Investing Like Vegas—Know When to Take Some Off the Table

By Todd VolkmanFOXBusiness

My friends like to joke with me every time the “planning talks” start for another group Vegas trip. I am always reminded of my last adventure to the “Fantasy World of Dreams,” where greed overtook common sense and added me to the long list of Vegas losers. Oh how tiring the walk through the airport terminal can be after a tough night or two on the black jack tables.

Continue Reading Below

I, like some of us who have experienced Sin City, was on a bit of run. Nothing like you see in the movies, where rags to riches seems to be the redundant plot line, but rather more of a “might pay for the trip and a nice dinner at Prime for my friends and me” type of run. My humble stack of chips quickly grew into one of those small leaning towers, and I was exchanging red and blue chips ($10 and $25) for blacks ($100). The fever was contagious! People I didn’t even know were high-fiving me. Roars of “Double down!” echoed through my head like Camden Crazies cheering for the Blue Devils! And when I drew the face card on the 11, I felt like Michael Jordan draining 3s on Clyde Drexler in the 92 finals! Ok, maybe I am exaggerating a bit, but it was fun.

I can still hear the haunting echo of my lovely and prudent wife saying, “Honey, you have done great. You should go put some of those winnings in the room safe.” Logical? Yes! Reality? No!

Are you kidding me? I was on a roll. Visions of free suites, limos to shows, shopping sprees to Nieman’s Vegas for my wife! Take money off the table and put it in the room? Come on! Get real.

Well, I am sure you can guess what happened next. The tables went from hot like Tiger Woods in 2002 to more like Tiger Woods 2010, from fire to ice in about 1 hour and with it, my dreams of free suites and limo rides turned into “Where can I find the $5 dollar all night buffet?” The stack of chips, gone like a freight train, gone like yesterday!

Now I tell this story because many investors over the age of 50 have accumulated a nice balance in their 401k or IRA accounts. Most of this money has been invested in stock and bond mutual funds, which is subject to the volatility of both the equity and fixed income markets. Just like my reasonable wife suggested in Vegas, why not take some off the table or, in this case, out of the stock and bond mutual funds and invest in an annuity? Many of the annuities today can give the investor guaranteed income for life, guaranteed growth on their income balance through income riders, and protect their principal from loss. Sort of like putting some of your winnings in the safe, why not put some of your retirement money in a vehicle that can protect it from losses, and insure you have income until the day you die?

Now human nature is to keep investing in your mutual funds. Change is difficult. It requires paperwork, due diligence, leaving your comfort zone, or spending 45 minutes with an advisor. Yikes! Who has that kind of time? Wait a minute though. Shouldn’t my retirement plan get at least 45 minutes of attention per year?

That walk to the room while I was in Vegas doesn’t seem like such a hassle or nuisance now that I look back, and nor will taking the time to look at some ways to insure your retirement. Just look at all the things in life where you “take a little off the table” and how it improves your life. You eat a little less, which causes you to lose weight and often leads to a longer life. You downsize your house with a less expensive, smaller home, thus reducing mortgage payments and likely utility bills as well. Why would planning ahead with your 401k or IRA be any different?

Life as we age is about security and enjoyment. Look at an annuity with guaranteed income and/or guaranteed income growth benefits. Take a little off the table, and enjoy the trip. You have earned it.

Todd Volkman is a retirement planning expert based out of Addison, Texas. Contact Todd by visiting his website or calling him at (972) 386-2901.