As I prepare for my annual look-ahead webcast with our CIO, Tim Buckley, I’m struck by the questions we’ve been receiving. Never before—not even during the global financial crisis—have investors come to us with such specific concerns about the movements of the markets and governments around the world. We’re living in unprecedented times, so we certainly can’t predict what 2017 will bring. And if you know Vanguard, you should know not to expect hot stock tips or “sure bets” from us either. But I do have four suggestions that I believe can help investors reach their goals:

  1. Prepare for uncertainty. Several political and economic events caught observers by surprise in 2016, including the results of the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom and the presidential election in the United States. Markets respond to surprises with volatility, and we expect more surprises in 2017. With a new U.S. administration comes the potential for changes to policies that affect investors. Some may be beneficial; some may trigger market volatility. The best approach in any environment is to maintain a long-term perspective and a balanced and diversified portfolio.
  2. Save more. In addition to potential near-term volatility, we expect the stock and bond markets to produce lower returns in the next ten years than they have over the past several decades. This will place the burden on investors to save more. We recommend saving 12% to 15% of your income (including any employer match) for retirement. Saving more is an asymmetrical proposition: If you don’t save enough and the markets don’t bail you out, there’s nothing you can do. If you over-save and do well, great—you can retire a few years earlier.
  3. Safeguard your assets. As the threat of cybercrime continues to grow, we work hard to protect our clients’ assets and data. But investors must be aware of the risks and take precautions too. One action you can take to further protect your accounts is to sign up for a security code on vanguard.com. It’s a simple step that can make your assets even more secure.
  4. Stay well-informed. Great investors understand how all the pieces fit together. Become familiar with all the funds in your portfolio and know the role that each one plays in your investment plan. Stay abreast of the markets and economy, but don’t be driven by their movements. I realize it sounds paradoxical to say stay current but resist the urge to act. But that’s exactly what you should do.

If you need help doing any of the above, we’re here for you. Thank you for entrusting your assets to Vanguard.

Here’s to a prosperous 2017,

Bill

Notes: All investing is subject to risk, including the possible loss of the money you invest. Bonds are subject to the risk that an issuer will fail to make payments on time, and that bond prices will decline because of rising interest rates or negative perceptions of an issuer’s ability to make payments.

Diversification does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss.