For the past two months, if you asked most investors what they feared most, then they would have said the fiscal cliff.
And why wouldn't they? Income tax rates for all Americans were scheduled to rise. The maximum qualified dividend rate of 15% was set to expire and revert back to ordinary income tax rates. Almost every government budget was scheduled to be slashed. And all of these factors would have weighed on the economy...
But even before Congress arrived at last-minute on a New Years Day tax deal, the fiscal cliff concerned me. But as an investor, it never scared me.
Maybe it's because I've been investing for more than 30 years now. I've had money in the market through almost every conceivable economic and financial scenario -- historically high and low interest rates, higher and lower tax rates, recessions and overheated economies.
What I've learned is that there are always ways to minimize losses and maximize gains when conditions change.
But there is one thing that does scare me: People aren't investing for their retirement.
The annual Wells Fargo Retirement Survey of middle-class Americans almost always makes me nervous. Here are some highlights from the 2012 survey...
-- 30% of middle-class Americans say they will need to work until at least the age of 80 to live comfortably in retirement.
-- 70% of those surveyed weren't confident the stock market was a good place to invest for retirement.
-- If given $5,000 to invest for retirement, 40% of those surveyed said they would invest in a CD or savings account while 22% said they would invest it in gold or precious metals.
While CDs and hard assets like gold are safer, especially in a time of turmoil, your money doesn't go very far. Look how $5,000 fares invested in some of these popular methods when compared with my Daily Paycheck strategy...
In the chart above, you can see that those who chose a savings account would have made little progress toward their retirement savings plan. That's because the average savings account rate at the end of 2011 was 0.217%. The 10-year Treasury only yielded 2%.
Gold is generally a good asset class to own in times of uncertainty. And many financial advisors recommend holding some portion of your portfolio in hard assets for diversification. Investors who dedicated all their investable funds in gold over the past year gained 4.7%.
But it turns out that even a conservative income portfolio -- with the benefit of compound growth through dividend reinvestment -- would have been a much better retirement savings ally...
All investments are risky. But by choosing wisely from a diverse range of income-generating assets, investors can create a portfolio that has the ability to outperform the broader market -- with much less volatility.
For instance, August 2011 was a terrible month in the market; in those 30 days, the S&P 500 lost 6%. It was the kind of month that discouraged even the most steadfast investors. But my subscribers and I slept better than most; The Daily Paycheck portfolio was down just 1%, buffered by the 35 dividend checks I received that month.
Granted, my portfolio isn't always that resilient. But on average, it is 43% less volatile than the overall market -- which might be another reason why events like the fiscal cliff don't scare me.
I understand why people are reluctant to invest their retirement money in the market. Unfortunately, too many people think a savings account is a more secure path to retirement. And it scares me to think someone's retirement dream may never become a reality.
[Note: I recently put together a three point strategy to determine how I pick stocks for my Daily Paycheck portfolio... I call it the Dividend Trifecta. In just 37 months I've earned $41,878 in dividends alone by using this simple strategy. To learn more about this, click here.]