Dollar Cost Averaging


Dollar cost averaging is a technique designed to reduce market risk through the systematic purchase of securities at predetermined intervals and set amounts. Many successful investors already practice without realizing it. Many others could save themselves a lot of time, effort and money by beginning a plan. In this article, you will learn the three steps to beginning a dollar cost averaging plan, look at concrete examples of how it can lower an investor's cost basis, and discover how it reduces risk.

What is Dollar Cost Averaging: instead of investing assets in a lump sum, the investor works his way into a position by slowly buying smaller amounts over a longer period of time. This spreads the cost basis out over several years, providing insulation against changes in market price. In order to begin a dollar cost averaging plan, you must do three things (1) decide exactly how much money you can invest each month. Make certain that you are financially capable of keeping the amount consistent; otherwise the plan will not be as effective; (2) select an investment (index funds are particularly appropriate, but we will get to that in a moment) that you want to hold for the long term, preferably five to ten years or longer; and (3) At regular intervals (weekly, monthly or quarterly works best), invest that money into the security you've chosen. If your broker offers it, set up an automatic withdrawal plan so the process becomes automated.

An Example of a Dollar Cost Averaging Plan. You have $15,000 you want to invest in Sprint FON common stock. The date is January 1, 2000. You have two options: you can invest the money as a lump sum now, walk away and forget about it, or you can set up a dollar cost averaging plan and ease your way into the stock. You opt for the latter and decide to invest $1,250 each quarter for three years. Had you invested your $15,000 in January 2000, you would have purchased 264.46 shares at $56.72 each. When the stock closed for the year in December of 2002 at $13.69, your holdings would only be worth $3,620! Had you dollar cost averaged into the stock over the past three years, however, you would own 746.21 shares; at the closing price, this gives your holdings a market value of $10,216. Although still a loss, Sprint FON stock must only go up to $20.10 for you to break even, not $56.72, which would have been required without the dollar cost averaging. To go a step further, without dollar cost averaging you would break even at $56.72. With dollar cost averaging, you would have turned a profit of $27,326 when the stock hit that price thanks to your lower cost basis ($56.72 sell price - $20.10 average cost basis = $36.62 profit x 746.21 shares = $27,326 total profit.

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