You already know that if you want to have security in your retirement, you need to act sooner instead of later. The ideal age to start might be 20. But your investments will still add up to much more money if you start investing at the age of 40 or even 50 instead of waiting till you are nigh unto retirement.

There are several strategies that you can use for your retirement investment plan. But unfortunately, there is no strategy that is totally free of risk.

If you want to use savings to fund your retirement, you will probably want a strategy that entails the least risk. In that case, you might consider investing in T-bills and bonds. There is no risk to their face value over time: the face value always remains payable. However, there is a risk to the time-adjusted value, the spendable value, of your T-bills and bonds. That risk is inflation, which fluctuates unpredictably and may make your savings worth less than you could have predicted. The healthy interest rate of today may be a sickly thing in the future.

Banks and insurance companies offer many different plans that you can include in your retirement strategy. You can have the security of dealing with the larger financial institutions that are generally conservative. But the face value of your financial instruments and their interest rates are still subject to the erosions of inflation.

Because of inflation, you may want a strategy that places some of your investments in assets that will usually rise in value commensurately. The best example is real estate. You can, of course, start by owning your own home. After that, you can look at owning rental properties, improving fixer-uppers, joining a realty investment group, or otherwise profiting from the maxim, “God quit making land but He did not quit making people.” The biggest risks in real estate are sudden, unexpected expenses such as repairs and unpredictable changes in the real estate market. Still, real estate is the investment that is most likely to keep up with inflation.

If you want some gamble in your retirement investments, you can roll your dice in the stock market. You might gain a good amount of money overnight—or you might lose it. The risks in the stock market are many, including, but not limited to, fraudulent offerings, “stock brokers” who are hardly more than phone solicitors, war, OPEC, and selling frenzies. Still, you can not shun the stock market for your retirement investments without considering that many people and institutions have made desirable long-term profits. Indeed, some of the institutions where you place your money for “safe” interest are putting some of that money into the stock market. If you are not an expert, you can minimize your risk by investing in mutual funds, thereby benefiting from the expertise of the fund managers and your share in diversified purchases.

If you are alive, you have risks every day. Lifting a cup of hot coffee entails a risk, as does stepping off a curb. Reduce the risks in your strategies for retirement investments by study, careful thought, consultation with experts, and diversification. Then you can look forward to your retirement with a sense of security.

Tom McClure