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Identifying Your Stage on the Investor Lifecycle

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Investor Lifecycle Diagram

This Markets in a Minute Chart is available as a poster.

Identifying Your Stage on the Investor Lifecycle

As people age and progress through their careers, their financial goals continuously evolve. Understanding one’s current goals, while also planning for those in the future, are two important elements of financial planning.

In this Markets in a Minute chart from New York Life Investments, we outline the investor lifecycle, a three-staged theory designed to help individuals optimize their portfolios as they age.

The Three Stages

Each lifecycle stage is associated with a set of distinct objectives that, when incorporated into a long-term investment plan, will guide the investor through to retirement.

Lifecycle StageCommon Short-term ObjectivesCommon Long-term Objectives 
Accumulation Stage (Ages 20-35)- Paying off student debt
- Buying real estate
- Building emergency savings
- Saving for children's education
- Accumulating wealth
Preparation Stage (Ages 35-60)- Taking vacations
- Funding children's education
- Planning for retirement
Retirement Stage (Ages 60+)- Achieving desired lifestyle
- Covering medical expenses
- Estate planning

These age-sensitive objectives will ultimately shape an investor’s risk profile and portfolio allocations.

The Accumulation Stage

Individuals in the accumulation stage are just beginning their careers, meaning they have a relatively low net worth and a long time horizon until retirement.

With over 30+ working years ahead of them, it’s often an ideal time for these investors to build more aggressive portfolios geared towards capital gains. In practice, this usually results in a significant allocation to equities.

This is because equities boast a relatively higher return potential, making them suitable for younger investors looking to accumulate wealth. Their long time horizons also allow them to ride out periods of short-term volatility that equity markets sometimes experience.

The Preparation Stage

Individuals in the preparation stage will likely reach their peak earning years, and as a result, will have a greater capacity to save and invest.

Getting the most out of this capacity will require these investors to establish a long-term financial plan centered around retirement. Because they now face a shorter time horizon, they may want to consider a more balanced risk profile.

While equities may still play a major role in these individuals’ portfolios, the asset class’s overall allocation is often dialed back in favor of safer securities such as investment-grade bonds.

The Retirement Stage

As individuals begin to retire, their risk profiles typically become more conservative. Capital preservation and steady income are the top priorities, and in most cases, portfolios become predominantly weighted towards fixed income and money market securities.

Retirees may want to retain an allocation to equities, however. The possibility of outliving one’s savings, also known as longevity risk, is a real possibility—especially given the higher medical costs associated with old age:

Age GroupAverage Annual Healthcare Spending ($)
0-18$3,749
19-44$4,856
45-64$10,212
65-84$16,977
85+$32,903

Source: Peter G. Peterson Foundation

According to the data, the average American experiences a sharp increase in medical costs once past the age of 45. This could spell the need for returns higher than what is provided by a fixed income-only portfolio. Maintaining exposure to equities—an asset class that has historically generated higher returns than fixed income—could help to mitigate longevity risk.

Putting It All Together

According to the investor lifecycle, a typical portfolio will transition through three broad stages over one’s lifetime. At each consecutive stage, the types of assets used should be adjusted to reflect the investor’s shifting risk profile.

By the final retirement stage, the appetite for risk is often low, and the core of a portfolio will be typically comprised of high quality, income-oriented investments. Careful monitoring of income and expenditures will also be required to reduce longevity risk.

While unique circumstances can sometimes warrant a deviation from the three stage lifecycle, its underlying theme still holds true—an investment portfolio should always be optimized to support one’s goals.

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Markets in a Minute

Four Types of ESG Strategies for Investors

Amid a global wave of green investment, this graphic breaks down four types of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategies.

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ESG Strategies

This infographic is available as a poster.

Four Types of ESG Strategies for Investors

In recent years, sustainable investment strategies have shown a number of benefits for investors, from resilience in market downturns to share outperformance in the long-term.

Meanwhile, investor interest has skyrocketed—with environmental, social, and governance (ESG) indexes advancing 40% between 2019 and 2020 alone. Given the increased demand for green investments, investors have an ever-expanding list of options to choose from. But what ESG approach is the right fit for you?

To answer this question, this Markets in a Minute chart from New York Life Investments looks at the primary strategies used in ESG investing to help investors choose the approach that works best for their portfolio.

What Kind of Investor are You?

Broadly speaking, there are four main approaches to ESG investing: ESG integration, exclusionary investing, inclusionary investing, and impact investing.

1. ESG Integration

“I want to integrate ESG factors and traditional factors to assess the risk/reward profile of my investment.”

For example, using an ESG integration approach, a company’s water usage and toxic emissions would be assessed against financial factors to analyze any future risks or investment opportunities.

2. Exclusionary Investing

“I want to screen out controversial companies or sectors that do not meet my sustainability criteria.”

Using an exclusionary investing approach, an investor may screen out companies whose revenues are from tobacco, gambling, or fossil fuels.

Related ESG Terms:

  • Negative Screening
  • Negative Selection
  • Socially Responsible Investing (SRI)

3. Inclusionary Investing

“I want to seek out companies that are ranked highly in their sector based on sustainability criteria.”

With an inclusionary approach, a fund may include the leading companies in a sector, relative to their peers, such as the top performing tech companies in ESG.

Related ESG Terms:

  • Positive Screening
  • Positive Selection
  • Best-In-Class
  • Positive Tilt
  • Thematic Investing

4. Impact Investing

“I want to invest in companies that attempt to deliver a measurable social and/or environmental impact alongside financial returns.”

Lastly, impact investing approaches may focus specifically on renewable energy companies that have the intent to make a positive environmental impact.

Related ESG Terms:

  • Goal-Based Investing
  • Thematic Investing

ESG Investing Strategies, By Market

How does interest in ESG strategies vary according to geographical region? Overall, interest has increased across all regions globally (where data was available).

Interest in ESG By Market*20182020
India98%100%
Mainland China95%98%
UAE90%94%
MexicoN/A92%
France79%91%
Brazil82%90%
JapanN/A88%
Hong Kong, SAR China71%86%
South AfricaN/A83%
Germany64%81%
Singapore77%78%
United Kingdom51%77%
Canada49%68%
Australia49%65%
U.S.49%57%

*With interest in these strategies and already employing them
Source: CFA Institute (Dec, 2020)

At the top was India, where 100% of respondents expressed interest or were already using ESG strategies—up from 96% in 2018.

In fact, India developed National Voluntary Guidelines on Social, Environmental, and Economic Responsibilities of Business as far back as 2011. This was designed as a guideline for responsible business conduct, which later aligned to the UN Sustainable Development Goals in 2016.

Following closely behind were investors in China (98%) and UAE (94%).

By contrast, 57% of investors in the U.S. employed ESG strategies—the lowest among geographic regions. Despite this, in the last two years, this figure jumped 8%, and it may rise higher yet given U.S. president Joe Biden’s new climate priorities. Electric grid and clean energy, decarbonization, and electric vehicle incentives all fall under a massive $2 trillion infrastructure plan, which will likely have a significant impact on the dialogue surrounding ESG.

Going Green

As the global drive for ESG investment continues to rise, investors can harness a greater understanding of different ESG strategies to meet their personal objectives—whether it is risk/reward analysis, seeking out ESG top performers, or a measurable environmental impact.

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Markets in a Minute

Visualizing U.S. Stock Ownership Over Time (1965-2019)

The proportion of U.S. stock owned by foreigners has climbed to 40%, while U.S. stock ownership within taxable accounts has decreased.

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Stock Ownership

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U.S. Stock Ownership Over Time (1965-2019)

The U.S. stock market is the largest in the world, with total U.S. stock ownership amounting to almost $40 trillion in 2019. But who owns all these equities?

In this Markets in a Minute from New York Life Investments, we show the percentage of U.S. stock owned by various groups, and how the proportions have changed over time.

The Groups Who Own U.S. Stock

Based on calculations from the Tax Policy Center, here is the breakdown of U.S. stock ownership as of the year 2019.

CategoryShare of U.S. StockValue
Foreigners40%$16.0T
Retirement accounts30%$12.0T
Taxable accounts24%$9.5T
Non-profits5%$2.0T
Government1%$368B

Foreigners own the most U.S. stock. Their portion of ownership has grown rapidly, climbing from about 5% in 1965 to 40% in 2019. Foreign ownership exists in two forms: portfolio holdings and foreign direct investment. The former includes holdings with less than 10% of voting stock, while the latter refers to voting stock of 10% or more.

Why has foreign ownership increased so substantially? According to the Tax Policy Center, the growth appears unrelated to U.S. corporate tax rates. Instead, the increase is likely a result of globalization, as U.S. holdings of foreign stock climbed at a similar rate over the same timeframe.

Outside of foreigners, the largest domestic ownership groups are retirement accounts and taxable accounts. Stock ownership within taxable accounts has decreased by 56 percentage points since 1965. On the flip side, U.S. households have increased stock ownership within tax-advantaged retirement accounts, which now amounts to 30% of all U.S. stock holdings.

Retirement Accounts: A Closer Look

The proportion of U.S. stock held in defined benefit plans has decreased substantially since 1965.

U.S. Stock Ownership in Retirement Accounts

Note: life insurance separate accounts are reserves that fund annuities or life insurance policies.

This drop is partly due to the general decline in private employers offering defined benefit plans. Since these pension plans guarantee employees a set amount in retirement, they present a large long-term funding burden.

At the same time, there has been a corresponding increase in U.S. stock ownership within defined contribution plans and individual retirement accounts (IRAs). This reflects the fact that many investors are facing more responsibility, as they must take charge of their portfolios in order to build a sufficient nest egg for retirement.

The Future of U.S. Stock Ownership

Compared to 50 years ago, the composition of U.S. stock ownership today looks very different.

Foreign ownership has increased as globalization took hold, though it’s hard to say if this rise will continue. Since 2017, foreign direct investment in the U.S. has decreased. Not only that, China surpassed the U.S. as the top destination for foreign direct investment in 2020.

In addition, the shift to particular tax-advantaged retirement accounts has been a relatively recent one. For instance, IRAs didn’t exist before 1978, and defined contribution plans started becoming popular in 1980. As circumstances continue to evolve, how will U.S. stock ownership change over the next 50 years?

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