The concept of dollar cost averaging is investing a set amount of money at regular intervals. This might mean a percentage of every paycheck that is used for investing or a specific dollar amount. You might start with as little as $50 a month or $50 a pay period and that will begin to create a portfolio that pays for future needs.
Advantages of Dollar Cost Averaging
1) Establishes a habit of investing. One of the largest benefits is you begin to pay yourself first and take care of future needs today. Establishing a habit of setting aside a little money for tomorrow will help you live within your means, have more thoughtful budgeting, and be better prepared.
2) The investment is built into your budget, and you learn to live on what remains. The interesting thing about money and finances is that you tend to spend what you have. If there is a little less in the account each month you will adjust spending to accommodate for what you have. Even if it does not appear that there is money for investing you might be surprised how easy it is to “find” a small amount that can be earmarked for investments. A simple thing like bringing lunch twice a week instead of eating out can result in saving over $50 a month to use for investing.
3) Dollar cost averaging purchases shares at a set time each month regardless of where the investment price is. This means if the price is lower you purchase more shares. If the market is higher less shares are bought. The result is a greater tolerance for market fluctuations because you gain a better understanding that the markets move every day.
4) No Large Sums Required to Begin. Dollar cost averaging can be started with small amounts of money. One possible strategy is to increase monthly contributions at least annually. The more you raise the contribution amount the larger and faster your investments may grow over time.
5) Flexibility. Monthly contribution amounts can be changed at any time. The amounts can be raised or lowered depending on life events that impact your budget. In a perfect world the contributions would always increase, but sometimes that does not match real life events. The ability to adjust contributions reduces risk and allows for greater flexibility to meet current demands.
6) Great long-term strategy. Building a portfolio from the ground up can be accomplished through dollar cost averaging and regular contributions. Your investment should grow over time through both additional contributions and portfolio growth. As you receive bonuses or other financial windfalls you can make additional one time contributions as your finances allow.
When it comes to investing there are no short cuts. Starting early and making regular investments will help to provide financial security and accounts that will build over time. When you start early you are less tempted to take on more portfolio risk and are better able to reach long term financial goals.
The future is uncertain and setting aside a little each month to pay for long term financial needs is one of the soundest ways to pursue financial security.
“Dollar cost averaging does not protect against a loss in declining markets. Since such a plan involves continuous investments in securities regardless of the fluctuating price levels, the investor should consider his or her financial ability to continue such purchases through period of low price levels.”
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The Psychology of Investing