non-essential purchases. Another way to shore up your nest egg is to reduce your expenses as much as possible before retirement (61 percent). Cutting costs now will make your standard of living easier to maintain in retirement. Some 43 percent of the financial advisers say some of their clients have reduced their current standard of living due to market losses.

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Seek guaranteed sources of income. Over half (58 percent) of the financial advisers in the survey recommend that clients allocate a portion of their investments to guaranteed income products. Social Security is one guaranteed income stream that most retirees receive. Many of the financial advisers also recommend various types of annuity products that guarantee retirees monthly payments for life.

Utilize low-risk investment products. Baby boomers should have some of their savings in low-risk products, according to 46 percent of the financial advisers. Popular low-risk investment options in the survey include savings accounts and CDs (35 percent) and bonds (33 percent).

Review your insurance coverage. Check up on your insurance coverage before exiting the workforce. If you retire before age 65 you’ll generally need to purchase an individual insurance policy or obtain COBRA coverage through your former employer. The financial advisers also recommend that you consider long-term care or disability coverage (44 percent) or life insurance coverage (21 percent) to protect surviving spouses or dependent children. About 16 percent of the financial advisers say clients have an interest in using life insurance to leave a legacy to heirs.

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Rebalance regularly. Investors approaching retirement-age are typically in the process of gradually shifting their portfolios into more conservative investments. Retirement savers need to rebalance regularly to make sure that returns or losses don’t throw their target investment strategy off track. Some 29 percent of the financial advisers say their baby boomer clients should rebalance their portfolios more frequently.