Still Wondering: Wade or Plunge?
Having been an advisor through boom and bust markets alike, I can attest that some “Frequently Asked Questions” come and go. But for as long as I’ve been around to answer it, here’s one that has never grown old:
“I’ve got a lump sum of cash. Should I invest it all at once, or gradually, over time?”
I covered this question back in 2015, pointing to a 2004 Dimensional Fund Advisors analysis entitled, “To Wade or Plunge.” At the time, I said:
“Although it feels more comfortable to wade given the uncertainty inherent with markets, the evidence shows that, approximately two thirds of the time, you are better off taking the plunge.”
I’d say the same again today. If you’ve got a lump sum of cash you plan to invest in the market, you might as well put all of it to work sooner rather than later.
More recent analysis continues to support this approach. In 2016, Vanguard published a paper and podcast entitled, “Invest now or temporarily hold your cash?” This month, Vanguard’s senior investment strategist Andy Clarke updated his post on the subject, still concluding, “More often than not, it has paid to invest immediately.” He offered data demonstrating that this conclusion holds true across various global markets, and among stocks and bonds alike.
Just as I suggested in 2015, the biggest risk you face when plunging into the market isn’t financial. It’s whether you can ignore the regret you’ll probably feel if you happen to plunge at an inopportune time – i.e., just before the markets take a dive with your hard-earned cash. As long as you don’t act on your regret, it’s natural to feel it. Just remember to Take the Long View® with your actions. The long term trend is up, and the power of global capitalism is at your back.