S&P 500 Bear Market: Is It Really Safe to Retire Right Now?
It’s been a challenging year for investors and retirees. Inflation has been surging, stock prices are falling, and many people are concerned about a potential recession.
The S&P 500 is also officially in a bear market after dropping more than 25% from its peak in January, and some experts believe it could have further to fall.
If you’re thinking about retiring soon, all of these factors could have you reconsidering. Is it really safe to retire right now? Or should you wait a couple of years? There are a few questions to ask yourself that can help you decide.
1. Is your asset allocation appropriate for your age?
Asset allocation refers to how your investments are divided within your portfolio. When you’re younger, the majority of your portfolio will likely be allocated to stocks, but as you age, it should become more conservative.
Conservative investments like bonds generally see lower returns than stocks, but they’re also less affected by market volatility. If your asset allocation is appropriate for your age, your portfolio won’t be hit as hard during a stock market downturn — making it easier for you to retire.
There’s no hard rule as to what your asset allocation should look like. But a common guideline is to subtract your age from 110, and the result is the percentage of your portfolio that should be allocated to stocks. So, for example, if you’re 65 years old, you may aim to allocate around 45% of your portfolio to stocks and 55% to bonds.
An appropriate asset allocation will keep your investments safer during a market downturn while still helping your savings grow over time. If you’re investing too heavily in stocks for your age, it may be harder to retire if your savings take a hit. But if you invest too much in bonds, your money won’t grow as much as it could.
2. How strong are your savings?
Even with an appropriate asset allocation, your portfolio will likely drop in value during periods of volatility. That’s normal. But if you have enough in savings to weather the storm, a market downturn doesn’t have to stop you from retiring.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach as to how much you should have saved for retirement. Ideally, it’s best to sit down with a financial planner or advisor to get an idea of where your savings stand. But to get a ballpark estimate, you can also run your information through a retirement calculator.
In general, though, it’s wise to keep in mind how this downturn could affect your savings. Historically, the S&P 500 falls, on average, around 37% during a bear market. If your portfolio is on the conservative side, your investments may not lose that much value — but they could.
And sometimes it takes years for the market to fully recover from a downturn. If your portfolio lost one-third or more of its value, would you still have enough savings to live comfortably? If not, it may be worth considering postponing retirement to give yourself more time to save.
3. How much will you rely on other sources of income?
If you have other sources of income besides your savings — such as Social Security benefits or a pension — that can make it far easier to retire. But it’s still important to double-check that you’re not relying too heavily on these income sources.
If you haven’t already, it’s a good idea to check your estimated Social Security benefit amount. Once you know how much to expect in benefits, it will be easier to determine how much you’ll need to withdraw from your savings each month to make ends meet.
Also, keep in mind that the age you begin claiming Social Security will have a significant effect on your benefit amount. If you’re planning on claiming early, you’ll receive reduced payments each month. That’s not necessarily a bad strategy, but be sure you know how your age will affect your benefit amount.
It’s not always easy to retire during a bear market, but it is possible. If your finances are in good shape, market volatility doesn’t have to hold you back from retiring. But if your savings are falling short, waiting a year or two could help you head into retirement more prepared.
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