Just read an article online about how in these tough times one of the positive outcomes is that people seem to be investing more into their retirement funds. The bad news, though, is that it is still usually too little to enable most people to retire financially secure.
Of bigger concern for me, however, is that not only are most people contributing too little, but on top of this, most people are probably not taking enough risk on their funds. This has mostly to do with the fact that most funds are completely inappropriately named or labelled.
For example, where there is individual fund choice within a pension fund, there are usually 3 or 4 funds such as the “Aggressive Fund”, the “Balanced Fund”, the “Conservative Fund” and possibly a guaranteed or money market fund. On seeing the word “Aggressive”, most investors usually panic and run for the relative safety of the Balanced or Conservative Fund (after all this is retirement money so they don’t want to risk it). Balanced Funds in this context will usually have ±50% in equities with the Conservative Funds having even less. Now we know that the best way to beat inflation (over time) is to have exposure to equities. So while they will probably not lose too much in the down cycle as a result of this choice, they will most probably also not benefit sufficiently in the up cycles.
The problem, you see, is in the names of the funds. Remember that in terms of the investment guidelines for retirement funds, you can never have more than 75% of the total fund invested in shares*…so how can that ever be an “Aggressive” fund? In the unit trust industry, funds with 75% in equities are usually referred to as Managed or Balanced Funds. So why the inconsistency in naming when it comes to pension funds?
As a result of this inconsistency, my suspicion is that not only are people not saving enough money for their retirement, but on top of this, they are also being too conservative with their fund choices and as a result of this they will have even less than they expected when they retire.
Bottom line is that if you have time on your side (at least 12-15 years before retirement) you should most probably be in the most “aggressive” portfolio that you can – this is the greatest chance you have of achieving inflation beating returns.
So remember, when it comes to retirement money, you can not, by definition, have an aggressive fund – at least 25% of the fund will be in cash, bonds and property at any stage.
*yes, I know that technically speaking there could be up to 90% in shares and property, but the reality is that this is usually not the case, with most “aggressive” funds having 75% or less in equities with the balance in bonds and cash.