3 Reasons Retirees Should Look Both Ways When Crossing Wall Street

The following is a guest post from Mario Henry, a former National Football League player, is a financial services professional with 18 years of experience in the industry and author of How to Hire Your House, an innovative guide on how to create a tax-free pension and sustain sufficient income through retirement.

Most Americans don’t trust Wall Street. Yet many will put the bulk of their retirement savings in the stock market’s hands.

Wall Street – Prisma Mosaic

The increasing disappearance of company pensions and the growing popularity of the 401(k) shifted the retirement-planning paradigm from employer to employee over the last 30 years, pouring billions of dollars into the stock market. Now nearly half of the 127 million American workers who put in at least 35 hours per week participate in 401(k)s.

Negatives Views of Wall Street

On the other hand, less than a third of Americans in a recent Bloomberg National Poll said they had a favorable view of Wall Street. The low approval rating (31 percent) is unchanged since the 2008 financial crisis.

Against this backdrop of cynicism are the vagaries of the stock market itself. Some financial experts think that, given market unpredictability and a less clear financial path to retirement than it was decades ago, leaning on stocks primarily for retirement funds poses a heightened risk.

The ceiling always falls. And whereas pensions provided a measure of stability – set payouts based on a percentage of income – the 401(k) is a huge gamble.

Meanwhile, according to Benefits Pro, about $5 trillion is invested in 401(k) accounts managed by Wall Street, but who’s really benefitting? An individual pays into a personal investment account with no guarantees. Everything points back to people investing in stocks that ultimately make Wall Street wealthier. Too many people who invest their retirement savings in the market aren’t able to retire and prosper.

Three reasons he thinks taking a retirement road down Wall Street can be bumpy or worse:

  • Retirement – pension = pressure to invest. Pensions brought certainty for generations of retirees. Then the economic model shifted dramatically, putting much more of the planning pressure on the employees. We are living in the first generation that largely will be without a pension. People who are in a quiet panic about having enough for retirement are vulnerable to bad investment advice and high fees. Often they get caught up in the idea of a long-term bull market and don’t know about or explore other investment options.
  • Remember the recession? Many people haven’t recovered from the 2008 debacle. It was more than a cautionary tale. It had a huge impact on retirement savings. Going forward, it’s important to note a 401(k) usually benefits the higher earners because the middle- and lower-income workers often don’t have the tools to manage their accounts successfully.
  • Fickle or under-funded 401(k)s. Many workers aren’t able to put enough into their retirement plans. The ante has gone up with people generally living longer and needing funds for 25 to 30 years or more. Also, it’s impossible to be immune from the risk that the stock market can dive as you approach retirement and some people will inevitably make bad investment choices.

Final Thought

I do believe Wall Street has a part to play in someone’s investment portfolio but to be 100 percent dependent on a system for your retirement saving that isn’t proven to perpetuate your income is not a wise strategy.

Blogger-in-Chief here at RetirementSavvy and author of Sin City Greed, Cream City Hustle and RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit.


  1. Haha! How’s this for cognitive dissonance. I don’t trust Wall Street either, but I have hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in it. I only invest in low-cost index funds and have a mini government pension. So that’s how I sleep at night.

    • I’m right there with ya. On some level, there really is no choice but to have some faith in Wall Street. After all, putting your money in a savings account on under a mattress will get you absolutely nowhere. A minimal amount of faith in Wall Street (brokerage account and retirement plans), multiple pensions, and a little real estate – solid diversification when you put it all together – is how I sleep like a baby at night.

  2. Too true! I’m looking down the barrel of retirement with great uncertainty thanks to the 403B that I tried so hard to grow. My company was unable to match for several years, thanks to changes in our revenues, and before we got actual investment choices, I spent years contributing to some half-baked annuity deal that never amounted to a hill of beans. It’s amazing I got up to what I did, but it will run out if I have to live too long.

    • As I’ve noted on multiple occasions in the pages on this blog, the importance of developing multiple streams of income – during the working years and in retirement – cannot be overstated. As you careen toward retirement it pays to be mindful of the probability that something beyond your control will negatively impact one or more of your sources of retirement income.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story and thoughts; and best of luck as you move forward, my friend.

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