Sure, there are some lucky people who get rich quickly. People win lotteries, hit the jackpot on the slot machine, and even pick the “right” stock at the “right” time, turning their investment into a potential fortune overnight.
But, these fairy tales rarely come true. More often, we achieve our financial and personal goals when following the principle at the heart of Aesop’s Fable, The Tortoise and The Hare — that “slow and steady wins the race” or more specifically that consistent, effective effort may lead to success. In the investment world, this is more likely to be true.
In the simplest terms, if you start early and consistently stick to an ongoing savings schedule where you set aside money on a regular basis, you should start to see your savings accumulate over the long term. However, just as in the Fable, (where the turtle used “smarts” — not just time — to his advantage), when investing, there are time-tested strategies that can help you reach your goal.
For the same reason you wouldn’t stash your cash under your mattress, when saving for the long term, most professionals wouldn’t recommend “banking” all of your money. While it’s true that investments with a fixed rate of return offer principal protectionthat others do not, they may not provide the growth you need when you factor in inflation.
Inflation refers to a general rise in prices of goods and services. Even low inflation reduces purchasing power over time, because as prices rise, a dollar buys less. For example, the inflation rate has averaged1.73 percent over the last ten years (2011-2020). This is the primary reason people invest in stocks or equities. Over the long term, stocks historically have been an investment choice for some to helpoutpace inflation.
No one can control or predict the performance of the stock market, let alone a single equity. That’s why it’s important to diversify your portfolio across major asset classes to help you pursue optimal returns for the risk level that you’re willing to take. You may want to consider diversifying within each asset class to take advantage of different styles and market sectors so strong performance in one area may be able to minimize downturns in another.
The goal is what professionals call “non-correlation.” That just means all of your investments are unlikely to move the same way at the same time. On any given day, some may be up and others may be down in value. In a well-diversified portfolio, you can realize the profit on the gains without losing too much on the losses. It all goes back to the age-old adage — don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
Whenever possible you should consider setting up an automatic investment plan.
For example, if you invest in an employer- sponsored 401(k), you can set up automatic investments for each pay period. The percentage of your total pay (up to the maximum permitted) is taken out of your paycheck before any taxes and invested in the asset allocation strategy you choose. Your employer might even match a portion of your contribution. Not only do your savings accumulate, but the taxes on any investment gains you may realize are deferred until you retire and begin taking distributions.2 Other types of investment accounts, such as brokerage accounts, also may offer automatic investment plans and may provide additional flexibility in investment choices and access to your money, otherwise known as liquidity. However, unless they are in an individual retirement account, they may not provide any tax advantages.
Another popular strategy is called “dollar cost averaging.”1 It works like this... Say you decide to invest $10 every week. On weeks when the price isup, your $10 may buy a few shares. On weeks when the price is down, $10 will buy you more shares. Over time that will keep your average purchaseprice low, because the lower your average purchase price, the more you’ll profit from any price gains.
Consistency is the name of the game — as well as making a plan and adjusting as your goals and objectives change.
Invest whatever you can afford regularly in a well-diversified portfolio. Whether you’re saving for retirement, a new home or college education, slow and steady can help you win the race. Turning to a financial professional who understands your financial needs and objectives can play an important role in your financial future.