"You need an adequate amount of equities to keep up with inflation in retirement," he says. "If you'll want to spend money — take a cruise, buy plane tickets to see your grandchildren — you will need growth. You shouldn't have a long-term strategy that is based on short-term events like yesterday's headlines."
Lee Rosenberg, president of American Investment Planners in Jericho, N.Y., offers a slightly different strategy. If you're cautious, consider swapping assets — for instance, selling equities that performed poorly in recent years — and buying into utilities, mutual funds comprised of dividend-paying blue chip companies or short-term bond funds. These investments tend to be less volatile.
For investors nearing retirement, with a portfolio that's divided equally among bonds and equities, for example, Rosenberg suggests moving 10 percent from stocks to bonds for added security.
"Moving into short-term bonds or mutual funds that are highly liquid … puts your money on the sidelines and out of harm's way for a period of time, say, one to three months," he says.
Building a retirement nest egg is tremendously important, but a steady stream of guaranteed income could make all the difference in achieving a comfortable, secure retirement.
To that end, Dan Keady, CFP, director of financial planning at TIAA-CREF, says that if your employer will let you convert your 401(k) into a fixed-income annuity, you should give it serious thought. Having a portion of your investments in a fixed annuity can provide some protection in this investment climate.
"It's not just having a nest egg, it's having a steady income stream," Keady says. "Let's make sure that individuals nearing retirement don't have their own fiscal cliff."
Consult your financial adviser for advice regarding your personal situation.
Carole Fleck is a senior editor at AARP Media.