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Dear Liz: I have been steadily investing in stock mutual funds since my early 20s. I have been following the buy-and-hold strategy, and unfortunately I have not been rebalancing my portfolio. Consequently, the vast majority of my portfolio is invested in growth mutual funds that have appreciated in value over the years.

I am now approaching retirement and want to reduce my risk. Should I leave my portfolio as is and invest any new money into fixed-income securities, or should I sell some of my growth mutual funds, which will trigger a substantial capital gains tax?

Answer: It sounds as if you’ve done a good job investing for your future. Now, you need to call in some help.

An objective, experienced, fee-only financial planner could take a look at your total financial situation including your age, life expectancy, risk tolerance, expenses and other sources of income to construct a portfolio strategy that will guide you safely through your retirement years.

This really isn’t a do-it-yourself project. There are too many ways to mess up your retirement income stream and too few ways to fix any errors you make. Take too much risk or withdraw too much from your accounts, and you could run out of money. Take too little risk, and the same thing could happen.

You really want professional help. Two sources for referrals are the National Assn. of Personal Financial Advisors (www.napfa.org or by phone toll-free at [888] FEE-ONLY) and the Garrett Planning Network, http://www.garrettplanningnetwork.com ).

If your portfolio truly is overweighted with growth funds, the planner — perhaps in consultation with a tax pro — might have you gradually sell off some of those investments so you can diversify into bonds, cash, value funds and international investments.

The good news is that the top federal capital gains rate, 15%, is low, so you should still have plenty of money to reinvest.

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Categories : Investing, Q&A, Retirement