As we head into year end, and the RRSP season, lots of people are going to make a one-time annual contribution. Others are scrambling to get an RRSP loan so they can have the tax receipt. Both of those give someone an instant pot of cash to invest. In the case of an RRSP loan it also makes sure that person really doesn’t have the money to contribute because they’re making payments on last years’ loan. Not a good idea. I’d rather have them not contribute for one year and start immediately on a monthly plan for next year, which is actual real money, and not borrowed.
But for both these examples, a ton of people will have one lump sum of money to invest.
While we normally do not talk about investments, there was a story a couple of weeks ago that was so powerful it is worth sharing and certainly timely. While I believe investing comes after becoming debt free, except the mortgage, many people are in that enviable position.
One of the Wall Street Journal writers recently went back to the great depression and figured out how an investor would have made out in a market that went down 89% from its peak.
He took an index fund of 500 companies and calculated the returns. Now the story we hear in the media is that an investor at the height of the market in 1929 would have taken until 1954 to get back to even. Sick story, and probably enough to keep most people out of investing.
But someone who dollar cost averaged did incredibly well in a bad market. Dollar cost averaging is taking the same amount of money and investing it each and every month. The months the market is up, that money just buys less shares. The months the market is down, it buys more shares. So over time, it rides the peaks and valleys of the market.
Now, someone who started investing $100 a month at the absolute height of the market in September 1929 would probably be a huge loser, right? Wrong. Starting the worst week in the stock market with the same investment every month, that person was already even again in 1933. Now remember, those who dumped their money in all at once took until 1954 to break even. By 1936, still in the depression, the dollar cost averaging person had doubled their money. And by 1954 when everyone else was just back to even, they were up ten fold!
The difference is that you either pick the 5th horse in the 7th race or you are betting every horse in every race. Which one do you think is the guaranteed winner?