Is It Better to Have Stocks or Bonds in an IRA?

Monday, March 4th 2024

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) can be invaluable tools in planning for retirement. One question investors often struggle with is which asset class they should allocate their IRA towards: stocks or bonds? As is often the case with financial matters, the answer to this depends on several factors – risk tolerance, time horizon and overall goals for investment are just three considerations to keep in mind when making this decision.

Understand Stocks and Bonds

Before determining if stocks or bonds would make the best investments for an IRA, it’s crucial to understand both investment vehicles.

Risk Tolerance

All investments involve some form of risk; however, the levels vary considerably across stocks and bonds.

Stocks are notoriously more volatile, meaning their value can quickly fluctuate up or down in an instantaneous way. While this volatility could result in significant returns, it also means there is the possibility that you could potentially lose all your investments.

Bonds are considered safer investments. Offering a fixed interest rate (1), so long as their issuer doesn’t default, you should get your initial investment back when the bond matures. But even bonds don’t guarantee return – there is always the risk of issuer default and inflation can reduce purchasing power of payments made from them.

Time Horizon

Your time horizon, or how much money you plan to invest until needing access, should be an important deciding factor when selecting stocks or bonds for an IRA investment portfolio.

Stocks offer higher long-term returns, making them a good option for younger investors who can bear market fluctuations over a longer timeframe.

Bonds are useful investments for individuals nearing retirement, since they offer steady interest payments that return the principal at maturity – providing more reliable income that could soon form part of their living expenses.

Financial Goals

Investors should carefully consider their long-term goals when deciding between stocks and bonds.

Stocks may be the right investment choice if your objective is growth. They offer the possibility for significant capital appreciation over time, helping you amass more savings for retirement.

Bonds could be more suitable if your goal is income generation; bonds offer regular interest payments that could provide a steady source of retirement income. Furthermore, bonds help protect capital for future use, making them ideal for those wanting to protect their retirement savings.


Diversifying your investments across a range of asset classes is a core principle of investing, helping manage risk while potentially improving returns.

Stocks and bonds both play important roles in any well-rounded portfolio, helping smooth the cyclical ups and downs of the market. When stocks perform poorly, bonds provide cushion against potential falls; vice versa.

Stocks vs. Bonds: A Balanced Approach

In reality, choosing between stocks or bonds for your IRA shouldn’t be seen as an either-or decision; most investors find a balanced approach using both stocks and bonds the most effective strategy.

Individual circumstances dictate an appropriate allocation, but as a general guideline the “110 minus your age” rule provides a useful starting point: to calculate how much of your portfolio should be invested in stocks versus bonds, subtract your age from 110 and use that as the percentage allocation of your portfolio – so for instance a 30-year-old might allocate 80% to stocks and 20% for bonds.

Navigating Market Conditions

Economic conditions and market trends can play a significant role in the performance of stocks and bonds and can shape your investment decisions.

Stocks typically perform better during periods of economic expansion (2) as corporate profits increase and raise stock prices accordingly. Conversely, during recessionary conditions stock prices often decline.

Bonds provide an important buffer during economic downturns. Investors seeking safety often turn to bonds, helping your portfolio remain stable.

Predicting market movements is a daunting task Therefore, it’s generally recommended to keep a diversification portfolio, and stick to your long-term investment strategy regardless of any short-term market volatility.


While general principles may help guide your decision, each person’s financial situation and goals differ. Therefore, it’s essential that your investment strategy be tailored specifically for your situation and objectives. Working with a financial advisor could also prove invaluable in creating a retirement plan tailored specifically to you and your long-term goals while adhering to risk tolerance requirements.

To conclude, both stocks and bonds can be beneficial additions to an IRA, with diversifying among both often being the best approach. Stocks offer potential for higher returns while bonds provide stability and income that makes them ideal for individuals close to retirement or with lower risk tolerance. No matter which asset class you select for your IRA portfolio, diversification remains key in managing risk effectively and building an optimal investment portfolio.

Are you ready to include gold in your investment portfolio?

The investment in gold and other precious metals can help diversify your retirement investment portfolio. Because gold has little or no connection to equity and bonds, it minimizes the risk of your investment. You may invest in gold through special gold IRA corporations, which you can read more about below.

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