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My wife and I are getting older and have a target to retire in 10 years. We just inherited $300,000 from a family inheritance (from liquidated property).

So this money will come shortly and I'd like to know the best way to invest it (especially as we are at the start? middle? of a slowdown in the US economy).

We were thinking of parking it in a CD for a year or so while deciding and while the economy hobbles back to normal. People have told us that a downturn is the best time to buy blue chip stock.

We both earn well (I suffer occasional job loss every couple of years - mainly due to ageism I think as I work in tech. But I always bounce back in 3 months or so, so it averages that I am working 75% of the year).

WE WOULD LIKE TO RETIRE IN 10 YEARS. We have about $700k in other retirement savings in addition to a house that’s paid for and our kids' colleges are covered. Our average expenditure is 8K per month as we take nice vacations etc. We probably spend a bit more than we should. Plus, we eat really healthily and organic food gets expensive. I assume we will need to cut that monthly expenditure to between $4-5k.

What would you suggest?

THANK YOU ALL FOR THE ANSWERS AND RESPONSE!! Bear with me as I digest all this valuable advice!

  • 6
    What we can't tell at all from the question is whether (a) you really need this money, or (b) you were already on track to retire in good shape financially, and this was just an unexpected windfall. If the situation is more like b, then it might make sense to simply plunk the whole amount into an index fund now. Sure, that means you could lose money, but in situation b, it's money that you didn't actually need -- and the potential upside is big. In situation b, it makes no sense to wait until the economy gets better and then buy stocks -- when they're more expensive. – Ben Crowell Mar 10 at 20:02
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    Why was the age (60s) removed from the title? I think that's the main fact that distinguishes the question from similar windfall questions. – MPS Mar 12 at 2:41
  • I think there’s a fear of ageism in the workplace so despite pseudonym the person didn’t want the age info to get around lest it impact employment. – CoolDocMan Mar 12 at 9:52
  • @MPS the age isn't directly important, just when they want to retire. – Kat Mar 12 at 17:59
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    @Kat The age is important. If I'm 20 and want to retire at 40, that is a very different scenario to if I'm 50 and want to retire at 70. The former can afford a riskier strategy than the latter. – JBentley Mar 13 at 17:58

13 Answers 13

62

Lots of people will post lots of advice about what to invest in, or which research blog to read, but definitely the best advice is:

Talk to a financial planner

As newbie investors there are lots of basic mistakes you can make that will cost you dear. A good financial planner will avoid them, even if they don't get you the absolute best theoretical return. Do read the blogs, but don't assume you are an expert because you've read them.

If you can find one you should definitely choose a financial planner who is a fiduciary, which means they are legally obligated to act in your best interest. Additionally, choose an independent financial planner, meaning one who isn't tied to a bank or other financial institution, and who can recommend products from many different companies. Ask them specifically if they are a fiduciary and if they can recommend products from different companies.

Talk to several financial planners and get recommendations from your friends. Choose one who has done well for your friends and who you are comfortable working with and asking questions.

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  • 37
    If going this route, a CFP (Certified Financial Planner) that is paid for their time rather than one that makes money by getting you to invest with them is the only way to go IMO. Nothing they can tell you that you couldn't learn yourself online, but they might provide quicker route to some good info. – Hart CO Mar 10 at 14:54
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    +1 for "Do read the blogs, but don't assume you are an expert because you've read them" – Bitsplease Mar 11 at 22:24
  • 2nd to talking to a "fiduciary" financial planner, I'd be looking into an indexed fund annuity, possibly with an income rider. – Arluin Mar 11 at 23:18
  • I'm not sure how much a fiduciary matters. I'm curious if anyone's been prosecuted for failing that obligation. I talked to a financial planner who was a fiduciary but they still tried to sell me a whole life insurance policy that they would make commission on. In some ways it made financial sense to invest in that so you couldn't say it wasn't beneficial but it still wasn't the most beneficial option IMO. This individual was independent and paid by commission + a subscription fee so I think payment could be a better indicator. – jmathew Mar 12 at 1:44
14

In my opinion that there is no better resource than bogleheads.org. This site is founded on the opinions of John Bogle, who is credited with founding the first index fund. There are tutorials, articles, and very helpful folks that help get you started. If you ask a question, they will ask for more information like your current income and assets, your anticipated income needs in retirement, and your anticipated social security income. If I was to say anything bad about the site, is there is a tendency to be a bit depressed as the site mainly consist of very high net worth individuals. It is self selecting for super savers.

There they preach that nobody really knows the future. For example your question makes a number of assumptions. Will the downturn in the market last another three months, or will it last only another three days, three years, or thirty years? There is evidence that supports all views. They will advocate a three fund asset allocation portfolio in various ratios. Some in stocks, some in bonds, some in international.

The crazy thing is that this is exactly what most fee based financial planners do. They will probably put in you 12 to 20 funds, but many of those are overlapping in purpose. They could be simplified to only three, maybe 4 funds. However, their fees are typically around 1% and they put you in mutual funds that also charge high fees. Paying a minimum of $3K per year to have this done for you will certainly put a damper on your returns.

The nice thing about their philosophy is that there are very few decisions to make. The key one is what your asset allocation will look like. Will you be 80% stocks or 60%? Pretty much that is all. Occasionally you rebalance.

Putting money in CDs for a bit is not a bad option until you have a clear path forward. If it was me, I might do 100K in the market now, 100K in 6 months and the rest in 12 months.

Notes based on more information: If you would retire just after you get your inheritance, you would have 1 mil in cash, well done. The typical safe withdrawal on such an amount is around 40K per year, some of which you may have to pay taxes on depending on how things are structured in your retirement. Given that you have "earned well" I am going to assume your social security will be about 3k/month.

This puts you well short of your 8K per month current expenditure, but well within your ability to cut back to 5k, you will have around 6k income. However, being that you are retired you will no longer need to save for retirement, you won't be paying social security taxes, and you may be able to greatly reduce your clothing and every day transportation budget. You may have higher medical costs. So without changing your lifestyle at all, you may drop down to 6k/month expenditure.

The cool thing is you have a paid for home and the ability to let your current savings grow, and contribute more. I feel like you will easily have over 2 mil in cash by then and probably a bit earlier. I would put you at very likely to retire comfortably.

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8

Understand how investing works for yourself

You need a freshman's understanding of investing and how the industry works. Fortunately this isn't hard at all: John Bogle's book "Common Sense on Mutual Funds" is a great place to start.

You need that so you have enough intuition to recognize poppycock when you see it. We're not asking you to get an MBA.

I myself got a crash course in investing when I entered a Board of Directors who held a very substantial endowment. How endowments work melted my brain, and made me realize it's actually pretty simple to succeed; the opaque and seemingly complex financial world is mostly smoke and mirrors.

Most financial advisors are there to rip you off

And what I mean is, most financial advisors that you'll find. Because they are the ones working to throw themselves into your path: with adverts, search engine marketing, well-lit retail locations, etc.

The way they work is they either give free advice, or take your money for advice; and then they "recommend you" into financial products which kick them back a substantial sales commission.

Often, these products are mind-numbingly complex. And that's quite on purpose; it allows them to obfuscate the ways that they are increasing internal costs of the product.

5% is not uncommon, so they see your $300,000 as a $15,000 payday for themselves. This comes out of your end; your investments lose that money on day one, either as a front-end sales load, early withdrawal penalty, or hidden fees. If you committed, and then cashed out a month later, you would be down about 5% when all the dust settled. This is completely unnecessary. There is no reason for investments to carry this kind of burden.

There are also outright fraudsters out there. Very smart people fell for Ponzi and Madoff's schemes; and my own network of friends has been ravaged by a swindler.

Even being a "fiduciary" is not a perfect defense

A fiduciary is supposed to act in your best interests.

But a salesman can claim to be a fiduciary simply by claiming to follow gold-standard practices within that industry: For instance arguing that all the major top-tier investments work the exact same way. Depending on how you define "major" and "top-tier", and if you pretend discount brokerages and funds like VTI are not legitimate. "No one in the industry recommends those funds" (circular reasoning; because there is no commission on them).

I once talked to an advisor, and I said "Well, I'm looking for a "fee-based advisor", and the advisor said "Then pay me, also!" A veritable Henny Youngman joke, but it happened to me for real. I got wise when the product recommendations were exactly the same lame-dog products, but the class C (no load, high expense ratio) shares instead of class A (front end load) shares. (you don't want any of these).
End of the day, the guy was a fund/annuity salesman, who didn't know any other tricks... actually thought that "being a fiduciary" was as easy as waiving sales commissions... This kind of ignorance is insidious within the industry.

A person who normally lives on commission, only has in their field of vision products which pay commission, and is simply unaware of discount products like VTI that do not pay commissions in any variation, but are the best value for consumers by far.

You want a fee-only advisor, who only does business that way.

And doesn't sell anything on commission. That opens the advisor's mind to products beyond the field of vision of a regular advisor. For that person, VTI for instance will be an everyday staple.

A real shocker when dealing with fee-only advisors will be their office. Mine is in a well-lit mall, open-plan with small tables, and you can smell baked goods. They have 2 baristas on staff and makes a wicked Frontega Chicken sandwich. Yeah. We meet at Panera Bread.

By the way, my advisor doesn't have the password to my Vanguard account: that would be insane since "don't share passwords" is the keystone to security. Also, I do not give my money to the advisor. All my money stays in my brokerage account: I do the buys and sells, all I get from the advisor is what to buy and when.

That's the difference between an advisor and a broker.

Some consumers (and all brokers!) are fetishistic about that ritual where you hand the advisor the biggest check you've ever written in your life, as if it were some sort of frickin' Tony Robbins trust exercise or something. And you know what? People go along with it, because big investing is new to them, and they think the advisor relationship requires deep trust like that, which it doesn't... so they ignore the little voice telling how insane that is.

And then, you get smacked. The simple fact is, it's not within your skill to distinguish a genuine broker who will only steal 5% commission from a slick Ponzi type who will steal it all. The people who fell into Ponzi's and Bernie Madoff's schemes, were smart people. Dozens of my friends got roped into such a scheme from a trusted friend. Those guys are everywhere. Ergo: No cash. No passwords. Don't need em.

And from my endowment experience I know that if it's not directly purchasable in my Vanguard account, I don't need it.

How can my advisor burn me? By telling me to buy the wrong thing on the open market, but that's very little possible damage. My volume is too low even for a pump-n-dump scheme to work, not that I would trust advice to go all-in on a single stock!

Expect a couple thousand dollars of counseling fees, but at the end of the day, it doesn't matter so much whether your investment is $30,000 or $300,000. An advisor who is bored by $30,000 and excited by $300,000 may not have your interests at heart.

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3

Invest the entire amount into an index fund as soon as possible. You're not going to be able to time the market. You're not going to beat the market. You'll be amazingly lucky if you can even get close to average returns since you have to account for fees, even on index funds. Source: https://www.moneycrashers.com/reasons-shouldnt-time-market/

Your current situation isn't complex and almost certainly doesn't require paying for advice. It's simple, dump it all into a low cost diversified equity index fund and dollar cost average your additional savings into it until you retire.

Upon retirement, take the average value of the portfolio over the last year, multiply by 7%. That is how much you can withdraw annually, increasing by 3.5% per year max (NOT 7% of the remaining amount per year, you'll overspend in bull markets and bear markets will have too much emotional impact on you otherwise).

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  • 1
    Nice advice! I see s&p was 600 in 2000, 1100 in 2010 and 2700 now! Using a calculator this would yield around 550k in 10 years so about $2000 a month added to retirement income. – CoolDocMan Mar 12 at 10:02
  • @CoolDocMan Just be careful this isn't money you're going to depend on... Investing in an index fund is great advice for the long-term, but in the short-term, it can burn you. Right now, for example, the market's in a big down-swing, and an S&P index bears the full brunt of that. If you had invested in an index fund last month, and you needed to cash out to buy groceries today, you'd be taking a 25% loss. – Josh Eller Mar 12 at 18:51
  • Anyone who might need immediate access to $300,000 to buy groceries should not be asking for advice on this forum. – Glen Pierce Mar 12 at 18:55
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Approaching the right Financial Advisor is the RIGHT choice. However, finding such a Financial Advisor who acts in your best interest is not that easy.

Let's see what the Financial Advisor brings to the table and how to identify better advisors.

  1. Knowledge of various instruments available (Equity Index funds, Debt, Commodity etc)
  2. How much volatility you are willing to accept?
  3. How much Risk you are willing to take and how much you can really take?
  4. How much Risk and Volatility you could really afford?
  5. Identify the instruments for your risk profile
  6. Asset Allocation based on your risk profile

As suggested by others, a Fee ONLY independent Financial Advisor is the right choice. How could you verify if you were given the right set of funds or information? You should have only a handful of instruments at the maximum to invest and track. 1. Globally diversified Equity fund (could be an index) 2. Debt 3. A little bit of Gold(Could be physical gold or Gold ETF) The ratio depends on how much risk you can take. If you are risk averse (10-20, 70, 10)

If you can take more risk, (20-30, 60, 10). (Since you are already close to 60 and nearing the end of your earning period, I would not go more than 30% into Equity)

Your Financial Advisor's recommendation must be more or less on these lines. Anything else like more adventerous portfolio recommendation, avoid the FA and search for another one.

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1

It seems that all of the answers here are addressing how to invest in financial markets, and from that perspective there are several good points of advice. I am going to throw out two additional suggestions that I don't see touched on in the other answers.

The first thing I would suggest someone in your position look into is investing in income producing properties, i.e. rentals. 300k should net you between 1 and 3 single family homes with little or no mortgage in most of the US. Similarly you could look into buying into multi-family housing, and/or commercial property. Placing such with a reputable property manager should produce a fairly reliable passive income for you. There is also the aspect that if this money is coming from the sale of real estate, there are potentially some significant tax advantages to rolling it back into real estate (see 1031 exchanges and review the situation with a qualified professional).

I would also suggest looking into the possibility of direct business investing. Finding something where you can be a significant direct owner, without needing to be on site running things all the time can produce strong ongoing returns. Of course there is the increased risk that you pick the wrong thing and lose the full investment. The big advantage of the financial markets over direct investing is you get to spread your money around and reduce your overall risk, the drawback is you give up direct control and get a smaller share of the proceeds when things go well. Alternatively think about how you want to spend your time after retirement, and look for something that lets you leverage your skills, interests, and/or hobbies in the course of doing business, the kind of things you would otherwise be paying someone for the privilege of doing. In this scenario you are not so concerned with turning a heavy profit, you are primarily looking for a way to make your hobby support itself while breaking even, or slightly better (though strong profits are nothing to sneer at here if you can get them too).

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0

Alternative suggestion to a financial planner.

The current situation is very volatile and the current rates of return are abysmal so it's important to minimize fees and expenses. Financial planners are expensive: they either charge around 1% of your portfolio or around $150-$300 an hour. Any type of serious engagement will wipe out a significant portion of your potential returns

I think you best option is to put the money into a high yield savings account and take some time to study, learn and wait to see how the coronavirus situation play out. I wouldn't even do a CD: best 1-year CD rate is 2.05% as compared to 1.9% for a savings account. That difference doesn't seem worth loosing the flexibility of immediate access.

Once you are ready for your next step you can engage a planner, if you feel it's necessary. The more knowledge you have gained yourself in the meantime, the better you can assess if the planner actually knows what they are talking about.

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    $300 per hour for perhaps 10 hours would be $3000, which is 1% of the $300,000 inheritance, but it would only be a one-time cost. – stannius Mar 10 at 22:09
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    Doing long-term planning based on the current situation is very bad advice. – jpaugh Mar 10 at 22:46
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    This answer only applies where savings accounts are still a thing. My savings account gives 0.01% interest, the highest rate available in my country gives 1.3% and puts money in a foreign country of questionable financial stability... – gerrit Mar 11 at 9:25
  • @gerrit earning practically zero interest but keeping the principle safe while you figure things out, is better than rushing to invest in possibly the wrong investment(s) out of a combination of fear/panic and lack of knowledge. – stannius Mar 11 at 15:09
  • @stannius I suspect $300,000 may be beyond the deposit guarantee in many places, which would mean there is no way to keep the principal safe. – gerrit Mar 11 at 15:24
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Financial planner is a good idea. A target retirement fund is another option to consider. It's low-cost and will manage your risk for you based on your retirement date. You also don't have to pick the one for your retirement year, if you prefer a little more/less risk.

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You say you have $700k in other retirement savings. You sound reasonably satisfied with your those investments, because you haven't mentioned changing them. The simplest and probably cheapest move would be to pool the $300k with the $700k and come back in 10 years.

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  • The 700 are in 450 annuities that will yield 4% annual income after age 70 (annuities incur a sizable penalty if we take out the money before that and 250 in liquidate-able property.) – CoolDocMan Mar 12 at 10:10
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There may be specific investment vehicles in your country to reduce your tax obligations, in Australia there are Investment bonds that if held for ten years won't attract Capital Gains Tax.

You can never time the market, I would commit to investing the entire sum into a Vanguard (or similar) super low management cost fund over 6 to 18 months. This way you're always buying regardless of what the market is doing.

Source: The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham & numerous essays from Warren Buffet. Vanguard was the brainchild of Jack Bogel (who others have referenced)

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As observed by other posters and as observed above, there are indeed many advice :D, so I shall provide mine.

Subtract the average age of your & your wife's. Subtract from 100. The result of the subtraction is the % of your asset you should put in equity (you may in crease it 5-7% if you have slightly larger appetite for risk). The remainder in fixed income i.e. bonds, convertible debenture etc.

In stock, unless you actively follow the market, invest in mutual funds; allocate in the ratio 5:3:2 of your stock portfolio in the following funds:

1) Large Cap 2) Mid Cap 3) Small Cap

Try to avoid multi cap funds.

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World over Markets are crashing, banks too are not in a good position as fed is spending trillions to keep banks running. Advise you to invest in commercial property so that you can have your investment safe and gets monthly rent for your expenses after retirement. When the market gets back on track you can invest in stock market.

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  • Welcome to Money.SE. Your advice to invest in commercial property is unlikely to remain the right answer, even if it is right in the current situation. As such, it is not a good answer for this site, which attempts to preserve answers for future reference. – Rupert Morrish Mar 12 at 0:14
  • It's not even an answer that would be universally agreed a good answer in the current situation. Share prices have crashed, but that is no predictor of how they will perform from tomorrow onward; on the contrary, investors like Warren Buffet would see this as an ideal time to buy. (his quote: "Be fearful when others are greedy; be greedy when others are fearful") – Spudley Mar 13 at 12:17
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One rule is to subtract the investor's age from 100 and that's the percentage of stocks that should be held.

But since a pandemic might be developing, the investor couldn't possibly be interested in stock market averages that could be hurt by broad economic declines but might be interested in individual stocks that have particular prospects.

Basically, the investor will probably stay out of stocks for a few months to see how current events develop.

Now the U.S. overnight bank rate is 1.25% but that rate can't presently be found even in Treasury Bills. But 1.25% makes a good target for short-term investments. I found an investment-grade corporate-bond fund with a 2.2 year duration, a TIP fund with a 2.6 year duration, and a corporate high-yield bond fund with a 0.57 year duration.

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  • 1
    In recent years, many advisers have suggested that this rule is outdated and due to increased life expectancy as well as the past decade of low rates. In order to avoid running out of assets in one's lifetime, some are now suggesting 110 or even 120 minus your age. – Bob Baerker Mar 10 at 13:17
  • An investor with $300000 that wants to retire in 10 years might be looking for a hedge fund. For the non-accredited investor I would suggest choosing from the one-hundred most liquid closed-end funds. There's Blackrock, Wells Fargo, Invesco, Nuveen, and many others. The CEF's use moderate leverage but can also hedge. – S Spring Mar 10 at 13:42

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