The Dow's rally to 14,000 and beyond has retirees running in both directions — some are running for more profits and others are running for the exits.
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The flow of cash into mutual funds in January, more than $55 billion, set a new record for a single month, as individual investors chased rising stock values. But financial advisers report calls running as high as four-to-one toward selling. Many clients, they said, are suspicious of the gains the S&P 500 and the Dow have made as they boomed back to pre-recession levels.
"People have their convictions about the market, but when the market does something unusual, it rocks those convictions," said David Tysk, a private wealth advisor with Ameriprise Financial Services in Eden Prairie, Minn.
"On Tuesday, I got a call from a longtime client in his 50s who said 'Wow, the S&P is up to 1500. It's time to get out, huh?'," said Tysk. "Another client emailed me yesterday wanting to short the bond market or short Treasurys."
Roy Laux, a retirement specialist at Synergy Financial Services in McKeesport, Penn., says he's had increased calls from clients wanting to take profits while stocks are riding high.
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"I tell them they need to manage their emotions," Tysk said.
So, which one is right — is it time to get out or time to get in?
Advisers say it depends on which one fits best with the client's overall plan.
Tysk said if a client persists, he refers them to the notes they made early on about what they want from the market.
Laux doesn't rule out making any moves. "With the market within 150 points of an all-time high, it might make sense to gather in some profits," he said, adding that he only agrees with a request to sell if the client has already reached a stated goal.
The benefit of the market hitting a big milestone like 14,000, planners say, is that it gets clients thinking about their strategy.
"Everybody needs to take the opportunity occasionally to re-evaluate what they are trying to accomplish," said Joe Lucey, president of Secured Retirement Advisors in Minneapolis. "You should look at what kind of risk you are taking and make changes if you don't like what you see."
For retirees who need to take distributions from their IRAs by December 31st, a market high this early in the year presents an especially tough choice. Will the market continue its boom, or will this week's highs look like Shangri-La by New Year's Eve?
If seniors are convinced that this is as good as things will get, the choice gets even grimmer. "Then the conversation goes to where to reallocate the funds you withdraw," Laux said. Despite the market's recent success, interest rates paid by money markets and other interest-bearing accounts are dispiritingly low. If you think predicting what the stock market will do is chancy, divining the intentions of the Federal Reserve's rate-setters will drive you around the bend.
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The impossibility of juggling all these factors, Tysk said, is precisely why retirees and those investing for retirement should never be swayed by big events, positive or negative. "You can't time the market, or predict what Congress is going to do. If you're investing for retirement, there are always going to be things along the way that you can't predict."
"People have their convictions about the market, but when the market does something unusual, it rocks those convictions," said Tysk.