Choosing investments for your IRA

Learn about options and strategies for investing to match your life stage, your personality, and your goals for retirement.

The benefits of investing your IRA savings

You're saving in an IRA. Congrats! You've taken an important step on the road to a comfortable retirement. But for most people, that's not enough. The next step is investing your savings for long-term growth. And history shows that the best way to do that over the long term—and outpace inflation—is by investing in stocks.

Of course, stock prices can have bigger price swings than bonds or cash. But on average over longer-term periods, stocks have dramatically outperformed bonds and cash. From 1926 through 2016, stocks returned an average 10% annually, versus 5.4% for bonds and 3.5% for short-term investments. If you had invested $100 in stocks in 1926, it would be worth $587,000, versus $11,800 if you'd invested in bonds and $2,300 in short-term instruments.1

Still stock shy? Remember, if you have a decade or more until retirement, you should be able to ride out market volatility, as long as you continue to save and invest. Indeed, market pullbacks, when prices are low, are often the best times to invest for long-term growth potential. So consider your time horizon and stomach for risk, and put your IRA dollars to work for your future.

What $100 would be worth over the history of the stock market

lose to inflation
Data source: Morningstar, Inc., 2017 (January 1926–December 2016). Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The asset class (index) returns reflect the reinvestment of dividends and other earnings. This chart is for illustrative purposes only and does not represent actual or future performance of any investment option. It is not possible to invest directly in a market index. Stocks are represented by the Standard & Poor’s 500? Index (S&P 500? Index), bonds by the U.S. Intermediate Government Bond Index, short-term investments by U.S. Treasury bills, and inflation by the Consumer Price Index. Numbers are rounded for simplicity.

Your IRA investment choices

IRAs allow you to choose from individual securities, such as stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit (CDs), exchange-traded funds (ETFs), or a "single-fund" option. But before you decide what investments to pick, you should consider how you want to manage them: You can lean on the expertise of a professional, or do the work yourself.

Simplified options

Not enough time, knowledge, or interest to build and manage an asset mix? Consider a managed account or single-fund solution.

Fidelity? managed accounts2
We'll work with you to learn your goals and how you want to work with us, then propose and manage a strategy around what matters most to you.

Single-fund options
Fidelity Freedom? Funds are single-fund investment strategies that can help take the guesswork out of building and maintaining an age-based retirement portfolio.

Self-directed investments

Interested in choosing and managing your own investments? You can choose individual securities to build your own portfolio.

Considerations to help you choose investments


What kind of investor are you?

There's no one right way to approach investing—only the right one for you. You may be a DIY investor or like working with a professional. And your preferences may change over time as you do. The key is to understand your own investing needs and goals so you can make the right choices and have more confidence about your financial future.

How much risk can you stomach?

Stocks, bonds, and cash come with different levels of risk and potential reward. Stocks, while the most volatile, have historically had higher potential for growth. So if you can hold an investment for a long time, you may benefit from the higher growth as you ride out market volatility. On the other hand, if you'll need the money in just a few years—or if the prospect of losing money makes you too nervous—consider a higher allocation to generally less volatile investments, such as bonds and short-term investments.

When do you need your money?

One of the keys to successful investing is learning how to balance your comfort level with risk against your time horizon. Invest your retirement nest egg too conservatively at a young age, and you run the risk that the growth rate of your investments won’t keep pace with inflation. Conversely, if you invest too aggressively when you’re older, you could leave your savings exposed to market volatility, which could erode the value of your assets at an age when you have fewer opportunities to recoup your losses.

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