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Special Report

Morningstar's 5-Point Retirement Portfolio Checkup

Jan. 26-30: Check your savings progress, assess your asset allocation, evaluate performance, size up your individual holdings, and get new ideas with model portfolios from Morningstar.

  • "When the market's up, I check my portfolio. If my portfolio's up, I'm happy."
  • "When the market's down, I don't check my portfolio--unless it's really down."
  • "I'm saving whatever I can manage for retirement; I hope it's enough."

These quotes, in one form or another, came up again and again as we interviewed individual investors a few months ago as part of a product-research effort here at Morningstar. The discussions, which were focused on investment process and monitoring, surfaced many interesting details, but a couple of key themes really stood out.

First, investors lack good benchmarks. It's hard to sneeze at portfolio gains, but did your funds really perform well? If they're lagging their peers, is there a good reason? How do you know if you've earned as much as you should have or could have? Could you have gotten the same return with less volatility or with a lower-fee investment? When it comes to savings, you may be maximizing your company 401(k) match, but is that really enough to fund a comfortable retirement? Many investors sorely need a yardstick.

Given this lack of benchmarks, many investors' check-ins aren't nearly as productive as they could be. Some folks love doing their investing homework, immersing themselves in fund performance charts and portfolio data. Others aren't quite as diehard. But whether they enjoy the process of investing or not, everyone wants to know they've done this job well--that their portfolios have the right mix of solid investments and are staying on track to get them where they want to go.

This special report aims to bring some efficient structure to your portfolio checkup. That means establishing good targets and benchmarks, knowing what to look for, and setting the right expectations. At the end, your check-ins should be no longer than they need to be, but more informative than they've ever been. Stay tuned to this page all week, Jan. 26-30, as we'll add new reports daily.

Monday: Check Up on Your Saving and Spending Plan
Even the best investments can't make up for years of under-saving. On Monday, we'll help retirement savers benchmark their progress and give retirees tips on maintaining a sustainable withdrawal rate. We'll also offer some ideas for bumping up your savings rate.

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.

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.

3 Simple Ways to Bump Up Your Savings Rate
Enforced discipline is key to ensuring you're saving enough to meet your needs, says Morningstar director of personal finance Christine Benz.

Tuesday: Check Up on Your Asset Allocation
Next, we'll help you check your portfolio against your allocation targets (or put targets in place if you don't already have them) and discuss when and how your allocation targets should change. We'll also help you place your assets in the right kind of investment accounts for tax efficiency. 

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

Rebalancing Moves You May Need to Make
Investors who haven't checked in for a while may find their U.S. stock allocation is oversized compared with their overseas and bond holdings.

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

Wednesday: Check Up on Your Portfolio's Performance
2014 was a surprisingly good year for U.S. markets, but how did your portfolioperform? We'll discuss the nuts and bolts of setting up a custom benchmark and analyzing your portfolio's risks, including a discussion of market valuation, interest rate, and inflation concerns.

A Roadmap for Assessing Retirement Portfolio Performance
Comparing your portfolio with a good target-date fund or a customized benchmark can help you determine how you're doing.

Expected Stock and Bond Returns: Time to Get Real
In the short term, almost anything can happen, but in the long run, returns will likely be lower than recent history, says Morningstar markets editor Jeremy Glaser.

3 Risks That Might Be Lurking in Your Portfolio
Investors should keep an eye on valuations and gauge their portfolios' vulnerability to inflation and rising interest rates when rebalancing, says Morningstar's Christine Benz.

Thursday: Check Up on Your Individual Holdings
On Thursday, we'll help you size up your individual stock and fund holdings' performance and check up on fund fundamentals. Plus, we'll help you deal with any stinkers among your investments.

A Quick Guide to Reviewing Your Holdings
Benchmarking performance and watching key metrics are essential to evaluating whether your retirement holdings are doing their job.

3 Good Reasons to Sell a Fund
Persistent performance problems across market cycles, management or strategy changes, or your own personal situation may necessitate a sale, says Morningstar's Christine Benz.

When's the Right Time to Sell a Stock?
Investors should compare share price to intrinsic value and also consider their alternatives before making a move, says StockInvestor editor Matt Coffina.

Friday: Check Out Our Model Portfolios for Savers and Retirees
Get ideas for further improvement on Friday from director of personal finance Christine Benz's model portfolios for retirement savers and bucket portfolios for retirees. We'll tell you how to apply our portfolios to refine your own or use them as a basis when starting from scratch.

How to Use Morningstar's Retirement Portfolios
Savers and retirees alike can turn to our portfolios for ideas about asset allocation, benchmarking, and specific investments, says Christine Benz.

Morningstar's Bucket Model Portfolios for Retirees
Setting aside one to two years' worth of living expenses in one bucket can make it easier for retirees to also hold more volatile assets with higher potential returns for the later years of retirement.

Morningstar's Model Retirement Saver Portfolios
For investors who are accumulating assets for retirement, we create strategic ETF and mutual fund portfolios.

Morningstar Individual Investor Conference
March 21, 2015 | 9:00 a.m. CDT

Get a fresh outlook on the market and your investments at our FREE online conference. Join us for a day tailored to help individual investors strengthen their finances by uncovering strategies for building better portfolios from a variety of Morningstar's analysts and noted outside experts.

The day's agenda includes:
1. Today's Market
2. Making Money Last in Retirement
3. Model Portfolios for Retirement Savers
4. Morningstar Medalists
5. Our Favorite Funds in All Flavors
6. Morningstar's Dividend Playbook