As a sports-industry executive, Rich Rose knows a thing or two about big challenges. He once got two NHL teams to play hockey outdoors in Las Vegas when the temperature approached 100°F. No challenge, though, is quite so awesome as the next phase of Rose's life. "Our daughter is nearing college, and soon we'll begin downsizing," he says. With that transition to empty nester comes the realization that retirement savings need to be getting much bigger. That's why he and his wife Sharon are considering everything from mutual funds to new business ventures to meet their goal of a financially smooth transition to life after work. "It's important to create reliable cash flow," Rose says.
Fortunately, the growing list of investment choices for individuals makes the uncertainties about those future decades more manageable. One popular planning innovation, the target-date mutual fund, even takes most of the investment decisions off your plate. More than 40 financial companies now offer their own lines of these retail funds, which target a specific retirement year, perhaps 10 or 20 years out, and automatically lower the portfolio's exposure to stocks and thus risk as the retirement year nears. You're left with nothing to do but work on your golf swing.