By Matthew T. Parker, Lincoln Financial Advisors

First growth, then income. If you’re like most investors, you want to achieve growth while you’re working and income after you retire. But that doesn’t necessarily make it smart to change your investment strategy when you retire by shifting your portfolio completely out of stocks into less volatile, “income” investments like bonds and cash equivalents.

The Tax Bite 

As a rule, stocks are more risky and volatile than other types of investments. Therefore, investors might decide, as some retirees do, to sell their  stocks and reinvest in less risky securities in order to protect the gains they have achieved. But, unless the stocks sold are in an individual retirement account or other tax-deferred retirement account, that move won’t preserve all of the accumulated gains. When stock is sold, investors lose part of those gains to capital gains tax. 

The Inflation Bug

Investors may also create another, potentially more serious, risk. Without stocks in a portfolio, you increase the risk that future inflation will erode the real value of the investments and reduces spending power. 

Let’s look at some numbers. Social Security’s normal retirement age is gradually increasing. For someone born between 1943 and 1954, it’s 66. If you retired today at age 66, your additional life expectancy would be 20.2 years according to IRS tables. No one knows what the rate of inflation will be in the future. But, over the past 20 years (1994-2016) the Consumer Price Index (commonly used to measure inflation) has, on average, risen about 2.3 percent a year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If inflation continues at the same average rate for the next 20 years, you’d need nearly $79,000 of income in 2036 to match the buying power of $50,000 today. 

The best way to fight inflation is to have the potential to earn investment returns that will help keep investors ahead of the erosion in their purchasing power of inflation. The problem is there’s no guarantee about the future returns of any variable investment. 

A Better Way?

Investors, instead of moving their entire portfolio out of stocks when they retire, might consider other strategies. Investors could maintain your current portfolio mix until they retire. Then, gradually sell some of the stocks each year. 

This strategy would slowly reduce exposure to the risk of owning stocks and also generate income to supplement any cash dividends and interest income received. Investors would spread out their capital gains taxes and be able to keep a large part of their portfolio invested in stocks for a considerable number of years. 

Another strategy would be to simply reduce the portion of their portfolio that is invested in stocks as retirement approaches. For example, if 75 percent of a portfolio is in stocks before retirement, investors might lower that percentage to 30 percent or another percentage that they would be comfortable with. That way, investors still retain some opportunity to gain from any future stock market advances, but they would also reduce their portfolio’s overall risk and volatility.

When you say goodbye to a job, sticking with stocks may be a better strategy for a potentially very long retirement than moving to an all-income portfolio. Want to know more about investment strategies during retirement? Consult with your financial planner.

*The content of this material was provided to you by Lincoln Financial Advisors, a registered investment advisor for its representatives and their clients. This article may be picked up by other publications under financial professional’s bylines. 

About the author

Matthew T. Parker is a registered representative and investment advisor representative of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp., a broker/dealer (member SIPC) offering insurance through Lincoln affiliates and other fine companies. This information should not be construed as legal or tax advice. You may want to consult a tax advisor regarding this information as it relates to your personal circumstances. The content of this material was provided to you by Lincoln Financial Advisors for its representatives and their clients.