- Focus on your personal goals.
- Don't check your portfolio daily.
- Make a long-term plan.
- Consider working with a professional.
There are so many things to worry about in the world today. But for Michael St. Clair and Roslin Moore, who live near Boston, their own finances are not one of those things. That's because they know they have a financial plan in place and are sticking with it.
"I sleep at night and don't spend as much time thinking about the market," says Michael, a 79-year-old retired professor.
It wasn't always this way. A few years ago, Michael was so terrified by stock market turmoil that he was looking at his portfolio every day. When the market dipped some 20% in December 2018, he says, "It was like I was taking my pulse in the midst of a heart attack."
That past turmoil is nothing compared to what has been happening since the start of 2020, with historic market highs and lows and everything in between, the health threat of COVID-19, growing unemployment, and civil unrest.
Part of what keeps the couple calm about their financial future is the plan they put together in 2019. Working with a Fidelity advisor, they went through a process of identifying the things that are important to them, and then implementing a diversified investment strategy designed to achieve their retirement and charitable goals—on their schedule and without taking on too much risk.
Some people have the skill, will, time, and temperament to build and manage a financial plan on their own. But their 2018 experience convinced Michael and Roslin, a 76-year-old retired psychologist, that they wanted help.
Setting the plan
The first step when Michael and Roslin met with their Fidelity advisor, Tom Boardman, was not to talk investments but to delve into their needs and wants. The couple has 2 grown sons who are doing well in their careers, and they've already traveled the world. So the most important thing for them was to figure out their living situation going forward into retirement.
The plan as they initially envisioned it was to take the proceeds from the sale of their house, rent for a while, and move into a continuing care retirement community. They also wanted to have enough money to spend some time in Cape Cod during the summers and Florida during the winters. So they invested their assets in a way that was consistent with their goals and tolerance for risk.
Financial plans are not simply set-it-and-forget-it, however. Michael and Roslin reassess often to see how things are and to discuss whether they need to make any adjustments.
Most recently in light of COVID-19, Michael and Roslin decided to push out any decision about moving into a continuing care facility. And travel is off the table for the foreseeable future.
The power of planning
One of the dangers of market turmoil is that people get scared and pull their money out, and don't know when to reinvest. Their cash then does not earn enough to keep up with inflation and meet their goals. For retirees, there may not be a long time horizon to wait on the sidelines.
Having a properly diversified portfolio and a plan that accounts for a range of market outcomes can keep a person on track to meet their goals, whatever they may be—and that holds whether working with a financial professional or handling affairs on their own. Of course, people have to watch over their plans, and be flexible to adjust if life happens or goals change.
At this point, Michael and Roslin don't know what the future holds. But for now their health is good. They're confident they can afford a future that suits them and allows them to give generously to causes they care about.
And Michael is taking on a new challenge. "It leaves me free to write another great American novel," he says.