6 reasons to stop dawdling and invest
Been wanting to invest in the stock market but just haven’t gotten around to it? Just do it already!
The only way most people have any hope of creating real wealth is by investing in stocks. The benchmark S&P 500 stock index rallied more than 8 percent during the first half of 2017 and has moved higher since.
If you suffer anxiety about getting into the market, consider these six reasons you should get over it. The right stock investments:
- Keep pace with inflation.
- Reach your financial goals with the right mix of investments.
- Reduce investing risk with a solid asset allocation strategy.
- Reduce risk with a well-planned strategy for buying and selling stocks.
- Use dollar-cost averaging to stay in the market when stock valuations are high.
- Aren’t impacted by high-frequency trading.
Market risk is just one risk of many
Losing money in the stock market is not the biggest threat to your wallet.
People without a large amount of money saved for retirement run the risk of outliving their savings. Those who invest only in very safe investments risk losing purchasing power to inflation.
“Even though investing seems risky, not investing means taking risks, too, when you consider the long-term threat of inflation,” says CFP professional Peter Lazaroff, co-chief investment officer at Plancorp in St. Louis.
“If you don’t grow your money, you may not be able to afford things in the future,” Lazaroff says. “So, you invest to grow wealth and preserve purchasing power.”
To mitigate the risk of inflation, investors don’t need to reach for high returns.
The historical rate of inflation is around 3 percent. A diversified mix of safe and riskier investments would provide portfolio growth without the danger of it completely cratering in a market downturn.
The stock and bond markets are vast
Stocks and bonds are the meat and potatoes of investing. In general, buying a stock is more risky than buying a bond. Some stocks are less risky than others, though.
For instance, you probably will do better with an investment in Johnson & Johnson, a large company, versus a wobbly, small company with uncertain earnings potential. Conversely, because a smaller company is more likely to grow a lot versus an established global brand, the potential for a big payoff is greater.
Bonds act in a similar fashion, with very risky companies offering higher returns while very safe borrowers, like the U.S. government, pay very low interest rates.
No matter your situation, there is a mix of investments that will satisfy your goals and risk tolerance — as long as your goals and ability to withstand risk are realistic and not a fantasy. You can’t expect a 100 percent return in three months with no risk.
Planning should reduce risk: Part I
Enter asset allocation. Asset allocation is how you divide your money among various investments. The way you mix investments determines the overall level of risk in the portfolio.
With the right mix, you can control portfolio volatility to a certain extent. You also have some control over the level of returns. Higher-risk investments generally offer higher returns; lower risk equals lower returns.
“There are ways to invest so that you are not going to suffer the large loss when we have another 2008 scenario,” says CFP professional Matthew Tuttle, CEO of Tuttle Tactical Management in Riverside, Connecticut.
All stocks are not equally risky, and all bonds are not equally safe.
Planning should reduce risk: Part II
Buying and selling investments is just an ordinary part of being an investor. Whether you regularly rebalance or employ a tactical shift in your asset allocation, having a system in place to tell you when to buy and sell will keep you from panicking and bailing out at the wrong moment.
“Emotions are going to screw you up as a DIY investor, or even a professional. Your emotions are going to mess you up and make you buy and sell at the wrong time,” Tuttle says.
A well-planned methodology will take fear and elation out of the equation.
Adopt a placid attitude and an enlightened approach to investing. “This is what I’m going to buy and when. This is what I’m going to sell and when,” says Tuttle.
Time in the market, not timing the market
Trying to time the market eventually makes fools of most people, whether on the way into the market or on the way out. No one knows what is going to happen or when.
“Recently we’ve seen people reluctant to invest in stocks or increase stock allocation because they are concerned that the valuations are too high,” says CFP professional Jeffery Nauta, CFA, principal at Henrickson Nauta Wealth Advisors in Belmont, Michigan.
But markets have traded at higher levels for years, and you miss out on great returns if you sit anxiously on the sidelines.
Don’t wait for the right time. Instead, start dollar-cost averaging into the stock market. This strategy involves investing a percentage of your paycheck into the markets regularly, such as in a workplace retirement savings plan.
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