Let sound judgment and advice be your guide to retirement

Want to take control of your retirement planning, but don’t know how? You’re not alone. Most Americans want to manage their retirement portfolio on their own, but feel intimidated by the process, a new study reveals.

Nearly three-quarters of Americans said they’d love to manage their own retirement portfolio if they had the right knowledge and tools, according to a survey by Jemstep.com, an online investment advisor, and market research group, Harris Interactive. Meanwhile, 67 percent said they think retirement investing is complex and intimidating.

The good news is that planning for your future doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are four things you can do to take control:

• Know how much you have and need. When you’re dieting, it’s helpful to weigh yourself and set a goal weight. Retirement savings works the same way. How much money do you have and what do you need to save for retirement?

You can turn to free online tools for help. For example, CNN Money’s online calculator factors in your age, current income and savings to determine what you should be saving yearly to support 80 percent of your pre-retirement income. Visit cgi.money.cnn.com/tools to determine your goals.

• Create a diversified portfolio. Research shows that the single best thing you can do for your retirement portfolio is to diversify holdings. That means splitting money between different asset classes, such as stocks, bonds, cash and commodities.

Each asset class behaves differently under different market conditions. For example, when a recession hits, some asset classes might rise while others fall.  Diversifying means that your portfolio should be more stable.

How should you slice the pie? That depends on three things: your tolerance for risk, your goals, and the number of years until retirement.

• Select the best investments. Next, you’ll need to pick specific funds for each asset class. You might decide, for example, to put 20 percent of your portfolio in funds that represent the stocks of large, stable companies. Which funds should you choose?

When you’re making that choice, you’ll want to look at “fund characteristics,” such as the fees it charges, its historic returns, its volatility, and other factors.

If this sounds complex, don’t worry. There are resources that can help. For example, Portfolio Manager, a new service from Jemstep, analyzes your current portfolio, gives you a personalized investment strategy, and offers step-by-step instructions on what to buy and sell to build the ideal portfolio for you. More information is available at Jemstep.com.

• Stay on track: Things change over time. Stocks rise and fall. As they do, the weight of your different asset classes in your portfolio will change. Remember to periodically “rebalance” your portfolio with your diversification goals so you can maintain your target weights.

Retirement investing doesn’t have to be complex or intimidating, especially if you have the right tools at your fingertips.

(Article by StatePoint Media)