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RETIREMENT PLAN INVESTOR

Use your plan ID (available on your account statement) to determine which employer-sponsored retirement plan website to use:

IF YOUR PLAN ID BEGINS WITH IRK, BRK, 1, 2 OR 754

Visit americanfunds.com/retire

IF YOUR PLAN ID BEGINS WITH 34 OR 135

Visit myretirement.americanfunds.com

Mutual Fund Basics

Automatic Investment Plans: A Systematic, All-Weather Strategy

Learn how a program of regular investing, known as dollar cost averaging, can help you weather market declines.

Seeking a strategy for investing during a down market? A plan of systematic, or regular, investing can help you take advantage of changing market conditions — and avoid the futile approach of trying to time the market.

Dollar Cost Averaging Basics

Regular investing can help you cope with the human tendency of hesitating to invest in a declining market, when stock prices may actually be more reasonable.

With an automatic investment plan, known as dollar cost averaging, an investor invests the same amount at regular intervals — for example, $500 each month — regardless of whether stock prices rise or fall. Using this strategy, investors can buy more shares at lower prices and fewer shares at higher prices.

A program of regular investing can help take the emotion out of investing when markets turn particularly volatile, because your long-term strategy doesn’t change. There is no need to make a drastic adjustment. In fact, taking money out of the market or ceasing to invest during declines might result in selling low or missing the chance to add to a portfolio when prices are down.

"In my 38 years, I’ve seen a lot of market cycles and lived through some very volatile periods. With experience, you begin to understand that none of us can predict what the market is going to do in the short term," says Tim Armour, chair and CEO of the Capital Group. "The most important lesson I’ve learned over time is that you have to contain your emotions. Sticking with the fundamentals, employing good asset allocation, and maintaining a balanced portfolio with a long-term horizon is the best approach."

The Benefits of Dollar Cost Averaging

To illustrate the potential benefits of dollar cost averaging, take a look at the table below. In this hypothetical example, an investor bought shares of a mutual fund at three regular intervals, paying $15, $10 and $20 per share. When the price fell to $10 per share, the investor bought more shares. When it rose to $20 per share, the investor bought fewer shares.

When Prices Fall, You Can Accumulate More Shares

Investment

Date

Amount

Invested

Price

Per Share

Shares

Bought

10/1/20

$500

$15

33.33

1/1/21

$500

$10

50

4/1/21

$500

$20

  25

 

Total invested: $1,500
Number of shares purchased: 108.33
Average price at which the shares traded: $15
Average cost: $13.85 ($1,500/108.33)

The key is that the average cost of the shares was $13.85 per share, whereas the average price on the market was $15 per share. This means that the investor was able to avoid paying an average of an additional $1.15 per share simply by investing regularly and using the power of dollar cost averaging.

Of course, to take advantage of a systematic plan, investors must be willing to stick to the strategy during bad markets. Regular investing does not ensure a profit or protect against loss, and investors should consider their willingness to keep investing when share prices are declining.

An Automatic Investment Plan in Action

Now that we’ve discussed the potential benefits of dollar cost averaging, let’s look at how a systematic investment plan might have worked for an investor during the past two decades. For example, consider a hypothetical investment of $500 at the end of every month in Standard & Poor’s 500 Composite Index, with all dividends reinvested, over the 20 years ending on December 31, 2021.

During the 20 years of this hypothetical investment, there were periods of market declines with various highs and lows. But at the end of those 20 years, the investor would have built up an account balance of $487,599.

Set Up a Plan Online

If you and your financial professional decide that an automatic investment plan makes sense, you can get one started online.

  1. Log in to your account.
  2. On Your Portfolio, click Automatic Transactions next to the account for which you’d like to set up a plan.
  3. Click Add New next to the automatic plan you’d like to establish.

Investments are not FDIC-insured, nor are they deposits of or guaranteed by a bank or any other entity, so they may lose value.

Investors should carefully consider investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses. This and other important information is contained in the fund prospectuses and summary prospectuses, which can be obtained from a financial professional and should be read carefully before investing.

The indexes are unmanaged and, therefore, have no expenses. Investors cannot invest directly in an index.

Each S&P Index ("Index") shown is a product of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and/or its affiliates and has been licensed for use by Capital Group. Copyright ©2022 S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, a division of S&P Global, and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. Redistribution or reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited without written permission of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC.

All Capital Group trademarks mentioned are owned by The Capital Group Companies, Inc., an affiliated company or fund. All other company and product names mentioned are the property of their respective companies.

Use of this website is intended for U.S. residents only.

American Funds Distributors, Inc., member FINRA.

This content, developed by Capital Group, home of American Funds, should not be used as a primary basis for investment decisions and is not intended to serve as impartial investment or fiduciary advice.