Deciding on the proper time to purchase a security that you would like to add to your holdings can be a daunting task. If the price drops immediately after you buy, it may seem as if you missed out on a better buying opportunity. If the price jumps right before you make your move, you may feel as if you paid too much. As it turns out, you should not let these small fluctuations influence your decision too much. As long as the fundamentals that led you to decide on the purchase have not changed, a few points in either direction should not have a large impact on the long-term value of your investment.
Similarly, the fact that an investment has been increasing in value of late is not a sufficient reason for you to purchase it. Momentum can be very fickle, and recent movement is not necessarily an indicator of future movement. Therefore, buying decisions should be based on sound and thorough research geared toward discerning the future value of a security relative to its current price. This analysis will probably not touch upon price movement in the very recent past. As you learn more about investing you'll get better at deciding when to buy, but most experts recommend that beginners avoid trying to time the market, and just get in as soon as they can and stay in for the long haul.
The proper time to buy a security is quite simply when it is available for less than its actual value. These undervalued securities are actually not as rare as they sound. However, the problem is simply that they are never sure bets. The value of a security includes estimates of the future performance of factors underlying the value of the security. For stocks, these factors include things like earnings growth and market share. Changes can be predicted to a degree, but they are subject to fluctuation due to forces both within and beyond the control of the company.
The overall economic climate, changes in the industry or even bad decisions by management can all cause a security poised to ascend in value to become an underperformer. Therefore, it is essential to practice your analysis before putting your money into action. Make some mock purchases based on your personal analysis technique and track the results. Not all of your decisions will lead to the results you were expecting, but if most of your choices turn out to be good and there are mitigating factors that you can learn from to explain your missteps, then you may be ready to put your analysis technique and investing strategy into action.
At this point, the need to continuously monitor your investments does not disappear. Both underperformers and overachievers should be studied carefully to fine-tune your strategy. You should also regularly look at your securities to make sure that the fundamentals for success that led you to buy in the first place are intact. If not, you may need to prepare to cash in and start looking for the next opportunity.
One way to avoid the hassles of deciding when to buy altogether is to practice dollar-cost averaging . This strategy advocates investing a fixed dollar amount at regular intervals. The price when you first invest is relatively unimportant (as long as the fundamentals are sound) because you will be purchasing shares at a different price each time you buy. The success of your investment then lies not with short-term fluctuations, but with the long-term movement of the value of the security.
There comes a time when investments must be liquidated and converted back into cash. In a perfect world, selling would only be necessary when investment goals have been reached or time horizons have expired, but, in reality, decisions about selling can be much more difficult. For one thing, it can be just as hard to decide when to sell as it can be to decide when to buy. No one wishes to miss out on gains by selling too soon, but, at the same time, no one wishes to watch an investment peak in value and then begin to decline.
Investors often seek to sell investments that have dropped in value in the short-term. However, if conditions have not changed significantly, drops in price may actually represent an opportunity to buy at a better price. If the initial research which led to the purchase was sound, a temporary decline does not preclude the success that was originally predicted. Of course, things change, and if the security no longer meets the criteria that led to its purchase, selling may in fact be the best option.
Selling may also become necessary if investment goals change over time. You may need to reduce the amount of risk in your portfolio or you may have the opportunity to seek out greater returns. Additionally, a security may have increased in value to the point that it is overvalued. This creates an excellent opportunity to cash in and seek out new undervalued investments. Often you will need to make this type of sale in the course of rebalancing a portfolio necessitated by gains and losses in different areas.
Selling can be especially difficult when an underperforming stock must be dumped. Some investors let their emotions dictate their actions and hold on to stocks that have fallen in value rather than to sell, thinking that selling at a loss is like admitting that they made a mistake. However, realizing the loss and moving on to better investments is often preferable to continuing to hold onto a loser in the hopes that it will somehow rebound.
When considering any sale, you must factor in the costs of the sale itself. Fees and taxes will eat into profits, so they must be subtracted from any increases in value to understand the true impact of the transaction. Capital gains taxes are higher for gains on investments held less than one year, so it's often wise to invest for the long term rather than to buy and sell quickly. On the other hand, it can be dangerous to hold an investment longer than you want to, simply to reduce the tax burden .
It is essential to remember that just because an investment increases in value after it has been sold does not necessarily mean that it was sold prematurely. Managing risk and diversification are often more important than capitalizing on short-term gains in a particular security. Keeping in mind the initial goals for the investment and adjusting them to fit your present goals will allow you to make smarter decisions about selling.