First, let’s talk about the money you shouldn’t invest in stocks. The stock market is no place for money that you might need within the next five years, at a minimum.
While the stock market will almost certainly rise over the long run, there’s simply too much uncertainty in stock prices in the short term — in fact, a drop of 20% in any given year isn’t unusual. In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the market plunged by more than 40% and rebounded to an all-time high within a few months.
- Your emergency fund
- Money you’ll need to make your child’s next tuition payment
- Next year’s vacation fund
- Money you’re socking away for a down payment, even if you will not be prepared to buy a home for several years
Now let’s talk about what to do with your investable money — that is, the money you won’t likely need within the next five years. This is a concept known as asset allocation, and a few factors come into play here. Your age is a major consideration, and so are your particular risk tolerance and investment objectives.
Let’s start with your age. The general idea is that as you get older, stocks gradually become a less desirable place to keep your money. If you’re young, you have decades ahead of you to ride out any ups and downs in the market, but this isn’t the case if you’re retired and reliant on your investment income.
Here’s a quick rule of thumb that can help you establish a ballpark asset allocation. Take your age and subtract it from 110. This is the approximate percentage of your investable money that should be in stocks (this includes mutual funds and ETFs that are stock based). The remainder should be in fixed-income investments like bonds or high-yield CDs. You can then adjust this ratio up or down depending on your particular risk tolerance.
For example, let’s say that you are 40 years old. This rule suggests that 70% of your investable money should be in stocks, with the other 30% in fixed income. If you’re more of a risk taker or are planning to work past a typical retirement age, you may want to shift this ratio in favor of stocks. On the other hand, if you don’t like big fluctuations in your portfolio, you might want to modify it in the other direction.