Saving for Retirement: How to React to Market Volatility

A new poll conducted by Kiplinger and Barclay's reveals concerns about market swings and potential downturns. See how your savings—and confidence level—measure up

Many Americans saving for retirement are wary of stocks and have moved a significant portion of their money into cash. In the wake of future volatility for the stock market, they say they are willing to make more changes to their investments, make lifestyle compromises or delay retirement. Nearly half say the economy is slowing, nearly one-third believe the U.S. will be in a recession by the end of 2020, and more than one-third expect the market to decline during 2020. Plus, some four out of 10 respondents are checking their portfolio either daily or weekly.

This survey was conducted by Brown Oak Audience Insights between October 17 and October 21, 2019 and has a 3% margin of error. We surveyed a national sampling of 850 preretirees age 40 and above who have at least $100,000 in household net worth (excluding a primary residence). Respondents were equally divided between men and women.

The median amount saved for retirement among all respondents is $513,100, but among respondents 60 or older, that figure jumps to $707,760. Those figures are still well short of the median amount they expect to need in retirement: about $1.23 million. Even so, more than two-thirds are very confident or somewhat confident that they have saved (or will save) enough for a comfortable retirement.

Subscribe to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Be a smarter, better informed investor.

Save up to 74%

Sign up for Kiplinger’s Free E-Newsletters

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice on investing, taxes, retirement, personal finance and more - straight to your e-mail.

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice - straight to your e-mail.

Sign up

We’ve included highlights from the poll here. Figures are medians unless otherwise indicated.

What is your asset valuation?

Respondents have a relatively low stock allocation and high levels of cash. In fact, they are holding more cash than bonds.

Stocks: 44%

Cash: 18%

Bonds: 16%

Real estate: 10%

Other: 13%

How worried are you about stock market declines currently?

Very worried: 11%

Somewhat worried: 52%

Not worried: 37%

What are you doing now to deal with stock market volatility?

Staying diversified and waiting it out: 63%

Seeking professional advice: 19%

Shifting to bonds and cash: 14%

Investing in more defensive stock sectors: 9%

Purchasing an annuity: 8%

Investing in target-date funds: 8%

Nothing: 17%

What are you doing now to deal with stock market volatility?

Nearly half of respondents would consider reducing investments in stocks to deal with market volatility. Here’s how much they’d trim their holdings

No stocks: 6%

10% or less: 20%

25% or less: 40%

50% or less: 28%

Which of the following investments have you increased (or would you increase) in a volatile market?

Savings accounts: 53%

Money market accounts: 39%

Certificates of deposit: 34%

Annuities: 19%

U.S. Treasuries: 15%

Gold: 10%

What would you do to deal with market volatility during retirement (top five)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How much would your investments need to decline for you to consider delaying retirement?

Less than 25%: 36%

25% to 49%: 54%

How long would you be willing to delay retirement to give your investments time to recover?

1 to 4 years: 69%

5 to 9 years: 21%

At what age do you plan to claim Social Security?

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Would you consider taking Social Security earlier than planned to give your portfolio time to recover from a downturn?

Yes: 24%

No: 51%

Not sure: 26%

Some percentages don’t add up to 100% because of rounding or because respondents chose all answers that were applicable.