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.

4 Reasons Why People Underestimate Their Retirement Savings Need

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DBS survey of 800 people in 2014 showed that:

  • 73 per cent of the people polled plan to retire between 55 and 65, with an average savings of $571,715.
  • At the same time, more than 85 per cent of those polled expect to live on a retirement income of $3,500 per month for the next 15 to 20 years and more.
  • However, there is a big gap between both sets of numbers as the average retirement savings amount would only last 13 years and not 15 to 20 years.

These statistics are worrying but fret not! The rest of this article explains the 4 reasons people underestimate how much retirement savings they need, which will give you greater clarity in planning for your future.

1. Length of retirement

Two things determine our length of retirement – life expectancy and retirement age. According to Department of Statistics Singapore, our life expectancy is 83 years. This means that if you desire to retire by age 60, your savings will need to last for 23 years. This is a huge 10 years difference with DBS’s survey findings!

However, when you actually retire might vary as many people choose to work part-time even after they stop full employment. For instance, many retirees become private tutors or piano teachers, or work part-time in their professions as consultants.

2. Not adjusting for inflation

It is important to note that the final sum you will actually need depends on when you will retire and the actual figure you will need to save because of inflation. Let’s say you desire to retire 30 years from now and will need to spend $3,500 monthly in today’s dollars, assuming an average inflation rate of 3%, your monthly expenses will grow to $8,500 in 30 years’ time.

On the other hand, if you’re planning to retire tomorrow, you won’t need that much as expenses today are definitely much less than they’ll be in a few decades’ time.

3. Overestimating investment returns

Some people belong to the group of more aggressive investors. Being human, they may tend to have optimism bias in terms of investing. Since your stocks have been performing well on the market over the past few years, you start to expect to enjoy a steady 5% return per year for the rest of your life. And everyone just assumes that property values will accrue over time, never mind that there’s a downtrend in the property market now.

When estimating your investment returns, it is best to project modest gains or you would risk getting a rude shock when you investments do not perform as well as expected and you have to delay your retirement plans.

4. Not accounting realistically for discretionary expenses

We may be able to survive on a few hundred dollars a month by eating bread and drinking water every day. But I’m sure nobody would think of living life like that when calculating how much we need to retire. Other than healthcare expenses and insurances, you might also want to spend on things like travel, stuff for your kids or grandchildren, your hobbies or simply the finer things in life. As much as you want to retire as early as possible, you have to be realistic about your spending.