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Special Report

Morningstar's 5-Step Retirement-Portfolio Assessment

Gauge the viability of your overall strategy, check your asset allocation, evaluate the quality of your investments, and more.

Extreme stock market gyrations have a way of dashing the confidence of both retirees and retirement savers. Having seen their balances recently take a hit, they wonder: Will I have enough? Should I reduce my stock exposure, or swap into holdings that entail less risk? Or should I gun for riskier investments in an effort to make up for a shortfall?

Lying awake worrying about these questions isn't productive; answering them concretely is. Morningstar's 5-Point Retirement-Portfolio Assessment special report is designed to help investors gauge the viability of their retirement plans, step by step. Of course, how much you save and how much you spend, both in the years leading up to and during retirement, will be the major determinant of your retirement plan's success or failure. But portfolio construction and quality can also make a difference, so we'll cover those issues, too. For investors who determine some changes are in order, the report will include concrete, action-oriented ideas.

Monday | Jan. 25: Check Up on Your Portfolio's Viability
Will I have enough? Am I at risk of running out? For retirement accumulators and people already retired, those are THE questions. On Monday, we'll give you some guidelines for answering them with certainty. For those who have run the numbers and determined they'll confront a savings shortfall as they hurtle toward retirement age, we'll share some ideas on how to make a save.

Accumulators: Is Your Retirement Plan on Track?
Rules of thumb won't cut it for this important question; how to customize based on your own situation.

Retirees: Are You Spending Too Much?
The 4% guideline can put you in the right ballpark, but the best spending policies factor in time horizon, asset allocation, and market fluctuations.

3 Key Gauges on Your Retirement Dashboard
Be sure to keep tabs your withdrawal rate, cash reserves, and a good performance benchmark for your investments, says Morningstar's Christine Benz.

How to Close a Retirement Savings Gap
A trio of financial planners shares their tips for addressing a retirement shortfall.

Tuesday | Jan. 26: Gauge Your Asset Allocation
A portfolio's mix of stocks and bonds will be the most important determinant of how it behaves, but the "right" asset allocation depends on a lot of factors--time horizon, nonportfolio retirement assets like pensions, and risk capacity, to name some of the biggies. Tuesday's lineup will help you home in on an asset allocation that's customized to your own situation and preferences.

Are You an Asset-Allocation Outlier?
From pensions to small-business ownership, how to know if your mix of stocks, bonds, and cash should not look like the others'.

Is Your Retirement Portfolio's Asset Allocation on Track?
Some guidance on setting--and not forgetting--your portfolio's stock/bond/cash mix.

6 Retirement Asset-Allocation Pitfalls to Avoid
Make sure your portfolio's stock/bond mix factors in your risk capacity, nonportfolio income sources, and nonretirement goals.

Wednesday | Jan. 27: Evaluate Holdings Quality
Many investors end up with a "collection" of investments, some of which appear well poised for the future and others that may be past their prime. On Wednesday, we'll discuss how to ensure that all of your retirement-portfolio holdings are best of breed. We'll also tackle how retirees can maintain ample growth potential in their portfolios while also choosing holdings that limit downside volatility. We'll pay special attention to the role of dividend-paying stocks in retiree portfolios.

Morningstar's Top Retirement Fund Picks for Minimalists
Whether you're seeking a single-fund option or using the building-block approach, here are some of our analysts' best ideas.

Find the Right Investments for Your Retirement Portfolio
Your knowledge level, desire to be hands-on, tax status, and tolerance for short-term volatility can help you identify the right investments.

Key Factors When Evaluating Funds for a Retirement Portfolio
Investors need to look beyond recent performance and ratings and consider costs, returns during a full market cycle, and fit, among other elements.

Retirees: Key Factors for Picking Dividend-Payers
The income stream from dividend-payers can play a special role in funding portfolio withdrawals, but they are no substitute for bonds, says Morningstar's Josh Peters.

Thursday | Jan. 28: Optimize Your Portfolio for Tax Efficiency
It's bad enough that many market experts are calling for muted returns from stocks and bonds in the decade ahead; it's worse still that taxes, investment costs, and inflation all will take a bite out of those gains. On Thursday, we focus specifically on reducing the tax drag on your portfolio via proper asset location and withdrawal sequencing. We'll also discuss why taxable accounts should be part of the tool kit for retirement accumulators and retirees alike.

Get a Tax-Smart Plan for In-Retirement Withdrawals
Consider these strategies to stretch out your tax savings during your retirement years.

Don't Be Dogmatic About Retirement-Portfolio Withdrawals
In high- (or low-) tax years, retirees may have reason to flout the rules of thumb on withdrawal sequencing.

Are You Holding Your Assets in the Right Types of Accounts?
Taking care with asset placement can result in big tax savings.

6 Reasons a Taxable Account Should Be Part of Your Retirement Portfolio
Currently low tax rates are one of the key reasons that taxable accounts should be part of most investors' tool kits.

Friday | Jan. 29: Formulate Your Drawdown Strategy
Today's still-low yields are a head-scratcher for individuals approaching retirement. If they can't make do on a 2% yield a year (and who can?), should they venture into higher-yielding alternatives like high-yield bonds, MLPs, and bank loans? On Friday, we discuss the pros and cons of various strategies for generating cash flow from an in-retirement portfolio. We also cover how a total-return approach can help retirees maintain balanced portfolios while extracting the cash flows that they need.

Generating Cash Flow With the Bucket Approach
The best strategies allow investors to be strategic when tapping long-term assets.

Income vs. Total Return: Who Says You Need to Take Sides?
Don't get hung up on labels; the best approach melds both strategies.

Pros and Cons of Income-Generating Strategies in Retirement
Living off of current yields is just one way to extract the cash flow you need.