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What's in Your Retirement Portfolio?

It may depend on whether you're a lion, a turtle or an ostrich

What every investor needs to know

At the very least, before you do anything, you have to ask yourself, "How much can I afford to lose?" Answering that one question will guide you into the right portfolio.

To focus your thinking, draft a written answer declaring how you want your money invested. The result can be a flexible, risk-adjusted portfolio, with diversification that will save you from being tempted to constantly react to market conditions.

Should you not want to go it alone, get help. Contact a fee-only certified financial planner, registered investment adviser or any fiduciary — someone who's legally required to put your interests first. That means avoiding brokers, insurance agents and others who sell on commission and aren't really in the advice business.

A fiduciary adviser can also help you craft an investment policy statement, rebalance your portfolio when needed and generally keep you out of trouble.

Online resources

Putting together a portfolio is complicated. Here's a list of websites that can help you track down specific investments or create a portfolio with a professional.

  • Yahoo Finance is fairly easy to use. Check out its "Investing Ideas" section for specific stocks and funds.
  • Folio Investing. This site does most of the work for you by selecting from more than 100 "ready to go" portfolios that can best match what you want to do.
  • MyPlanIQ. Similar to Folio Investing, this site allows you to tailor your portfolio even more to your risk profile.

John F. Wasik is a personal finance columnist for Reuters and the author of 13 books, including The Cul-de-Sac Syndrome.

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