Market Risk

Market risk is the possibility that the funds you’ve invested in the stock market will lose value if the financial market is down. It is one of the primary risks for people in retirement, but hedging strategies, diversification and rebalancing, you can withstand market volatility.

Elaine Silvestrini, Annuity.org Writer
  • Written By
    Elaine Silvestrini

    Elaine Silvestrini

    Financial Writer

    Elaine Silvestrini is an advocate for financial literacy who worked for more than 25 years in journalism before joining Annuity.org as a financial writer.

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  • Edited By
    Kim Borwick
    Kim Borwick, Financial Editor for Annuity.org

    Kim Borwick

    Financial Editor

    Kim Borwick is a writer and editor who studies financial literacy and retirement annuities. She has extensive experience with editing educational content and financial topics for Annuity.org.

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  • Financially Reviewed By
    Rubina K. Hossain, CFP®
    Rubina K. Hossain

    Rubina K. Hossain, CFP®

    Certified Financial Planner™ Professional

    Certified Financial Planner Rubina K. Hossain is chair of the CFP Board's Council of Examinations and past president of the Financial Planning Association. She specializes in preparing and presenting sound holistic financial plans to ensure her clients achieve their goals.

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  • Updated: September 12, 2022
  • This page features 14 Cited Research Articles
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APA Silvestrini, E. (2022, September 12). Market Risk. Annuity.org. Retrieved September 26, 2022, from https://www.annuity.org/retirement/risks/market/

MLA Silvestrini, Elaine. "Market Risk." Annuity.org, 12 Sep 2022, https://www.annuity.org/retirement/risks/market/.

Chicago Silvestrini, Elaine. "Market Risk." Annuity.org. Last modified September 12, 2022. https://www.annuity.org/retirement/risks/market/.

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Market risk exposure exists with direct investments, investment funds and retirement plans accounts, such as 401(k)s.

Investors assume this risk because, on the flip side, these investments offer the potential for more growth than conservative investments can provide.

Overall, the advice from financial experts amounts to this: fasten your seat belts.

In other words, be prepared to ride out the ups and downs. Don’t get off the train, but take precautions. You may wind up a little battered along the way, but you’ll be in better shape than you would be if you hadn’t invested.

Strategies for Mitigating Market Risk

If the market dives just as you’re getting ready to retire, you may have to delay retirement — or at least delay withdrawing or reallocating that money.

Your investment needs time to recover. Withdrawing the money on a downturn will cement your losses in place.

This is known as the sequence of returns risk. When you withdraw from your original principal because the investment has limited returns, you shrink the principal and compromise your future returns.

There are ways to invest in stocks that are less risky than others. Investment advisors suggest some strategies to lower the risk to your retirement from your stock holdings.

One preliminary step is to evaluate your own risk tolerance. Figure out how much risk you are willing to take with your finances in order to get the optimal reward. Stressing yourself out to the point that you’re afraid to invest won’t serve you well in the long run.

Also, consider your investment horizon, or the amount of time you have before you plan to start tapping into your retirement investments. This determines how long you would have to recover from a significant market loss.

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Diversify Your Investments

Diversify, diversify, diversify. This is the most effective way to limit your risk exposure. With stocks, this means including a mix of companies and types of stocks, such as energy, technology, medical and commodities, in your portfolio. You can also select both foreign and domestic stocks and real estate.

Spreading your money around gives you the opportunity to benefit from growth in different areas. And importantly, if one company or sector does poorly, having your money spread around will limit your financial loss.

You should also have your money distributed between different classes of investments, such as stocks, bonds and money market funds. This is known as asset allocation.

At the same time, your diversification should be done with thought and research. The Securities and Exchange Commission warns consumers not to engage in “naïve diversification,” which is when an investor chooses to invest equally in all investment options. This may increase your risk exposure.

Mutual Funds for Retirement Planning

Mutual funds pool money from thousands of clients to invest in a selection of hundreds or thousands of stocks, bonds and other investments.

They do the diversifying for you and can be an effective retirement investment. Many 401(k)s offer a selection of mutual funds for investing your retirement savings.

Look for funds with low fees. This results in low expense ratios, the measure of administrative costs to total value of the fund. The higher your expense ratio, the lower your return. You can save a significant amount of money by selecting funds with lower management costs.

Also investigate funds that are specifically designed for retirees, known as retirement income funds. These funds have stocks, bonds and cash that seek to balance the need for preserving your principal with having a decent amount of monthly income. These funds are diversified in a way that may make them sufficient for your entire investment portfolio.

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Safe Investments for Retirees

If you have a low risk tolerance, you may feel more comfortable with investments that have a more conservative rate of return and a lower risk. The downside of this is that your money will not grow as much, and you will need to set more aside to have enough in retirement. This strategy will also increase the impact of inflation on your nest egg.

At any rate, some of your money should be invested in places outside the stock market so that your entire nest egg isn’t at risk. But if the very idea of risking losing any of your money keeps you from investing for retirement, then picking a high concentration of conservative investments may be for you.

A better option might be to tolerate more risk when you are younger and have years to recover from any losses. As retirement approaches, you can move your funds into safer vehicles, such as certificates of deposit, bond funds and fixed annuities.

Rebalance Your Portfolio

If you want a certain percentage of your investments as stocks and another percentage as bonds you should revisit your portfolio each year to make sure the balance hasn’t changed. It could change, depending on the performance of the investments.

For example, if the stocks do well, their worth could grow to the extent that they comprise a larger percentage of your overall investments. You should make sure the balance of investments meets your goals and your comfort level with risk.

The closer you get to retirement, the less risky your investments should be.

If you’re investing through a 401(k), you will have a limited number of funds to pick from. Some will be more vulnerable to market volatility than others. Some will include bonds, which are less sensitive to market losses and pay interest on a regular basis. Research your choices before committing.

When You Retire, Have Some Money Set Aside

When you retire, you’ll still have basic expenses to cover. Buying an annuity, which provides a guaranteed stream of income regardless of market conditions, is an effective strategy for ensuring your ability to pay your bills. Annuities also protect you from your risk of longevity, insuring against you outliving your savings.

You’ll want access to enough money to cover typical costs, as well as emergencies.

If you’re near retirement, it’s a good idea to have ready access to enough cash to pay your expenses for one to three years. Most of that money can be put into certificates of deposit set to mature when the funds will be needed.

Keep Investing During a Market Downturn

It may feel like you’re throwing your money into an abyss to be swallowed up. But when stocks are down, you get more for your money. Investing during a downturn is like buying during a sale.

Whatever you do, don’t panic and withdraw your money at the bottom of the market. If you do that, any losses will become permanent. The odds are good that any downturn will end, and the market will recover. In the 65 years since the S&P 500 was founded, the benchmark has averaged an annual return of 10.7%. In the last decade, the S&P 500 has charted annual returns of 14.7%.

Timing aside, a downturn in market conditions can actually be an opportunity if you strategize wisely.

The U. S. Securities and Exchange Commission suggests some investment tips to help you make smart investing decisions. Among them:
  • Do a background check on your investment advisor.
  • Don’t fall into detrimental investing behaviors.
  • Consider the expense ratios of your investments.
  • Pay attention to world events that may impact the market.

The commission also stresses the importance of confirming that the security you’re considering is registered with the SEC by consulting the EDGAR database or calling 1-800-732-0330.

Please seek the advice of a qualified professional before making financial decisions.
Last Modified: September 12, 2022

14 Cited Research Articles

Annuity.org writers adhere to strict sourcing guidelines and use only credible sources of information, including authoritative financial publications, academic organizations, peer-reviewed journals, highly regarded nonprofit organizations, government reports, court records and interviews with qualified experts. You can read more about our commitment to accuracy, fairness and transparency in our editorial guidelines.

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