Ideally, investors try to buy a stock when the price has reached a support level (a level at which the price is as low as it will go) and sell the stock when it hits a resistance level (a level at which the price is as high as it will go). This is easier said than done. Most investors end up missing out on a continual rise by waiting for a stock to plummet first, or sell way to early by underestimating how high the price will go. In this article, we will focus on the two most popular strategies that you can use to invest without having to worry about market timing.
Dollar cost averaging (DCA) is an investing technique intended to reduce exposure to risk associated with making a single large purchase. According to this technique, shares of stock are purchased in a specific amount on a specified periodic basis (often monthly), regardless of current performance. The theory is that this will lead to greater returns overall, since smaller numbers of shares will be bought when the cost is high, while larger number of shares will be bought while the cost is low.
An example of DCA would be as follows: If I want to buy 1,200 shares of IBM stock using DCA, then I might decide to purchase 400 shares of IBM per month over the course of the next three months. Hypothetically, during month one, the price of IBM may be $105 per share, and then it might drop to $95 per share during month two, and then rise to $100 during month three. If I bought all 1,200 shares during month one, I would have cost me $105 per share. But, by spreading the purchase over a three month period, I managed to buy IBM at an average price of $100 per share.
The primary drawback of using DCA is that you may not be maximizing your overall return. If there is an indication that a certain stock is currently undervalued and might shoot up in price, you would actually make less money using DCA than if you had bought all the shares in the beginning before the price skyrocketed. So, it is not always a winning strategy to spread your purchases over a period of time.
Value averaging, also known as dollar value averaging (DVA), is a technique of adding to an investment portfolio to provide greater return than similar methods such as dollar cost averaging and random investment. With the method, investors contribute to their portfolios in such a way that the portfolio balance increases by a set amount, regardless of market fluctuations. As a result, in periods of market declines, the investor contributes more money, while in periods of market climbs, the investor contributes less.
Here is an example of DVA: I want to invest in Yahoo using DVA. For the sake of argument, we will say that Yahoo is currently $10 per share. I determine that the value of the amount I am going to invest over the course of 1 year will rise, on average, $1,000 each quarter as I make additional investments. If I use DVA, I invest $1,000 to start. If, at the end of the first quarter, the share price has risen to $15 per share, that means that the value of my investment is now $1,500, which means I will only have to invest $500 at the start of the second quarter in order to bring the total amount of my investment for the first and second quarter to $2,000. So, I am investing less as the stock price increases.
In the long run, dollar value averaging usually works better than cost averaging because value averaging results in less money being invested as the stock price goes up, whereas with cost averaging you continue to invest the same number of dollars regardless of the share price. However, neither of these stragies are necessarily full-proof. Make sure you know something about the company you are going to invest in before deciding which strategy will best help you to avoid the pitfalls of market timing.