Investment tips for 'nervous nellies'

It may be the greatest investing irony: Taking too little risk may be the biggest risk of all. If you are too afraid of investment risk, you may guarantee that you never have enough money to retire.

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  • If any investment without FDIC deposit insurance sounds too risky, you’ll never have to worry about losing money in the markets. You’ll sleep well at night, safe and warm in your own bed, until you run out of money. Taking moderately more risk can help you avoid that last part!

  • Consider the following tips to help you increase the risk in your investments to increase the returns:

  • The Difference is Huge

  • If you invest only in FDIC insured deposits, your current returns would be around 1 percent in the U.S. Investing in a broad portfolio of stocks and bonds using mutual funds would likely yield around 7 percent. If you invest $10,000 at 1 percent for 20 years, you’ll have $12,201. If you invest your $10,000 at 7 percent for 20 years, you’ll have $38,697. If you can’t take the risk of the stock market, you can likely earn a 5 percent return in bond funds and end up with $26,533.

  • Think Long Term

  • Even if you are about to retire or have recently retired, you’ll probably want your money to last for decades. That is generally considered to be a long enough investment horizon for you to take some risk.

  • Think Like An Investor

  • If you simply decide to think like an investor, recognizing that investments go up and down in value, you may be able to sleep at night even if some of your money is no longer FDIC insured.

  • Diversify

  • If you make lots of different investments in a variety of mutual funds you will see that some may go up when others go down, allowing your total portfolio to remain somewhat constant. You can keep some of your investments in FDIC insured deposits so that you don’t lay awake at night worrying, too. Investing in five to seven different mutual funds with different objectives from several different fund families provides effective diversification.

  • Allocate Your Assets Strategically

  • As you’re choosing your mutual fund investments, remember funds that invest in stocks will fluctuate the most while funds that invest in bonds will earn a bit less over time. The money you keep in cash is the safest, but it will earn the least. You can choose how to allocate those investments, but most advisors would recommend keeping at least one third in stocks until it is clear that your money will not last for the next ten years, at which point shifting to all bonds and cash would be safer.

  • Find A Trusted Friend

  • You may want to find someone you trust to help you and your spouse find the right balance of risk and return.

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  • Save More

  • If you still can’t stand the thought of putting money into investments that have any chance of losing money, you need to be saving more. Much more. Talk to your spouse about building a budget that will allow you to save as much as possible for the future.

  • It is ironic, isn’t it? Sometimes taking too little risk is the biggest risk of all. Don’t let that overwhelm you. There are prudent ways to take moderate amounts of risk so that you can afford to retire someday and still sleep at night.

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Devin Thorpe, husband, father, author of Your Mark On The World and a popular guest speaker, is a Forbes Contributor. Building on a twenty-five year career in finance and entrepreneurship that included $500 million in completed transactions, he now champions social good full time, seeking to help others succeed in their efforts to make the world a better place.


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