How are you saving for retirement? Do you divide your investments for both your short and long-term goals? How can you get the best out of your savings without missing out on the adventures of today? 

These were some of the questions we asked Christine Benz. She shared her insights on our latest episode of the Stocks4Docs Podcast.

Christine Benz is the Personal Finance Director for Morningstar. Barons recognized her among the Top 100 Most Influential Women in US Finance in 2020 and 2021. 

She has almost three decades of experience in personal finance. To learn her recommendations on the market, savings, and more, please read on. 


Why Is It Important to Have a Number? How Do We Calculate It? 

The quick and dirty rule of thumb is the four percent guideline. The four percent guideline gets tossed around in many investment circles. But, what is the four percent guideline? 

The guideline suggests living off of four percent of your portfolio in retirement. That takes into account that you have other sources besides your portfolio. Those other sources could be social security, a pension, rental properties, etc. 


She recommends if you’re closer to retirement age now, go with three percent. The reason being is it’s a more conservative number given the recent market. 

She also mentioned another way to calculate your number.  Ask yourself how much you would need to pay yourself an annual salary for 25 years or more. So let’s say you make $50,000 per year. Your number would be 50,000 times 25, which is $1.25 million. 

If that seems like a lot of money, it’s because it is. So how do you start saving now to reach your number? Christine shared her thoughts. 


Savings Strategies

Christine is a big advocate of using saving strategies with the highest ROI at the time. For instance, that could be paying off a high-interest credit card debt. You want to make sure you’re using your money for the highest return on your investment. 

She believes in automating your savings strategy with portfolio contributions or savings accounts. Additionally, she believes you should never forget your time horizon. Depending on your short and long-term goals, paying down debt may make more sense than saving at times. 

You want to divide your savings into more than one asset location. That limits your risk. For young professionals, she recommends Jim Dahle’s White Coat Investor site. It has tips on paying down student loan debt. 


How to Construct Your Portfolio

Christine’s advice is to keep it simple. There’s nothing wrong with starting or staying with index funds. Sure, they may be boring, but they are effective. She also recommends exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

Automate your contributions for greater earnings. She also recommends focusing on your time horizon. Your time horizon could be retirement, but it could also be a short-term goal. 

For instance, if you have a child going off to college in a few years, you’ll want to invest in a different way. She mentions you should calibrate your investments for both short and long-term goals. 

So how can you save for later while still enjoying today? 


Saving For Later vs. Paying for Now

It can be challenging to save for tomorrow while you’re paying for today. Her recommendation: make a list. 


She has never been in the camp of forsaking the here and now for future plans. Instead, she focuses on building a list with her family. 

On that list, she puts two columns. One column is for things that add value, and another for things that add joy. These items are areas to spend in. Anything outside of those areas tends to be an attempt to keep up with others, so she invests that money. 

She recommends that professionals young and old pick up the book I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Rehmit Sethi. It provides excellent insight into personal finance. 


Handling Events In the Market

Christine advises new investors not to get duped by the latest bear market. It’s an anomaly. Usual bear markets can last eighteen months to two years. 

She also advised investors with short-term goals. “Take your money and run or think about de-risking part of your portfolio.”

What are her thoughts on the future of the market? Plan for significant volatility over the next ten years. That’s the reason she advises de-risking your portfolio and diversifying your assets. 


What Are Your Personal Finance Goals? 

We hope this article helps you get focused on your personal finance goals. If you liked this article, please share it with your friends on social media or continue reading on our blog

Looking for more great content about investing, personal finance, and more? Keep tuning into the Stocks4Docs Podcast.

Christine Benz is director of personal finance for Morningstar and senior columnist for In that role, she focuses on retirement and portfolio planning for individual investors. She also co-hosts a podcast for Morningstar, The Long View, which features in-depth interviews with thought leaders in investing and personal finance. She is a frequent public speaker and is widely quoted in the media, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, CNBC, and PBS. In 2020, Barron’s named her to its inaugural list of the 100 most influential women in finance; she appeared on the 2021 list as well.

Benz is author of 30-Minute Money Solutions: A Step-by-Step Guide to Managing Your Finances (Wiley, 2010). Benz is also co-author of Morningstar® Guide to Mutual Funds: 5-Star Strategies for Success, a national bestseller published in 2003, and author of the book’s second edition, which was published in 2005. Before assuming her current role in 2008, she served as Morningstar’s director of mutual fund analysis and was editor of Morningstar Mutual Funds and Morningstar FundInvestor.

Benz holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and Russian/East European studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is a board member of the John C. Bogle Center for Financial Literacy. Benz is also a member of The Alpha Group, a group of thought leaders from the wealth management industry from across the country. In her free time, she works with underprivileged women to improve their understanding of personal finance concepts.