I was reviewing the performance of my portfolio for 2015 when I realized that I had used Dollar Cost Averaging (DCA) quite a bit this year. The markets have fluctuated wildly in the last few months and my anticipation is that it will be the same in 2016 as well. Dollar Cost Averaging (DCA) is what I used to smooth out the fluctuations in 2015. I have a couple different ways of implementing DCA…so, I thought it would be nice to write about it and see if my blog friends have any input.
DCA Type 1
My path to Financial Independence is to generate multiple passive income streams using a diversified set of mutual funds (link). For example, VCADX, VTMFX, VDIGX, VHDYX , VTMGX, VTCLX and VTMSX. Investments into the different funds are automated and are withdrawn on the first of every month. Regular investments, irrespective of the short term market fluctuations was my initial plan for DCA.
But, I realized that when the market went through downward dips, my DCA plan was found a bit lacking. For example, if the dips were spread across many days in the month, my DCA plan of investing at the beginning of every month would miss out on loading up quality investments at lower prices.
So, I spread my mutual investments into two pieces for each mutual fund, and spread across many non-overlapping days in the month. Since Vanguard does not charge me a fee to invest into mutual funds, I felt that this spread captured the market ups and downs better. For example
- VCADX 9th and 28th
- VTMFX 6th and 27th
DCA Type 2
But, I saw one more pattern in the market. Market dips in the downward directions were followed by upswings the next couple of days. For example, if DOW dropped 300 points on one day, it is rare to have a similar drop on the next day as well i.e. consecutive market dips were rare. On the days the DOW (or S&P) dipped badly, there were opportunities to invest in my chosen high quality mutual funds at a lower price.
Every month, there used to be some leftover money in the budget for unused items. For example, if we did not use the entertainment portion of the budget completely OR if my kids school was off leading to less frequent visits to the gas pump, etc. I decided to pool up the leftover money and keep the cash ready. When ever the DOW dropped, I pushed the money into one/many of my investments. Here is the algorithm I followed:
- DOW drops 100 Invest $100
- DOW drops 200 Invest $250
- DOW drops 300 Invest $500
- FTSE 100 drops 100 Invest $200
Since I invest in mutual funds, the smart reader may ask how do I know what the NAV will be before the marker closes on that day? An ETF or a raw stock trade will guarantee as close to the instantaneous market price as possible…a mutual fund cannot. Here are some lessons I learnt assuming the Market closes at 100pm Pacific Standard Time
- DOW dips 100 at 900 am, I invest $250 and DOW rises by 200 by 100 pm i.e. I invested $250 at a higher price than what my intention was.
- DOW dips 300 at 1100 am, I invest $250 and DOW rises by 200 by 100pm i.e. DOW is still down -100 and my investment pays a lower price.
The reader might have guessed. My basic idea is that “higher the DOW dip, the earlier in the I can invest and still come out with a lower NAV price than the previous day”. I.e.
- If DOW is only down 100 points, I buy late say around 1200 pm.
- If DOW is down 300 points, I buy earlier say around 1100 am.
- Any investment after 1230pm or so is moved to the next day.
This method of DCA has proven very beneficial to me to acquire quality assets at much lower prices…inspite of using mutual funds. Some people might say that I am using market timing and it is bad. But, since my investments are quality investments, chosen conservatively, I do not lose even if I paid a higher price because my purchase timing did not meet my expectations.
As per my 2015 Goals (link), my Passive Income Streams goal for 2015 was $16000 with a stretch goal of $24000. Using a combination of DCA types 1 and 2, I have managed to exceed the stretch goal also with a total investment of $28,000 approximately. Believe it or not, I did not know that all the DCA Type 2 investments would add up to so much more money at the end of the year. This indirectly means that my budget is tuned for the worst case money consumption and some more fat can be extracted from it. But, hey, who is complaining 😉