Dollar-Cost Averaging: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started

If you want to get started with investing, one of the best ways to start is with dollar-cost averaging. This is an investment strategy that spreads out stock purchases over several months or years in an attempt to reduce market risk.

Using DCA or another investment strategy can help you avoid some common pitfalls that come with investing. In fact, this strategy can remove a lot of the work of timing the market to buy equities at the best price, leaving you more time to focus on other things.

Table of Contents:

  1. What is dollar-cost averaging?
  2. Key takeaways
  3. What is DCA investing?
  4. How does DCA investing work?
  5. How to invest using DCA investing
  6. Dollar-cost averaging vs lump sum investing
  7. Benefits of DCA investing
  8. Risks of DCA investing
  9. Start DCA investing with Public
  10. Frequently asked questions about DCA

What is Dollar-Cost Averaging?

Dollar-cost averaging is an investment strategy where you regularly invest the same amount of money into a particular stock or fund over a long period of time independent of stock market volatility.

Dollar-cost averaging is a great technique to use if you do not have a large sum of money initially to invest at one time or don’t want to invest in the short term. And it can reduce the chance that you invest all your money right before a large drop in the stock market..

You can use dollar-cost averaging as part of your retirement plan and automate your investment plan by choosing a percentage of your income to regularly invest in a pre-selected investment choice.

Key Takeaways

  • Dollar-cost averaging is an investment strategy where you invest the same amount of money into the same stock or funds over a long period of time to mitigate volatility in the market.
  • Dollar-cost averaging consists of buying more shares of a stock when prices are low and buying fewer shares when prices are high. This can result in spending less on the average cost per share than you would if you were to purchase at one time with a large sum of money.
  • By using dollar-cost averaging, you can potentially purchase more shares over time than you would if you were to invest all at once.
  • Dollar-cost averaging can help reduce risk but you can potentially miss out on higher market gains than if you were to invest all at once.

What is DCA Investing?

DCA investing is an investment technique of periodically investing a fixed amount of money into the same stock or mutual fund independent of the ups and downs of the market or price changes. The act of dollar-cost averaging consists of buying more shares of a stock when prices are low, and buying fewer shares when prices are high

For example, let’s say you have $200 that you want to invest at the end of every month into ABC stock.

ABC stock’s price in January is $100, and in February, it rises to $110. You would invest $200 into ABC stock in both January and February despite the price change.

This means that in January, you would be able to buy 2 shares of ABC stock, and in February, you would be able to purchase ~1.82 shares of ABC stock.

You would continue this same investment strategy every month, which would allow you to benefit from the market conditions when prices are low and still take advantage of investing when the price increases.

It’s also a way to avoid the emotional highs and lows that come with the volatility of the stock market like with value investing. When the stock market falls and there are lower prices, some investors may fear that this will impact their profit and rush to exit a position, which in the long run could result in a gain. On the contrary, when market prices rise, investors will look to enter the market to benefit from this potential high.

However, there is no telling if the market will continue to trend in an upward direction. Timing the stock market is nearly impossible to predict and can cause more damage than good if you are not careful about how you allocate your funds.

How Does DCA Investing Work?

When understanding how stocks work, it is important to know that DCA investing is a strategy that focuses on the idea that stock prices will rise. This method allows you to strategically ride price fluctuations and reduce risks, which, over time, can increase your profit.

There are many ways investors can apply dollar-cost averaging. One of the most common ways people use DCA is through their employer’s 401(k) plans. A 401(k) plan gives an employee the ability to invest a percentage of their salary into mutual funds or target-date funds. When an employee receives their salary, a percentage of their salary is invested into their fund of choice through their 401(k). Since a 401(k) plan is meant to appreciate in value and ultimately benefit you in the long-term, this makes it a perfect option for dollar-cost averaging.

You can also use DCA in any IRA account or brokerage account like Public. Simply buy a set dollar amount each month of the same stocks or funds through the app. If the price is low, you’ll have more shares. But if the price of the stock you are buying is high, then you’ll buy smaller amounts of shares.

In addition to 401(k) plans, dollar-cost averaging can also be used in mutual funds, index funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and some dividend reinvestment plans.

Example of DCA Investing

Let’s say you plan to invest $2,400 for the year into AC stock.

Using our previous example, this breaks down to $200 per month. After a year, you look back and see that you didn’t always buy the same number of shares each month, despite spending the same amount each month.

The initial price point would have bought you two units ($200/$100 = 2.0). But the other months the share price fluctuated. So you may have bought say 1.82 units in February, 2.02 units when the share price went to $110, 2.04 units in April, and so on.

At the end of the year, you will have purchased ~23.92 shares by the end of the year for an average share allocation price of $100.33.

However, if you invested $2,400 at one time into AC stock during the month of February, you would have purchased ~21.82 shares or ~23.76 shares during the months of May, August, or December.

By using the dollar cost average strategy in this scenario, your end-of-year share amount would be more than if you purchased in one lump sum during the months of February, May, August, or December.

How to Invest Using DCA Investing?

If you want to invest using DCA investing, you’ll need an account with a brokerage like Public. With the app, you can invest in the same dollar amount of a particular stock or fund each month. You can also automatically reinvest your dividend earnings back into the stocks they came from, earning you more money over the long term.

Simply login to the Public app or website and look up the stock you want to buy. Indicate how much you want to buy and then make your purchase. It’s really that simple!

Dollar-Cost Averaging vs Lump Sum Investing

So are you better off dollar-cost averaging or lump-sum investing?

Lump-sum investing is, as the name suggests, investing a sum of money in stock or a fund all at once. Whereas dollar-cost averaging is spreading out the investment of a sum of money by spending a constant fraction of the sum on a particular stock or fund at regular intervals.

If the lump-sum investment was made when the price of the stock or asset was at a low point, you could get a higher return than with a DCA investing strategy. For this reason, having a lump sum of money to invest at one time can help you take advantage of market gains rather than waiting and potentially missing out. However, it’s impossible to predict stock market changes and when the market will be up or down.

With dollar cost averaging, you can potentially miss out on higher market gains you would get if you were to invest at one time. In addition, dollar-cost averaging can come with higher transaction fees, which can affect your returns. However, investing with DCA stock can minimize risks, can be used at any time because you do not have to have a lot of money to start investing, can contribute to less stress psychologically by investing small amounts over time, and allows you to take advantage of the highs and lows of market prices.

Benefits of DCA Investing

One of the benefits of dollar-cost averaging is that you can potentially take advantage of falling share prices and potentially purchase more shares over time. Some of the other benefits include:

  • Helps minimize the risk of investing everything before a big drop in the stock market
  • Allows you to invest with small amounts of money
  • Decreases psychological stress by spreading out your funds over time
  • Helps you take advantage of the highs and lows of a bear market and bull market

Risks of DCA Investing

Wherever there are benefits, there are also risks associated with any investment strategy. Some DCA strategy risks include:

  • Potentially missing out on higher market gains than if you were to invest all at once
  • Higher transaction fees
  • General risks associated with investing in stocks

Start DCA Investing With Public

When beginning your investment journey, a good investment strategy will help guide you through market timing, even when stocks are in a bear market or even investing during a recession. The world of investing will always come with rewards and risks. However, it is important to choose a strategy that works for you as an investor.

Dollar-cost averaging is a great investment strategy for beginners and for those who want to start investing despite their budget amount. Dollar-cost averaging gives you the freedom to invest with small amounts of money, and over time, it may help expand your finances.

In addition, dollar-cost averaging can help you minimize risks and take the emotion out of investing. And with the app, you can use DCA strategy on your positions and plan for your financial future.

Frequently asked questions about DCA investing

Is DCA a good investment strategy?

Dollar cost averaging is a good investment strategy for beginners or for those who don’t want to worry about timing the markets.

Does DCA reduce risk?

DCA investing does reduce investment risk as you’re investing the same consistent amount over time, balancing out market volatility. This can help prevent investing all your money right before a market downturn.

What does DCA mean in crypto?

DCA is often used in stocks and other equity trading but can be used in any type of asset investment, including crypto. With crypto, you would simply invest in your chosen digital coin or coins periodically using a set amount of money.

Does DCA work for all types of investments?

DCA is generally used for investments that are more volatile, such as stocks, crypto, ETFs or mutual funds. It is not a strategy that is generally used for investing in conservative investments like treasury bonds or CDs.

Is DCA a good strategy for investing in crypto?

DCA could be a good strategy for investing in crypto, which is highly volatile. However, it’s important to remember that crypto is riskier than investing in stocks and you should never invest more than you’re willing to lose.

What is the downside to DCA?

The biggest downside of DCA is that you could miss out on higher returns over the long term. It’s not a solution to all investing risks and your investment could still be at risk from market volatility.

What is the best DCA strategy?

DCA is simply buying the same dollar amount of a volatile investment like stocks or crypto over a set period of time.

Is Dollar-Cost Averaging Better Than Buying the Dip?

That depends on your personal investing strategy. With dollar-cost averaging, you only need your monthly contributions. However, with buying the dip, you need to have cash on hand during specific moments that are not always easy to predict.

The above content provided and paid for by Public and is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute investment advice or any other kind of professional advice and should not be relied upon as such. Before taking action based on any such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. We do not endorse any third parties referenced within the article. Market and economic views are subject to change without notice and may be untimely when presented here. Do not infer or assume that any securities, sectors or markets described in this article were or will be profitable. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. There is a possibility of loss. Historical or hypothetical performance results are presented for illustrative purposes only.