Exactly How I’d Invest $50,000 for Retirement, Starting From Scratch

Although most investors build their nest eggs slowly, a few spare dollars at a time, it’s not unheard of to get your hands on a nice-sized lump of money. Inheritances, legal settlements, or even the sale of real estate can easily leave you flush with more cash than you’d ever need at any particular point in time. Why not invest it?

But for most of us, putting a big chunk of money into the market in one single shot can be intimidating. What if you make the wrong choices, or what if now’s the exact wrong time to be investing in stocks?

Don’t sweat it. If you’re a true long-term investor, the exact entry point of your purchases doesn’t really matter. And, as for picking the wrong stocks, here’s a little help — five names I’d be comfortable stepping into today if I suddenly had an extra $50,000 to tuck away for retirement.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Alphabet

The company’s name is Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOGL) (NASDAQ: GOOG), but you know it better by its top two trade names, Google and YouTube. The former still fields more than 90% of the world’s web searches, according to data from GlobalStats’ statcounter, while the latter is the planet’s biggest, most consumed repository of digital video, serving up over 1 billion hours’ worth of content per day to over 2 billion monthly visitors.

Alphabet’s also the name behind the Android operating system, which powers the majority of the world’s mobile devices. This positions it as something a gatekeeper to the mobile web. All of this web traffic, of course, presents opportunity for Alphabet to generate advertising revenue.

What makes Alphabet such a compelling retirement holding is the permanency of its business. As long as the world uses the web to seek out information and entertainment, Alphabet’s got a means of driving sales.

2. Merck

A retirement portfolio can’t solely consist of consumer-oriented technology stocks, of course. Diversity is almost requisite, and drugmaker Merck (NYSE: MRK) will do a great job of adding some healthcare exposure to your holdings.

It’s not an exciting pick, admittedly. In fact, even by pharmaceutical company standards, this company lacks the pizzazz that smaller, more focused drug companies bring to the table.

In some ways, Merck’s stock could be crimped by the company’s sheer size. With a market cap of nearly $200 billion and annual sales on the order of $50 billion, driven by a portfolio of about a dozen different drugs, it’s tough for the company to produce significant relative growth. But, this size also means Merck is something of a steamroller in the industry: slow, but unstoppable in most regards.

The current kicker: Its cancer-fighting drug Keytruda is already proving plenty marketable, but it’s also being investigated in many other trials underway right now. Investors may be underestimating its long-term potential.

3. PPL

Keeping the diversification goal in mind, utility stock PPL (NYSE: PPL) is a nice addition to a retirement portfolio.

Current PPL shareholders may not feel the same way. Shares were already pulling back due to sector-wide weakness in January and early February. But the market’s bearish response to last week’s reported earnings miss really did a number on the stock. It’s now down nearly 10% from last month’s high.

The thing is, nothing dramatically changed about the company’s ability to produce a profit and pay its dividend, which is my chief interest here while the yield stands at 3.1%. In fact, I wouldn’t even reinvest these dividend payments in more shares of the utility stock. My goal would be to build cash from this reliable cash flow to fund purchases of other growth stocks in the future.

4. Nvidia

Nvidia (NASDAQ: NVDA) has been another tough-to-own holding of late, down more than 30% from November’s peak. That weakness, however, may have more to do with overzealous buying in 2021 than fresh problems surfacing in just the past few weeks. To this end, the company’s recently reported fourth-quarter revenue was up 53% year over year, driven mostly by soaring data center sales.

As it turns out, the same computer architecture that makes video cards work is well suited for intense data center needs, artificial intelligence applications in particular. In that International Data estimates worldwide spending on AI systems will swell from last year’s $85 billion to more than $200 billion per year by 2025, Nvidia is incredibly well positioned for growth here.

5. Wells Fargo

Finally, add Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) to your list of stocks to use as a foundation for a retirement portfolio.

Sure, the big bank brings a name from the financial sector into the mix, but Wells Fargo? The same company still dealing with the fallout of a massive account opening scandal back in 2016?

There’s a method to the madness, however.

Yes, the company and its shareholders have paid a dear price for Wells Fargo’s indiscretions. Aside from the tainted brand name and $1 billion fine imposed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Reserve has punished the bank’s misdeeds by capping its asset base at just under $2 trillion. By limiting the size of the bank’s total holding, the Fed is also effectively limiting the amount of net income it can generate. This cap is still in place.

Things are taking a turn for the better though, in a couple of ways. First, there’s at least some chatter that the Fed will soon lift its restriction, freeing Wells Fargo up to drive meaningful growth. Even if it doesn’t happen this calendar year, if the market senses that relief is on the horizon, the stock could rally as a result.

The other upside on the horizon is the prospect of rising interest rates. In that the profitability of lending money improves with higher interest rates, the eight (plus) quarter-point rate hikes the Fed foresees being put in place by the end of 2024 also bodes well for the bank and its stock right now.

Adjust appropriately

These are just ideas to consider, of course. You may have good reason to substitute a different pick for any of these stocks. And while my suggestion would be to evenly split up $50,000 into five, equal-sized $10,000 investments, you may have good reason to tweak that allocation. Nobody knows your personal financial situation better than you do.

But if you just don’t know where to start, these five highly diversified tickers are a great foundation for your portfolio, which you can add to later on — as new money becomes available — with more exciting, less predictable picks.

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Wells Fargo is an advertising partner of The Ascent, a Motley Fool company. Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. James Brumley owns Alphabet (A shares). The Motley Fool owns and recommends Alphabet (A shares) and Nvidia. The Motley Fool recommends Alphabet (C shares). The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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