Life-Cycle Investing

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on July 04, 2023

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What Is Life-Cycle Investing?

Life-cycle investing is a financial planning approach that emphasizes the importance of tailoring investment strategies to an individual's changing needs and goals throughout their lifetime.

This approach aims to balance risk and return while achieving long-term financial objectives, such as retirement planning, wealth accumulation, and asset preservation.

A well-designed life-cycle investing strategy can help individuals manage their finances more effectively, enabling them to achieve their financial goals and maintain financial stability during different life stages.

By considering factors such as age, risk tolerance, and investment horizon, life-cycle investing provides a comprehensive framework for making informed financial decisions.

Life-Cycle Investing Framework

Life-cycle investing recognizes that an individual's financial needs and objectives change as they progress through different life stages. These stages typically include:

Early Career

During the early career stage, individuals typically focus on building their careers, paying off student loans, and saving for short-term goals, such as purchasing a car or starting a family.


In the mid-career stage, individuals often concentrate on wealth accumulation, saving for their children's education, and investing in a home or other real estate.

Late Career

During the late career stage, individuals generally prioritize maximizing their retirement savings, paying off any remaining debts, and planning for a financially secure retirement.


In the retirement stage, individuals shift their focus towards generating a steady income stream, preserving their wealth, and managing their assets to last throughout their retirement years.

Life Stages and Corresponding Financial Needs

Key Factors Influencing Life-Cycle Investing

Life-cycle investing takes into account several key factors that influence an individual's investment decisions, including:

  • Age: As individuals age, their investment horizon typically shortens, and their risk tolerance may decrease.

  • Risk Tolerance: Individuals' willingness to accept risk in their investment portfolio can impact their asset allocation and investment choices.

  • Investment Horizon: The length of time an individual has until they need to access their investments can affect their asset allocation and risk-taking approach.

  • Financial Goals: Different financial objectives may require different investment strategies and asset allocations.

Asset Allocation in Life-Cycle Investing

Diversification Across Asset Classes

A well-diversified portfolio is essential for managing risk and achieving long-term financial goals. Life-cycle investing emphasizes the importance of diversifying investments across various asset classes, including:


Equities can offer capital appreciation and potential dividend income, making them a crucial component of a long-term investment strategy.


Fixed-income securities, such as bonds, can provide a steady income stream and help preserve capital, making them an important part of a diversified portfolio.

Cash and Cash Equivalents

Cash and cash equivalents, such as money market funds or short-term CDs, can offer stability and liquidity, making them suitable for short-term financial needs or as a safety net during market downturns.

Real Estate

Investments in real estate, either directly or through vehicles like REITs, can provide diversification, income generation, and potential capital appreciation.

Alternative Investments

Alternative investments, such as private equity, hedge funds, or commodities, can offer additional diversification and potential return enhancement, although they often come with higher risks and lower liquidity.

Adjusting Asset Allocation Over Time

As individuals progress through their life cycle, their asset allocation should evolve to reflect their changing risk tolerance, investment horizon, and financial objectives. Strategies for adjusting asset allocation over time include:

Target-Date Funds

Target-date funds automatically adjust their asset allocation over time, gradually shifting from higher-risk investments, such as equities, to lower-risk investments, such as bonds and cash equivalents, as the target retirement date approaches.

This provides a convenient and relatively hands-off approach for individuals who prefer not to manage their investments actively.

Glide Path Strategies

Glide path strategies involve gradually adjusting an investor's asset allocation as they age, generally by reducing the proportion of higher-risk assets and increasing the proportion of lower-risk assets.

This approach can help investors balance risk and return appropriately throughout their life cycle.

Dynamic Asset Allocation

Dynamic asset allocation involves regularly reviewing and adjusting an investor's asset allocation based on changes in market conditions, investment performance, and personal circumstances.

This approach allows for greater flexibility and adaptability, helping investors stay on track to achieve their long-term financial goals.

Risk Management in Life-Cycle Investing

Understanding and Evaluating Risk

Effective risk management is essential for successful life-cycle investing. Investors should be aware of the various types of risk they may encounter in their portfolios, including:

Market Risk

Market risk refers to the potential for investment losses due to fluctuations in the overall market or specific asset classes.

Interest Rate Risk

Interest rate risk arises from changes in interest rates, which can impact the value of fixed-income investments, such as bonds.

Inflation Risk

Inflation risk refers to the possibility that rising prices will erode the purchasing power of an investor's assets and income over time.

Credit Risk

Credit risk arises from the potential for an issuer of fixed-income securities to default on their obligations, resulting in a loss to the investor.

Liquidity Risk

Liquidity risk refers to the possibility that an investor may be unable to quickly buy or sell an investment at a fair price, particularly in market stress.

Strategies for Managing Risk

There are several strategies that investors can employ to manage the various risks associated with life-cycle investing:

  • Diversification: Spreading investments across a range of asset classes, sectors, and geographic regions can help reduce the impact of any single investment on a portfolio's overall performance.

  • Rebalancing: Regularly reviewing and adjusting a portfolio's asset allocation can help maintain the desired level of risk and return over time.

  • Hedging: Employing hedging techniques, such as using options or futures contracts, can help protect a portfolio against specific risks or market downturns.

  • Risk Tolerance Adjustments: Periodically reassessing and adjusting an investor's risk tolerance can help ensure that their portfolio remains aligned with their changing needs and circumstances.

Savings and Retirement Planning in Life-Cycle Investing

Importance of Saving for Retirement

Saving for retirement is a critical component of life-cycle investing, as it helps ensure that individuals have adequate financial resources to maintain their desired lifestyle during their retirement years.

Retirement Savings Vehicles

A variety of retirement savings vehicles are available to help individuals accumulate wealth for their retirement, including:

Employer-Sponsored Retirement Plans

These tax-advantaged plans allow employees to contribute a portion of their pre-tax income to a retirement account, with many employers offering matching contributions up to a certain limit.

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs)

IRAs are tax-advantaged accounts that allow individuals to save for retirement independently of their employer. There are two primary types of IRAs: traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs, each with different tax treatment and eligibility requirements.

Other Savings and Investment Accounts

In addition to tax-advantaged retirement accounts, individuals can also save for retirement using other savings and investment vehicles, such as brokerage accounts, mutual funds, or certificates of deposit (CDs).

Estimating Retirement Income Needs

Individuals must estimate their retirement income needs based on factors such as life expectancy, desired retirement lifestyle, and anticipated expenses. This information can help inform an individual's savings goals and investment strategies throughout their life cycle.

Strategies for Generating Retirement Income

Once individuals reach retirement, their focus shifts from wealth accumulation to generating a sustainable income stream. Some strategies for generating retirement income include:

Withdrawal Strategies

Implementing a systematic withdrawal strategy, such as the 4% rule, can help individuals determine how much to withdraw from their retirement accounts each year to ensure their assets last throughout retirement.


Annuities are insurance products that provide a guaranteed income stream for a specified period or for the remainder of an individual's life, in exchange for a lump-sum payment or a series of payments.

Social Security Benefits

Social Security benefits can provide a reliable source of income during retirement, although the amount and timing of benefits will depend on factors such as an individual's earnings history and age at retirement.

Pension Plans

Defined benefit pension plans, which provide a guaranteed income based on factors such as salary and years of service, can be an important source of retirement income for those who have access to such plans.

Life-Cycle Investing and Behavioral Finance

Common Behavioral Biases in Investing

Behavioral finance recognizes that investors are not always rational and are often influenced by cognitive and emotional biases. Some common behavioral biases that can impact life-cycle investing decisions include:


Overconfidence can lead investors to underestimate the risks associated with their investments or to trade too frequently, potentially harming their long-term returns.

Loss Aversion

Loss aversion refers to the tendency for individuals to feel more pain from investment losses than pleasure from gains, which can lead to suboptimal investment decisions, such as holding onto losing investments for too long.

Herd Mentality

Herd mentality is the tendency for investors to follow the actions of others, often resulting in buying assets at high prices and selling at low prices.

Strategies for Overcoming Behavioral Biases

To make more informed and rational investment decisions, individuals can employ various strategies to overcome behavioral biases, including:

  • Developing a Disciplined Investment Approach: Establishing and adhering to a well-defined investment plan can help individuals avoid making impulsive decisions based on emotions or short-term market fluctuations.

  • Seeking Professional Advice: Working with a financial advisor can provide an objective perspective and help individuals make more informed investment decisions.

  • Periodic Review and Evaluation of Investment Decisions: Regularly reviewing and evaluating investment decisions can help individuals learn from their mistakes and improve their decision-making processes over time.

Monitoring and Adjusting Life-Cycle Investment Strategies

Regular Portfolio Review and Assessment

Regularly reviewing and assessing an individual's investment portfolio is crucial for ensuring that their life-cycle investing strategy remains aligned with their changing needs and circumstances.

Adjusting Strategies in Response to Life Events or Changes in Financial Goals

Life events, such as marriage, divorce, job loss, or child birth, can significantly impact an individual's financial needs and goals.

Adjusting life-cycle investment strategies in response to these changes is essential to ensure continued progress towards long-term financial objectives.

Importance of Staying Informed About Market Trends and Investment Opportunities

Keeping abreast of market trends and emerging investment opportunities can help individuals adapt their life-cycle investing strategies as needed to capitalize on new developments and maintain a well-diversified portfolio.


Life-cycle investing is a comprehensive financial planning approach that recognizes the importance of tailoring investment strategies to an individual's changing needs and goals throughout their lifetime.

Life-cycle investing provides a robust framework for managing risk, achieving long-term financial objectives, and maintaining financial stability during different life stages by considering factors such as age, risk tolerance, and investment horizon.

Implementing a well-designed life-cycle investing strategy can help individuals achieve their long-term financial goals and enjoy a more financially secure future.

By aligning investment decisions with their unique needs and circumstances, individuals can better navigate the various challenges and opportunities that arise throughout their lives.

Life-Cycle Investing FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

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