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Experience is said to be the hardest kind of teacher. It gives the test first, and the lesson afterward. At the later stage of your career, or even the early part of retirement, this is something that we all have learned. Investing is an area where you likely have had many experiences, both good and bad. But like any endeavor, there are some truisms or guidelines to keep in mind as you reach your current stage in life.

“The more you know, the better the decisions you can make” – Seems pretty straightforward, but we see many people fall prey to this even at this stage of their careers and life. “I should be reducing risk, getting away from stocks at my age,” you may think is prudent having heard this type of information throughout the years. Well, ideally, yes, to a degree.  But asset allocation, your mix of stocks and bonds, should be primarily goal driven, not age driven.

If you have a significant shortfall to your optimum retirement nest-egg goal, staying more with stocks is likely to be more appropriate. Very few have accumulated enough to “go safe,” and restructure their portfolios to grow only enough to offset inflation effects. Most of us must continue to stay the course, until our goal is reached and secured, even if it takes years past your retirement date. Of course, a key part is knowing your goal, and again, experience teaches us this knowledge is invaluable to our financial well-being.

“See the job to its completion” – You may be retiring soon, or have already, but that doesn’t mean your assets should do so too. The earnings derived in your late career and into retirement are an extremely important factor to the longevity of your nest egg. If applied too soon, putting the brakes on your investing can have you watching your balances deplete more rapidly than anticipated.

“Don’t be greedy” – If you have reached your identified goals, perhaps 90-100% in stocks is not the ideal investment mix going forward.

“It is not the end of the world” – Market downturns happen, and will continue to happen even in retirement. And with our current 24-hour news cycle, it sometimes seems as if we’re constantly on the brink of a “never before seen” occurrence. I not only tell my clients this is a possibility, but it is likely they will experience more than one in retirement, if not several. It is tempting to pull back on risk after a market downturn, but for most, this only locks in potential loss.

Understanding both your ongoing goals and your investment’s ability to recover can prevent you from making a natural part of the investing cycle worse, and damaging a hard earned comfortable retirement. Drawing on your bank of experience with prior market drops can help to save you costly errors in retirement. Even if you have spent your career making your own picks and investing, it makes a great deal of sense to consult and utilize an investment professional, a neutral (not emotionally attached to an investment) and experienced investment professional who can help guide you to the optimal decisions in retirement.

Contributed by Michael Lares, CFP®. Mike joined Chemung Canal in 2004 as a Portfolio Manager and was promoted to Vice President in 2010. His work includes portfolio management, technical analysis, and extensive work with not-for-profits and retirement plans. He is a CFP® (Certified Financial Planner™) professional currently providing financial planning services to Wealth Management clients and institutions, utilizing his analytical skills and broad financial experience.

For additional guidance, please contact Marci Cartwright at 607-737-3754 or