Tracy Donaldson, of Orlando, Fla., had an inauspicious start to retirement. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 12% in the week he retired.
“This is very disconcerting and very bad timing,” says Donaldson, 66 years old, who retired on Feb. 28 after a 38-year career at Walt Disney in travel and logistics coordination. “I decided not to look at my investments so I wouldn’t be depressed and upset.”
Donaldson’s financial advisor, Dennis Nolte of Seacoast Investment Services, says he plans to reassure the retiree during an upcoming planning lunch that he will be fine even if the coronavirus-driven market correction of the past few weeks turns into a bear market where stocks are down 20% or more. Donaldson has a guaranteed pension from Disney, along with Social Security. Even in a lengthy downturn, Donaldson will be able to cover his living expenses with that income without touching his retirement account until it recovers.
But Nolte and other financial advisors say that many retirees could be in a more fragile position in a bear market because they don’t have Donaldson’s guaranteed income. Companies have largely ended “defined benefit” pensions in recent years in favor of “defined-contribution” plans like 401(k)s. What’s more, the market disruption comes after an 11-year bull market that has inflated Americans’ retirement savings—401(k) millionaires, anyone?—and left many wrong-footed.