Average is pretty good

If you’ve actually heard the term “dollar cost averaging” before, then you’ve probably some experience in the world of investing — or at least have begun your research.

If this is new to you or you’re still trying to figure out what it is, let’s look at some names that might actually make more sense:

“The Kick Fear in the Face Approach to Investing”

“The Refusal to Time the Market Because That’s Cray Investing Strategy”

“The Buy Every Month and Don’t Worry About the Price Investing Strategy”

Okay, so maybe these terms don’t exactly clarify the meaning either, but at least they get to the heart of the matter.

Dollar-cost averaging is an investing strategy where you invest a fixed amount of money over a period of time so you don’t have to worry about buying into the stock market at the wrong time.

What’s the Deal With Dollar Cost Averaging?

Trying to make money through investing requires two things: buying in at a low price and selling at a high price.

Simple, right? Pay less, sell for more, turn a profit.

Of course, the term “low” or “good” as it relates to prices in the stock market are relative. Who’s to say what a good price even is?

That’s something most of us don’t discover until later after we’ve seen the value on our investments go way up (or way down). And those numbers can change on a daily basis.

Enter dollar cost averaging.

Developed to mitigate the risk of entering the stock market at the worst time. This strategy says forget about price.

Instead, simply buy in at the same time and amount every month and, eventually, the average price you pay will even out all the bumpy fluctuations that happened over the year.

It allows you to get off the stock market price roller coaster and instead, focus on things that actually matter.

Cash Is Still the Riskiest Investment

If you avoid the stock market because you’re afraid to lose your money, consider this:

Thanks to inflation, the value of cash will decrease over time. That means you need more money in the future to buy the same thing you could today, for less.

Even with the volatility of the stock market, historically it increases significantly over the long-term.

So if you’re keeping your entire life savings in a bank account, the value that your dollar holds (meaning how much it can buy) will go down over time, even as your savings increases.

If your goal is to invest but you’re nervous to do so, dollar cost averaging is the most user-friendly way to get your foot in the door.

At the end of the day if you have room in your budget to save money each month, getting some money into the stock market is better than waiting until you land on the perfect time or perfect strategy.

Dollar Cost Averaging – A Self-Defence Strategy in the Volatile Stock Markets

I happen to chance upon a YouTube clip which explains very well, the passive investing strategy of Dollar Cost Averaging. Here is the video:

4 Simple Ways to Invest for The Long Term

Most people do not want investing to take up too much of their time and effort. This is due to us having many other things in life to focus on, such as our careers, families, housing etc. And so, trading, timing the market and stock picking is not suitable for 90% of retail investors.

So how can you grow your money without taking up too much time and effort? Here are 4 simple ways to do so and if you stick to this, there will be a high chance for you to retire comfortably after 20 to 30 years.

1) Start Early & Stay Invested

Inexperienced investors looking to grow their money without active monitoring can first look to compound interest to pursue gains over time. The key ingredients here are starting early, and staying invested. By doing so, you will have more time to grow your money. The table below shows how even saving and investing a small amount every month when you are young benefits you, simply because of the power of compound interest.

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2) Diversify Your Portfolio Among Various Assets and Geographical Regions

Market timing and stock picking are not suitable strategies when you want to invest passively. What you can do is to construct a well-diversified portfolio.

Diversification involves another important concept – Asset Allocation. This means mixing you portfolio among various asset classes to spread your risk. The most common asset classes for retail investors are: equities, bonds and cash. A lack of diversity means less liquidity in times of need.

A simple two-asset portfolio, comprising bonds and equities, helps to enhance returns and reduce risk. The proportion of a person’s investment portfolio to be allocated in bonds should be equal to the person’s age (or age minus 10 if he/she is more risk tolerant).

The reason behind this formula is because as we age, we are closer to retirement and should safeguard out nest egg by having less exposure to risky assets such as equities. For young people who mostly have higher risk tolerance, they can allocate more of their investments in equities which can potentially yield higher returns. I have written a separate article on why we should invest in equities if we have a long investment horizon to prepare for retirement.

Besides the classes of assets, having a basket of stocks spread across different geographical regions can reduce your long-term portfolio risk.

Interestingly, we should note that much research have shown that more than 90% of investment returns are determined by asset allocation. Only 10% is influenced by stock picking and market timing. The pie chart below illustrates the recommended asset allocation for a person with a moderately aggressive risk profile.

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3) Invest Regularly – Effect of Dollar Cost Averaging

Every stock investor may fall into the trap of emotional or irrational investing. This stems from our 2 strongest emotional forces – fear and greed, which leads to failure to grow our money.

1. Fear – When the price of our stock holdings fall, a common response stemming from fear is to sell our shares and cut our losses. Subsequently, when the stock price rises, we may be afraid to invest in the stock again. If the stock price continues to rise, we may enter the market too late to see any substantial return.

2. Greed – When we see the price of a stock going up, greed drives us to invest our money in it, with irrational optimism that the price will continue to rise. Quite often, the stock price drops instead.

Emotional/irrational investing often yields little returns for retail investors. Instead of speculating on a stock price, we should do quite the exact opposite – We should set aside a fixed amount of money to invest regularly, regardless of how the stock market is performing. The graph below illustrates what happens if we invest a fixed sum of money on a monthly basis for a certain stock, X:

DCA graph

This enables us to take advantage of Dollar Cost Averaging, a passive mechanism which helps you to buy less of an investment when the price rises, and more when the price falls. This lowers your overall purchase price for investments in the long term.

4) Review and Rebalance Your Portfolio

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Given the dynamic global economy, investors should review their investment portfolio regularly and change the mix of assets, a process called rebalancing. Rebalancing safeguards your portfolio from being exposed to undesirable risks and maintains your original desired asset allocation. This would ensure you are on track to meeting your financial goals.