Given the recent market volatility, are you wondering if you should invest your excess cash into the market all at once or over different time intervals?
When it comes to investing, we all want to earn the highest possible return while taking on the least amount of risk.
A popular strategy that many investors are familiar with is called dollar-cost averaging (DCA), which involves investing money over set intervals of time. DCA is similar to putting money into a 401(k) plan from each paycheck versus lump-sum investing.
The question is, which strategy is better for you? Is there historical evidence or research that shows one strategy is more beneficial?
Some investors choose DCA because they worry about a market downturn, while others want to invest all their money at once because they expect stocks and bonds to grow over time.
Historical evidence and financial research propose that greater returns come with lump-sum investing.
“Finance theory and historical evidence suggest that the best way to invest … is all at once,” Vanguard reported in a recent study.
In a hypothetical example from the Vanguard study illustrated below, if an individual had the option of investing into a 60% stock-40% bond portfolio either systematically (equal monthly investments for 12 months) or in an immediate lump sum, the lump-sum investment strategy outperformed DCA and resulted in a higher return 68% of the time. This lump-sum investment strategy outperformance holds true in international markets as well.
While it’s true that there’s a risk of losing money in the markets, to the extent that you are investing taxable assets, a silver lining of a market decline is the ability to tax-loss harvest and achieve some tax benefit.
Tax-loss harvesting involves selling a security at a loss, and then re-investing the proceeds into a similar investment.
By selling the original investment at a loss, you “realize the loss” for tax purposes and can use that capital loss on your tax return to either offset capital gains or to offset $3,000 of ordinary income (if your capital losses exceeded your capital gains for the year).
Any realized losses that aren’t used in a given year can then be carried forward into future tax years.
By following a lump-sum investing strategy, even in the case of a market downturn, if you have a tax-efficient investment portfolio you will potentially have greater opportunities for tax-loss harvesting than if you were to use DCA.
At Wipfli Financial Advisors, we believe that the best way to manage risk within your portfolio is to invest in a low-cost, globally diversified, tax-efficient portfolio with an asset allocation that is aligned with your risk tolerance and financial goals. Investors should think about their portfolios in the context of their overall financial plan to ensure that their investments are structured in a way to help achieve their goals.
If you want to receive more insight on developing a tax-efficient portfolio and building out a financial plan, contact a member of our team.
The concept of DCA assumes that the investor is able to sustain investing equal amounts on a regular schedule. DCA strategies do not guarantee that investment portfolio will achieve positive performance or avoid losses.