At 53, how do we invest our Roth $'s safely?

Hello Clarkies!

Yes, my husband and I were young and stupid when the stock market crashed 2 decades ago. We freaked and took our meager bucks out and put it in CDs. I know, really stupid!!! But we did buy properties so we have that going for us. Now we are ready to dip back in and have about 100K+ each in our Roths that I want to move back into the market. But…I don’t want too much risk. Some risk obviously, but not a lot since we’re getting long in the tooth. Right now, I’m considering Total Stock Market, Total International Market and 500 Index funds. We have accounts at Fidelity so that’s likely where we’ll invest.

Am I off base? Any advice from the Clarksters?? Thank you and I’m a 20+ year fan of Clark’s…I just don’t always follow his brilliant advice. To my detriment. Cheers! ~Mary

I think you are right on track, maybe just need to fine tune it a little.

That’s great! When you say ‘fine tune’…any suggestions? I’m totally open to considering and researching anything. It’s just been too long since I’ve dabbled in the market…at all. :upside_down_face:

First off, you’ll have overlap in your investments if you put some in the Total Stock market Index and the S&P 500 index. But what you really need to do is figure out what your goals are, when you want to retire, what your needs will be when you retire, how much you can contribute towards that per month, etc. This will determine what you need to do and what your target returns will need to be. If you have a lot of ground to make up then trying to accomplish that “safely” will be at odds with your goal. I would suggest you find a fee-only financial planner to help you. Start with the end in mind and work towards it that way instead of starting with investment strategies with an unknown target.

Good luck.

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Thank you! I wasn’t looking at putting Roth $ in all that I listed, those were just a few of the thoughts and options. And we generally just lump sum each year (from now on) into our Roths and HSAs. We aren’t making enough for a financial planner currently and don’t have enough money to invest to justify one. Basically the target is to increase the value of our Roths without risking it all, but still earning somewhere near inflation rates. Thank you for your help and I’ll consider all you mentioned.

A couple of hours of a fee-only financial planner is only a few hundred dollars. I think you can’t afford NOT to have one to get you started. It doesn’t matter how much you have or make to get someone to help you. Also, earning near inflation rates today means you’ll be earning less than just having it in a money market account where interest rates are >5%. You need to earn much more than inflation rates. We all do.

All good advice, thank you!

Any of those are fine as long as you’re contributing each year. When there’s a bad year, your next investment buys more shares “on sale.” You have quite a few years to recover. If you’re not sure what to do, you can always pick a target-date retirement fund. That will be far better than CDs, but not as risky as a 100% stock fund.

You do need risk. With the funds you’re considering, there’s a risk that you won’t have enough money to fund your retirement. But with CDs, there a certainty that you won’t have enough to fund your retirement (unless you really ramp up the amount you save).

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Perfect, thank you!!

Personal Investments -

I second @rjratnip’s recommendation to consider an hourly fee-only financial planner. The individual could assist with investment decisions and also the more complex financial planning issues include financial goal setting, tax planning, risk management (insurance) and estate planning.


Absolutely no malice intended here, but I do not believe you should be investing any of your Roth money in the markets. There is no “safe” way to profit from the markets. You must be able to pour money into index funds and rarely, if ever, look at the statements. Even your question “At 53 how do we invest our Roth$ SAFELY” reeks of fear. The only way to outpace inflation and obtain larger gains long term is to take RISK. It’s the nature of investing.

The index funds you mentioned are great funds but they can AND WILL decline in value from time to time.

Had you left your investments alone during a the last major downturn, they would be worth in excess of 1-2 million dollars most likely. You have humbly already admitted you all made a mistake.

In a nice tone here not condecsending…What makes you think, in the face of another major meltdown, including the 24 hour news cycle, that you will be able to not only stand pat but even continue to contribute (especially since you are “long in the tooth”)?? Investing in downturns is the primary formula for long term gains.

I think the likelihood is even higher that you will sell at the exact wrong moment and get out again preciely because you are older.

One of the sure ways to make money investing in the stock market (judging from the Dow 30 since 1900 including the 1929 crash = 10% ish) is to set up regular investments from your paycheck or checking account and completely DISREGARD the TV news and your statements or on-line balances.

I do alot of reading abouit the psychology of investing and humans LOVE to make money. But they HATE losing money 20 times more. Which causes them to do the wrong thing at precisely the wrong time.

To quote an article from “Twenty years after Daniel Kahneman received the Nobel Prize in economics for applying behavioral psychology to economic decision making, the Princeton researcher’s work on dual-process theory continues to provide insight into the factors that shape our thinking when it comes to investing.” Gary Becker won in 1992 and Richard Thaler in 2017. The same award. for the same subject.

Dual process is when the part of your brain that measures risk is in conflict with the part that seeks well being.

Of all Warren Buffets (supposed) sayings, my favorite is “The market opened at 60 points in 1900, now its at 34000. How could anybody possible have lost money??”

Reevaluate if investing is right for you and your husband.

Hope this has not been too boring.


Jim in Charlotte


OH NO Mary. Total stock market choices like you’ve cited are really a bad idea. If you’re 53 and don’t want too much risk, you need to be roughly half stocks, half bonds. The American Assocation of Individual Investors (AAII) considers a Conservative allocation to be 40% stocks, 60% bonds. Bonds are on sale now, the prices have declined, the interest rates are highest since 2007. Stocks are still in a historical bubble. I agree with the AAII. You also need some International stocks, which are undervalued. Maybe 10% or even 15%.

My bona fides - I’m 62 and ready to retire with multiple seven figures. Been in the market since 1986. I didn’t get here by being impetuous or silly. I’ve watched many crash and burn, including my own Father, he had too much risk and ran through his money. Please don’t go 100% stocks.

And here are Fidelity’s recommended savings guidelines by age, assuming a retirement at age 67:

Age 30: 1x your salary

Age 35: 2x your salary

Age 40: 3x your salary

Age 45: 4x your salary

Age 50: 6X your salary

Age 55: 7x your salary

Age 60: 8x your salary

Age 67: 10x your salary

You may need to hit the saving and investing really, really hard for the next 15 years… like all hands on desk, general quarters hard

Go run the excellent Fidelity retirement planning tool to see where you really stand. It’s free. I rely on it heavily.

I appreciate your very informative and extremely thoughtful response Jim. I think I overemphasized our ‘fear’. We did freak when the market crashed ~20 years ago and pulled out…BUT we would have gotten back in earlier except for the advent of job changes and starting a new company, parental aging and terminal health issues, buying a new home and selling our long-term home, etc. It all came in less than 10 years and we didn’t feel confident financially to be putting money aside. Now we regret that decision. But too late! We do have several properties bought and paid for and multiple other assets so this isn’t even close to our ‘retirement’ funding. BUT it is important and we’d like to not lose it all.

Thank you again Jim, we’ll take your advice to heart!

Thank you Ochotona, index funds are definitely on the list, too. I really appreciate your allocation percentages, very very very helpful as a guideline. I wouldn’t dream of 100% stocks, no way! Thank you again!

Keep it simple! Investing in stock mutual funds is NOT very risky. A typical mutual fund buys and owns several hundred stocks, maybe thousands for the larger funds. So your market risk is spread out so that the failure of one company will not even make a blip on the dividends and capital gains from the mutual fund. Starting off, if it were me, I would buy only a large Index stock fund, such as the Fidelity 500 Index Fund (stock symbol FXAIX). It has a 10-year average return of about 12% per year, a low expense ratio, and good management. If you buy and hold for at least 10 years, I guarantee that you will NOT lose any money. Instead you will gain some money for your future retirement. Just don’t do what you did before, panic when the stock market goes down during the periodic economic downturns. Hold what your have, and buy more if you can while the prices are low! Later you may want to put some money into a good world-wide corporate bond mutual fund to produce some income for your investment account (as well as capital gains from the stock fund).

Beautiful!!! Thank you SO much Lancie…this is what I needed to hear. I’m getting ready to make my first move, I feel a lot more confident now with all of this awesome advice. Thankfully, this is NOT all we have for retirement, it’s just all we have in our Roths. Cheers and thanks again!

Communicating with people is the most important skill you can have in making money:

Hey! We agree!.. :slightly_smiling_face: