If you want equity to change your life, don’t waste time; invest now!

It is uncanny that several investors have emailed or commented over the last few days asking if they should stop their investments now and wait for the market to cool down a bit. Or they are waiting for the right time to invest a lump sum or start a sip.

Our short answer is: If you want equity to change your life, don’t waste time and invest now! Don’t stop your investments because of market-related noise! Don’t wait for the right time to invest. That will never come. Whatever way you invest, irrespective of the time, losing and gaining are part and parcel of the market fabric. The only way to escape losses is also to escape gains. So investing without wasting time and getting used to the losses is better.  The Bigger loss is the time wasted wondering what to do. That cannot be recovered.

Even if we buy into the (incorrect*) belief that “over the long term, the stock market will move up always”, equity investing is like climbing an unknown, uneven staircase; we do not know how wide each step is, and we do not know when we will see the next step (ignoring the potholes within each step),* See: Stock market always moves up in the long term, but returns move up and down!

The stock market is like a mercurial batsman (e.g. Sehwag). It can explode to provide magical life-changing returns (e.g. from 2003 to 2008; 2020-2022) or can go through a slump for years (the Sensex was flat for ten years after the Harshad Mehta scam

So, the secret behind successful stock market investing is to start early and keep investing. When the bumper returns arrive, your life could change. Accumulate as much market-linked capital as possible to benefit from an upswing.

So everyone is waiting for such a return in one way or another and timing the market! See: Why “time in the market: is not different from “timing the market”!

As I keep saying, we are all victims of our good and bad experiences, and so am I. Again, with the benefit of hindsight, I consider myself lucky to have started my journey with equity mutual funds when the markets were crashing in 2008, and this gave me no returns for the next five years. No, I did not buy the dip! I started with a SIP of Rs. 1500.

During these years, I was investing like crazy (quite unaware of anything happening around me). When the market started moving, I had to rub my eyes in disbelief to see my gains. My daily profit was equal to my monthly investment amount. See the chart below.

10Y portfolio loss - Ten Years of Mutual Fund Investing: My Journey and lessons learned
The first ten years of my mutual fund investing journey

This is the year-on-year increase in my investment. Notice that by sheer luck, the huge investment increase coincided with the portfolio’s sideways movement.

best time to invest in equity is when there is a sideways market

Note: The amount I invest each month has continuously increased. The above chart represents the increase in investment wrt to the initial investment.

Growth of my retirement portfolio compared with identical purchases and redemptions in the Nifty 50 TRI index as of 13th June 2024
Growth of my retirement portfolio compared with identical purchases and redemptions in the Nifty 50 TRI index as of 13th June 2024

You can read more about the chart and 16 years of mutual fund investing: My Journey and lessons learned

Two events changed my social station. The late 2013 bull run took me to the threshold of financial independence. We shall define this as 30X or 30 times current annual expenses. This means a corpus will last for 30 years if the inflation rate is the same as the rate of return.

The 2020-2022 bull run strengthened the financial independence (FI) status. During this time, my annual expenses increased by about 50%. The FI status is not yet cemented because 60% of the capital is (equity) market-linked, and any crash and/or poor sequence of returns can change it.

That aside, the key point is that the corpus grew only due to systematic investing regardless of market levels and an aggressive increase in investments yearly. The rate at which my investments grew is higher than the market-linked return. See Why increasing investments each year is crucial for financial freedom.

Many people naively believe that wealth is built with returns. Nothing could be further than the truth. Wealth is built with money. You need money to make money, So young earners should focus on skills that will increase their income.

So please do not worry about missed opportunities or right or wrong time (the equity market occasionally offers plenty of good and bad experiences). Do not worry about where the market is currently heading.

  1. Be clear about your goal.
  2. Choose a suitable asset allocation.
  3. Invest as per that asset allocation like a machine.
  4. Increase investments as much as possible.
  5. Learn how to manage risk in your portfolio in a goal-based manner.
  6. Rebalance your portfolio at least when the deviation in asset allocation is 5% or more.
  7. Systematically reduce equity exposure well before you need the money.
  8. Once you start, portfolio maintenance should take 30 minutes a year (yes, a year!).

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About The Author

Pattabiraman editor freefincalDr M. Pattabiraman(PhD) is the founder, managing editor and primary author of freefincal. He is an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. He has over ten years of experience publishing news analysis, research and financial product development. Connect with him via Twitter(X), Linkedin, or YouTube. Pattabiraman has co-authored three print books: (1) You can be rich too with goal-based investing (CNBC TV18) for DIY investors. (2) Gamechanger for young earners. (3) Chinchu Gets a Superpower! for kids. He has also written seven other free e-books on various money management topics. He is a patron and co-founder of “Fee-only India,” an organisation promoting unbiased, commission-free investment advice.

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Most investor problems can be traced to a lack of informed decision-making. We made bad decisions and money mistakes when we started earning and spent years undoing these mistakes. Why should our children go through the same pain? What is this book about? As parents, what would it be if we had to groom one ability in our children that is key not only to money management and investing but to any aspect of life? My answer: Sound Decision Making. So, in this book, we meet Chinchu, who is about to turn 10. What he wants for his birthday and how his parents plan for it, as well as teaching him several key ideas of decision-making and money management, is the narrative. What readers say!

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Feedback from a young reader after reading Chinchu gets a Superpower!

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