The key to everyday investing is diversification, which means owning different types of investments to spread out the risk. According to investment manager Paula Volent, you definitely want to own stock index funds because stocks over time have always offered the best return. She suggests owning a broad U.S. stock market index fund, a foreign developed markets index fund and an emerging markets index fund.
Volent also says you need investments that can do well when stocks are doing poorly. These include Treasury bonds and real estate funds. As far as how to know how much of each of these components is the right mix for you, there are different ways to figure that out. Age-based, or so-called “target-date,” index funds put together a mix of many of these components for you with a risk profile based on how many years you are away from retirement.