The trouble with stock markets is that prices fluctuate constantly. You may have your eye on a stock that looks reasonably priced today, but who’s to say whether the price will be higher or lower tomorrow?
Dollar-cost averaging provides a solution to this problem: Buy stocks with a set amount of money at regular intervals, and you may pay less per share on average over time. Crucially, dollar-cost averaging allows you to get started buying stocks right away, with a little bit of money, rather than waiting to build your balance. This mitigates the risk you buy either extremely high or low since you’re spreading out your purchases across a long period of time.
Let’s say you use dollar-cost averaging to buy your target stock at $5 a share in week one, $10 a share in week two, and $9 a share in week three. On average, you’ve paid $8 a share—better than if you had mistimed your purchase and gone all in at $10 a share, only to see the price drop. Plus, investing the same dollar amount each time would buy you more stock at $5 a share than at either of the other price points.
Buy low and sell high is a mantra for successful stock purchasing you’ve probably heard more than once. But practicing it can be psychologically challenging, and it can be very, very difficult even for experts to agree what “low” and “high” are for a given stock. Automated, recurring stock purchases that use dollar-cost averaging help you sidestep the challenge and make investing routine.