Figure Out Your Investor DNA to Make the Best Financial Decisions for Retirement

Retirement savers can be broken down into three different DNA types. Each has a different way of getting things done.

An image of DNA surrounded by dollar signs
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A lot of life advice recommends people “play to their strengths.” Well, the same is true when it comes to investing for retirement. Some people are “do-it-yourself” investors, some are “delegators” and others are somewhere in between. I like to call this a person’s “investor DNA,” because whatever your type, it helps to identify your potential investing strengths and weaknesses.

Understanding your investor DNA is crucial to making the best financial decisions for a successful retirement. If you don’t make decisions based on your DNA, you could cost yourself a lot of money, time and anxiety. I’ve seen people consistently lose out on $150,000 or more by making the wrong choice on Social Security alone.

Take for instance Kyle and Rene who were diligent savers their whole lives and hated the idea of paying someone else anything to manage their retirement investments, so they thought they could be DIYers. However, they were not knowledgeable about investing and thought it was just a necessary means to retirement. They used information they procured online, their Sunday paper and news programs to manage their accounts. Later, after a series of mistakes, they learned that their retirement cash flow was a failure and that without selling their house, they risked outliving their money. They also discovered they would not have enough money to leave anything to their children, something that had been a legacy goal of theirs.

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Now that you understand the importance of knowing your investor DNA, let’s start figuring out where you fall.


Do-it-yourself investors may enjoy investing for the excitement of it, because they love the complexity and technicality of it, or typically just because they do not want to pay anyone. If you are someone who tends to be very knowledgeable about investing and have a high risk tolerance, you are probably a DIY investor. You may also be a DIY investor if you like to focus on leading-edge products and services and are technically savvy and highly educated.

The other type of DIY investor isn’t necessarily so involved because of their love for investing, but rather their hatred of paying anyone. Some DIYers are extremely frugal and continue to save more than they spend, while living well below their means just to watch their investments grow. They are averse to spending money and especially dislike the idea of paying someone else to manage their investments.


Delegators typically prefer to rely on a trusted adviser to help steer their investment decisions. There are a few questions you should ask yourself to figure out if you’re a delegator. Are you interested in the process of investing or wealth management? Are you very knowledgeable about investing? If the answer to these questions is no, you may be a delegator. Here are some further questions to ask yourself to narrow it down: Do you dislike managing finances? Do you feel investing is a necessary means to an end? Are you conservative in your personal and professional life? If you answered yes to at least one of those questions, again, you are likely a delegator.

Some delegators have a strong focus to take care of their families. Others seek the personal freedom that money makes possible, while another group is just afraid of investing and all the technical aspects. Not all delegators are the same, but they all aim to not spend an excessive amount of time building their knowledge of investing. Instead, they rely on guidance from someone else with a high level of experience who can help them achieve their financial goals.


Validators are the in-between type of investor. Sometimes they hand the keys off to someone else and other times they do the driving. For example, while a delegator may give their entire $2 million portfolio to a wealth adviser to manage, a validator would give a wealth advisor $1 million to manage and manage the other $1 million themselves.

Validators tend to prioritize one of three things — privacy, control or prestige. If they value privacy, they often won’t delegate investment decisions to anyone unless they find someone they truly trust. If they value control, they won’t delegate unless they can still feel like they are in total control of the investment relationship. And if they value prestige, they may look for help in the areas of charitable giving and wealth protection.

What to do with your investor DNA

Once you have a good idea about what your investor DNA is, don’t wait too long to use it as your guide! One study (opens in new tab) found that Americans spend 7,000% more time watching TV than they do on managing their finances. Purposely take the time to research what is going to be the best option for you.

If you are a delegator and need to hand the keys over to someone else, don’t just hand them to the first person you meet. Interview two to three wealth advisors. If you’re a DIYer, get to work now and spend the time necessary to make a comprehensive retirement investment plan, especially one that covers you pre-deceasing your spouse.

This applies to everyone … don’t wait, as most people do, until you’re less than 12 months out from retirement to create your plan. I’ve seen people cut it this close throughout the 31 years I’ve been in business, and you’ll be infinitely less stressed and more prepared throughout retirement if you are proactive five to 10 years ahead of time. Control what you can control … create your plan in advance in order to live your best life!

This information is prepared by DiNuzzo Wealth Management, and all opinions are the judgment of author P.J. DiNuzzo, as of the date of publication and could be subject to change. This material is provided for educational purposes only and readers should not rely on the content as the only basis for investment or retirement decisions or advice. Always consult with your personal financial advisor and tax advisor before making any financial decisions.

This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

P.J. DiNuzzo, CPA, PFS™, AIF®
Founder, President, and Chief Investment Officer, DiNuzzo Wealth Management

P.J. DiNuzzo, CFA, PFS, AIF, MBA, MSTX, is the founder, president and chief investment officer for DiNuzzo Private Wealth Inc./DiNuzzo Wealth Management (opens in new tab) in Beaver, PA. The firm has been helping pre-retirees and retirees make smart money and best-life choices for 31 years. P.J. is also the author of the book "The Seven Keys to Investing Success (opens in new tab)."