What are lifestyle funds & should you be investing in them?

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Lifestyle funds are investment funds that base their asset allocation on someone’s age, risk tolerance, and investing goals. Individuals who want to grow wealth over the long term in a relatively hands-off way might consider lifestyle investing.

There are different types of lifestyle funds investors may choose from, based on their appetite for risk, the level of risk needed to achieve their goals, and their investing time horizon. Lifestyle assets often also appear inside different types of retirement accounts, including employer-sponsored retirement plans and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs).

Whether becoming a lifestyle investor makes sense for you can depend on what you hope to achieve with your portfolio, how much risk you’re comfortable taking, and your overall time horizon for investing.

Related: 10 popular investment trends

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What Are Lifestyle Funds?

A lifestyle fund or lifestyle investment holds a mix of investments that reflect an investor’s goals and risk tolerance. These investment funds tailor their investment mix to a specific investor’s needs and age to provide a simplified solution for reaching their goals.

Lifestyle funds may invest in both equities (i.e. stocks) and fixed-income securities, such as bonds and notes. These funds may require fewer decisions by the asset owner, since they adjust automatically through changing lifestyle needs until you reach retirement. With lifestyle assets, as with other types of funds, it’s important to consider the balance between risk and reward.

Lifestyle funds that carry a higher degree of risk may offer higher returns to investors, while those that are more conservative in terms of risk may yield lower returns.

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How Do Lifestyle Funds Work?

Typically purchased through a retirement account or a brokerage account, lifestyle funds work by creating a diversified portfolio to meet an investor where they are, while also taking into account where they’d like to be 10, 20 or 30 years from now.

An investor can choose from an initial lifestyle fund allocation, then adjust the risk level up or down based on their preferences. A fund manager reviews the asset allocation for the fund and rebalances periodically to help an investor stay on track with their goals.

The level of risk an investor takes may correlate to the average age of retirement, which for most people is around 65. So, someone who’s 25 years old now has 40 years to invest for the future, meaning they can afford to take more risk to achieve their goals. As they get older, their tolerance for risk may decrease which could mean moving away from stocks and toward fixed-income investments.

Unlike target-date funds, the level of risk in lifestyle funds doesn’t change significantly over time. So, if you were to choose an aggressive lifestyle fund at 25, the asset allocation of that fund would more or less be the same at age 65. That’s important to understand for choosing the lifestyle fund that’s appropriate for your risk tolerance and goals.

Recommended: Explaining Asset Allocation by Age

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Two Stages of Lifestyle Funds

Lifestyle investing can work in different stages, depending on where you are in your investing journey. Lifestyle funds accommodate these different stages by adjusting their asset allocation.

This is something the fund manager can do to ensure that you’re working toward your goals without overexposing yourself to risk along the way. The two stages of lifestyle funds are the growth stage and the retirement target date stage.

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1. Growth Stage

The growth stage represents the period in which a lifestyle investor is actively saving and investing. During the growth stage, the emphasis is on diversifying investments to achieve the appropriate balance between risk and reward. This phase represents the bulk of working years for most people as they move from starting their careers to reaching their peak earnings.

In the growth stage, lifestyle funds hold an asset allocation that reflects the investor’s goals and appetite for risk. Again, whether this is more conservative, aggressive or somewhere in-between depends on the individual investor. At this time, the investor is typically concerned with funding retirement accounts, rather than withdrawing from them.

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2. Retirement Target Date

The retirement target date stage marks the beginning of the countdown to retirement for an investor. During this stage, the focus shifts to preparing the investor to begin drawing an income from their portfolio, rather than making new contributions or investments.

At this point, a lifestyle investor may have to decide whether they want to maintain their existing asset allocation, shift some or all of their assets into other investments (such as an annuity) or begin drawing them down in cash.

For example, an investor in their mid-50s may decide to move from an aggressive lifestyle fund to a moderate or conservative lifestyle fund, depending on their needs, anticipated retirement date, and how much risk they’re comfortable taking.

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Different Types of Lifestyle Funds

Lifestyle funds aren’t all alike and there are different options investors may choose from. There are different ways lifestyle funds can be structured, including:

  • Income-focused funds. These lifestyle funds aim to produce income for investors, though capital appreciation may be a secondary goal. Fixed-income securities typically make up the bulk of lifestyle income funds, though they may still include some equity holdings.
  • Growth-focused funds. Lifestyle growth funds are the opposite of lifestyle income funds. These funds aim to provide investors with long-term capital appreciation and place less emphasis on current income.
  • Conservative asset allocation funds. Conservative lifestyle funds may have a long-term goal of achieving a set total return through both capital appreciation and current income. These funds tend to carry lower levels of risk than other lifestyle funds.
  • Moderate asset allocation funds. Moderate lifestyle funds often take a middle ground approach in terms of risk and reward. These funds may use a “fund of funds” strategy, which primarily involves investing other mutual funds.
  • Aggressive asset allocation funds. Aggressive lifestyle funds may also use a “fund of funds” approach, though with a slightly different focus. These funds take on more risk, though rewards may be greater as they seek long-term capital appreciation.

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Lifestyle Investment Risks

Investing for retirement with lifestyle assets has some risks, so it’s important to make sure that the fund you choose matches your risk tolerance. Risk tolerance refers to the amount of risk an investor is comfortable taking in their portfolio. Risk capacity is the amount of risk needed to achieve investment goals.

Typically, younger investors can afford to take more risk in the early years of their investment career as they have more time to recover from market declines. But if that investor has a low risk tolerance, they may still choose to stick with more conservative investments. If their risk tolerance doesn’t match up with the amount of risk they need to take to achieve their investment goals, they could fall far short of them.

When considering lifestyle funds, it’s important to consider your risk mix and risk level. While lifestyle funds can simplify investing in that you don’t necessarily need to make day-to-day trading decisions, it’s still important to consider how your risk tolerance and risk capacity may evolve over time.

As you move from the growth stage to the retirement target date stage, for instance, you may need to make some adjustments to your lifestyle fund choices in order to keep pace with your desired goals.

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Advantages of Lifestyle Funds

In addition to their risks, lifestyle funds offer numerous advantages to investors, starting with simplicity. When you invest in a lifestyle fund, you know more or less what to expect in terms of asset allocation, based on the risk tolerance that you specify. These funds don’t require you to be an active investor in order to realize returns.

Some funds also automatically rebalance on behalf of investors, so there’s very little you need to do, other than be mindful of how the fund’s risk mix reflects your risk tolerance at any given time.

A lifestyle fund can offer broad diversification, allowing you to gain exposure to a variety of assets without having to purchase individual stocks, bonds or other securities.

Compared to other types of mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs), lifestyle funds may carry lower expense ratios. That can allow you to retain more of your investment returns over time.

Finally, lifestyle funds encourage investors to stay invested through market ups and downs. That can help you to even out losses through dollar-cost averaging.

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Lifestyle Funds vs Target Date Funds

If you have a 401(k), then you’re likely familiar with target date funds as they’re commonly offered in workplace retirement plans. A target date fund, or lifecycle fund, is a mutual fund that adjusts its asset allocation automatically, based on the investor’s target retirement date. These funds are distinguishable from lifestyle funds because they typically have a year in their name.

So, a Target Date 2050 fund, for example, would attract investors who plan to retire in the year 2050. Target date funds also take a diversified approach to investing, with asset allocations that include both stocks and fixed-income securities.

The difference between target date funds and lifestyle funds is that target date funds follow a specific glide path. As the investor gets closer to their target retirement date, the fund’s asset allocation adjusts to become more conservative. Lifestyle funds don’t do that; instead, the asset allocation remains the same.

Recommended: Target-date Funds vs. Index Funds: Key Differences

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FAQ

What is a lifestyle pension fund?

 

A pension fund is a type of defined benefit plan, in which employees receive retirement benefits based on their earnings and years of service. A lifestyle pension fund is a pension fund that allocates assets using a lifestyle strategy in order to meet an investor’s goals and needs.

What is a lifestyle strategy?

 

In investing, a lifestyle strategy is an approach that chooses investments that can help an investor to reach specific milestones or goals while keeping their age and risk tolerance in mind. With lifestyle funds, the asset allocation doesn’t change substantially over time.

What is a lifestyle profile?

 

A lifestyle profile is a tool that investors use to help them select the most appropriate lifestyle funds based on their age, risk tolerance goals.

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The Takeaway

Whether you choose to invest with lifestyle funds, target date funds, or something else, the most important thing is to get started saving for retirement. The longer your time horizon until retirement, the more time your money has to grow through the power of compounding interest.

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