With so much market volatility happening all the time, it can be tempting to try to “time the market” to get the best performance. But studies show that this approach might not be the best—especially for investors with long-term goals. Let’s learn more about why timing the market isn’t the best strategy, and we’ll share what to do instead.
Market Timing Is Consistently Inconsistent
Timing the market usually involves attempting to “buy low and sell high” by analyzing current market trends for inefficiencies or volatility indicators. This strategy may work sometimes, but it is far from perfect. Not only do you have to guess when to buy in, but you then have to guess when to sell. That means for every gain, you have to be right twice to make timing the market worth it. Unfortunately, market bottoms can only be truly spotted in hindsight, and timing the market is often closer to playing the lottery than it is to an educated guess.
Timing the Market Can Be Expensive
Timing the market can also be expensive. Depending on your account type, asset class, and where you are executing your trades, you may be charged for every purchase and sale you make, and that’s on top of any taxes owed on gains. The more frequently you trade, the higher your transaction costs might be.
If you held the assets for less than a year, your gain is usually taxed as ordinary income at your marginal tax rate, which can be as high as 37% for high-income earners. Long-term gains are taxed at a preferential rate. Regardless of your tax rate, your market timing must still be right more often than not just to cover the cost of your trades.
You Will Miss Out on Compound Growth & Market Rebounds
A recent study by Schwab Center for Financial Research found that bad market timing is worse than investing immediately, regardless of the market conditions at the time of investing. This indicates that even in market downturns, or just before a downturn, investors who invest immediately and remain invested will be better off than those who stay on the sidelines or attempt to time the market.
Take a look at Schwab’s graph below, which shows just how much more a fully invested portfolio earns over the course of 19 years. It would earn approximately $14,000 more in growth than a portfolio with bad market timing, and $91,000 more than a portfolio that stays in cash. The only investor who performs better is the one with perfect timing—but since we already know that perfect timing is a moonshot, investing immediately is the next best strategy.
What’s more, over time that extra $14,000 or $91,000 will have the opportunity to grow even more thanks to compounding. Even if the market fluctuates in the short term, the odds are in your favor that a solid investment strategy will grow over time.
Source: Schwab Center for Financial Research. Invested $2,000 annually in a hypothetical portfolio that tracks the S&P 500® Index from 2001-2020.
The individual who never bought stocks in the example invested in a hypothetical portfolio that tracks the lbbotson U.S. 30-day Treasury Bill Index. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indexes are unmanaged, do not incur fees or expenses, and cannot be invested in directly. The examples are hypothetical and provided for illustrative purposes only. They are not intended to represent a specific investment product, and investors may not achieve similar results. Dividends and interest are assumed to have been reinvested, and the examples do not reflect the effects of taxes, expenses, or fees. Had fees, expenses, or taxes been considered, returns would have been substantially lower.
Another graph by Hartford Funds and Morningstar shows what happens if you miss the best days in the market, which often closely follow a major downturn and can be just as difficult to predict. An investor who missed the 10 best days in the market between 1992 and 2021 would have earned 54% less than someone who was fully invested during the same time period.
Someone who missed the 30 best market days would have earned a whopping $172,000 (83%) less than their fully invested counterpart. The research is based on a $10,000 initial investment, but these numbers would be much more dramatic if you were dealing with a multimillion dollar portfolio.
Past performance does not guarantee future results. Indices are unmanaged and not available for direct investment. For illustrative purposes only. Data Sources: Ned Davis Research, Morningstar, and Hartford Funds, 2/23.
The time value of money tells us that a dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow, and this is certainly the case when it comes to investing. The longer you are invested, the more likely you are to ride out the day-to-day market fluctuations and experience growth instead.
Are You Missing Out on Growth Opportunities?
As you can see, trying to time the market can be frustrating and nearly impossible. Instead, you should craft your investment strategy based on your personal goals. A trusted financial planner can direct you to investments that are aligned with your risk tolerance, values, and life situation.
At Fiduciary Wealth Management, we work closely with you to not only create a personalized portfolio but to also implement and monitor your strategies on an ongoing basis. By taking a holistic approach, we focus on getting to know you and your needs before diving into the numbers. This allows us to craft strategies that align with your circumstances and help you confidently pursue your objectives. If you’d like to work with our firm, schedule a phone call now!
About Rocklin Senavinin, CFP®
With over 20 years of experience in the financial planning industry, Roc has dedicated his career to helping individuals live comfortably in retirement and enjoy the assets they have spent their career building. He is co-founder of Fiduciary Wealth Management, a fee-only registered investment advisory firm in Little Rock, Arkansas. As a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, he has advanced training in the holistic process of creating a personal financial plan that addresses a person’s comprehensive needs for the short and long term. To learn more, connect with Roc on LinkedIn or visit www.fidwm.com. If you have questions, feel free to schedule a phone call using this link.
The views expressed represent the opinions of Fiduciary Wealth Management, LLC and are subject to change. These views are not intended as a forecast, a guarantee of future results, investment recommendation, or an offer to buy or sell any securities. The information provided is of a general nature and should not be construed as investment advice or to provide any investment, tax, financial, or legal advice or service to any person.
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