As investors dazzled by the bull market and the Internet phenomenon contemplate double-digit -- even triple-digit -- returns, it's easy to forget that many investors have more down-to-earth aspirations.
"I just want to ensure that I am financially able to take care of myself, whatever happens," writes
, a single, 46-year-old government worker in Washington.
"A serious illness at a relatively early age (28) scared the daylights out of me, and I have been building a financial bastion to protect myself ever since," she says.
Schroeder's bastion consists of $175,000 invested in 10 mutual funds in taxable and nontaxable accounts, a 401(k) plan, cash and Treasuries. She's hoping it will be enough to ensure a "comfortable, not luxurious, merely comfortable" retirement in nine years.
Is it enough?
We put the question to one of our
Portfolio Planners, Contributing Editor
. (To see how Hayden's Empty-Nesters Portfolio and our other planners' portfolios are faring, see the
The good news for Schroeder is that her years of conscientious saving will make it relatively easy to meet her goals. "She's in a very good situation," says Hayden.
After 25 years of government service, Schroeder can retire in nine years with an annual pension equal to 64.25% of the average of her last three years' salary. She is paid $53,676 annually to, as she puts it, "give away money for a living" as a grants administrator for the
National Endowment for the Humanities
She also has $43,000 in the Thrift Savings Plan, the equivalent of a 401(k) plan for federal workers, and she owns a condo in nearby Leesburg, Va., which is rented to tenants but could serve as her retirement nest.
Hayden's first task for Schroeder was to put a dollar figure on what she considered a "comfortable" retirement. Her answer: About 80% of her current salary, or about $43,000 a year, "given that retirement reduces or eliminates some expenses that occur only when one is working, such as commuting costs, business attire, etc.," she says.
Once he had that number, Hayden got to work. Assuming 3% annual inflation, he figures Schroeder will need about $56,000 a year in income when she retires in nine years. What will she need to get there? He took a conservative approach.
At an 8% annual growth rate, Schroeder's $175,000 portfolio will amount to about $350,000 in nine years. She should be able to safely take 6%, or about $21,000, from the portfolio each year as income, without diminishing the principal.
Add that $21,000 to her anticipated federal pension of $34,500 (based on her current salary), and she's within $500 a year of her goal. She's probably even closer, given that her pension will be higher as her salary grows over the next nine years. She also will be able to take disbursements from her federal Thrift Savings Plan.
Because she is in good shape, Schroeder doesn't need to take any chances. She can "shoot for a reasonable portfolio within historical returns of the market," says Hayden.
Looking at Schroeder's total holdings, Hayden finds that on the one hand, it is conservative, with about 40% in bonds, T-bills and cash. On the other hand, she has about a quarter of the equity portion of her portfolio in sector funds investing in health care, technology, real estate and energy.
"She's taking tremendous risk in picking those four sectors," says Hayden, who is most concerned about her $5,000 investment in
Cohen & Steers Realty Shares. He says he likes real estate investment trusts to provide income and appreciation through distributions, "but not through the stock price. ... That's why I like to use individual REITs, and not REIT mutual funds, for retirement purposes."
Hayden says he would leave the cash and bond investments alone (though he suggests some of the cash could be safely invested in the
Harbor Bond fund). He also would maintain Schroeder's $7,000 investment in one of the sector funds,
Vanguard Health Care, one of his longtime favorites. (The fund recently
closed to new investors.) He would invest the remaining $74,000 in just three funds. Currently, "I think there are too many funds for the amount of money," he says.
The new funds:
- (LMVTX) - Get Report
Legg Mason Value ($25,000). Some people are comparing this fund's manager, Bill Miller, to
Fidelity's legendary Peter Lynch. The fund has returned an average of 37.1% annually over the past five years with a flexible definition of "value" that allows for a large stake in fast-growing companies like
America Online (AOL) .
(WVALX) - Get Report
Weitz Value ($23,000). This fund invests in mid-cap companies and sports an average annual return of 25.7% over the past five years.
(DTLGX) - Get Report
Wilshire Target Large Company Growth ($26,000). This fund invests in the biggest of the big-cap growth stocks, currently the market's hottest sector. Wilshire Target Large Company has returned 30.1% annually over the past five years.
This proposed portfolio contains no international exposure because Hayden fears the Y2K problem could have greater repercussions overseas than in the U.S. "Starting next year, once we get through this, I would make some changes, but not radical ones," he says. Schroeder could raise the equity portion of the portfolio by as much as 20 percentage points at that point, he says, and allocate 15% to 20% of the portfolio to a global fund. Hayden suggests
Janus Worldwide or
Meanwhile, Hayden says, Schroeder should take care of some more immediate concerns. In her retirement income goals, "I'm concerned she may not have calculated enough for some expenses, such as maybe getting a long-term health-care policy because she is very concerned about health and doesn't want to be dependent on anybody," he says.
"Also in the current picture, she needs to look at what happens if she gets disabled in the next nine years," he adds. She should check her own benefits and supplement them with private insurance if they're insufficient.
Otherwise, Schroeder is well on her way to a secure retirement, says Hayden. "If she can call them right -- and it looks like she's done a pretty good job so far -- she could do quite well."
Would you like a
Portfolio Planner to evaluate your mutual fund portfolio? Send a note to
We'll need to know what funds you own and roughly what percentage of your portfolio they comprise. We also need to know a little bit about your investing goals.
Periodically, we'll select a reader portfolio that we feel is the most interesting or instructive. One of our Portfolio Planners will then offer suggestions for fine-tuning or, if necessary, overhauling it.
Remember, this exercise will be conducted in public, in front of all of our readers. So if you're squeamish about making your financial life public, this probably isn't for you.
The TSC Portfolio Planners series aims to provide general fund and investing information. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell funds or other securities.