NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Whether you are a retiree or are close to retirement, remember that equities are designed to outpace inflation for a long period of time, Fidelity Investments' executive VP John Sweeney said on CNBC's "Squawk Alley" Tuesday.

"So if you're 65 and you're planning for a retirement that could last 30 years, you want to think about what the equity markets have done over a 30-year time frame and keep that in mind when you worry about short-term volatility like we've seen over the last two trading days," Sweeney noted.

The U.K.'s vote to leave the European Union last Thursday put heightened pressure on markets across the world including the U.S. as uncertainties around the Brexit swarmed. On Tuesday, the markets are beginning to recover.

"Okay but given the way of the world, negative interest rates, everything else, what is a reasonable rate of return over the next five or 10 years?" CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin asked.

You should think about a rate of return, but think more about how much your portfolio can outpace inflation, Sweeney advised.

"The great news is if we have low inflation that means your purchasing power is preserved. What you want to be thinking about is maintaining equity exposure as you approach retirement, Make sure that you don't panic during periods of volatility," he advised.

"John, I think people think that they have a nest egg, they don't want to touch the principal to the extent they don't have to and they want to understand what is the rate they are going to reasonably expect to make this all work, right? That's the game here," Sorkin argued.

While some people look at investing in that way, Sweeney does not. He tries "getting people off a rate of return" and rather on thinking about the components of their portfolio.

So, yes, people will have to budget and dip into principal. "The days of clipping coupons are reserved for the folks who have enough assets where the interest income or dividend income off their portfolio can sustain their lifestyle," Sweeney commented, but that is not the case for "most of us."