Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

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Shannonks
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Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by Shannonks » Thu Jun 12, 2014 9:49 am

I follow the three fund portfolio recommended by Bogle and have the following Vanguard index funds:

Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTSMX)
Vanguard Total International Stock Index Fund (VGTSX)
Vanguard Total Bond Market Fund (VBMFX)

I am wondering if it is time to sell, especially for Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund? Of course, I'd buy back when the market is lower again, but I hate to lose out on these gains. Thoughts?

chaz
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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by chaz » Thu Jun 12, 2014 10:49 am

I suggest holding, not selling. I avoid market timing.

Good luck.
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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by midareff » Thu Jun 12, 2014 10:52 am

Dunno... I hit a balance band and did what I do when I hit them.

Quickfoot
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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by Quickfoot » Thu Jun 12, 2014 10:55 am

If you are nervous enough to consider selling everything that's a good clue it's time to consider your asset allocation. What percentage of fixed income vs equities are you holding? Maybe drop it down a level or two if you are no longer comfortable with the amount of risk you are taking.

Selling everything would be a bad thing, some claim the market is over priced, others have just as compelling evidence that it is right where it should be. We don't know what will happen, there will be a market correction at some point, could be tomorrow, could be 5 years from now. No one knows how big or how long the next market correction will be either so sitting on the sidelines with cash isn't likely to increase your net worth as much as staying invested.

If you have a proper asset allocation you shouldn't care if there is a market correction or not, that you care very strongly suggests you don't have the right asset allocation for your risk tolerance. You might also want to read a few more books to better understand how investor psychology hurts investors. In particular I'd suggest "The Little Book of Behavioral Investing."

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StormShadow
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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by StormShadow » Thu Jun 12, 2014 10:59 am

there are good reasons to avoid market timing and focus on investing for the long-run.
http://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Market_timing

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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by mich_bogle » Thu Jun 12, 2014 11:00 am

Some choice words of wisdom about doing this here:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-smartes ... et-timing/

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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by Quickfoot » Thu Jun 12, 2014 11:01 am

there are good reasons to avoid market timing and focus on investing for the long-run.
Yep, mostly because no one can successfully time the market for a long enough period of time to make more money than just staying invested. You can lose a lot of money and pay a bunch of fees trying though :).

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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by Tim_in_GA » Thu Jun 12, 2014 11:05 am

midareff wrote:Dunno... I hit a balance band and did what I do when I hit them.
Same here. Normally I would wait until the end of a quarter and evaluate it then but my company is switching 401k providers at the end of the month and we'll be locked out for roughly 6 weeks. I rebalanced Tuesday, lowering stock allocation and buying more bond fund. Good thing I did it that day - stocks have fallen every day since.

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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by cjking » Thu Jun 12, 2014 11:07 am

If you're willing to be different, switch your TSM into International. You will need a rule for when to switch back.

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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by Call_Me_Op » Thu Jun 12, 2014 11:11 am

Shannonks wrote:I follow the three fund portfolio recommended by Bogle and have the following Vanguard index funds:

Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTSMX)
Vanguard Total International Stock Index Fund (VGTSX)
Vanguard Total Bond Market Fund (VBMFX)

I am wondering if it is time to sell, especially for Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund? Of course, I'd buy back when the market is lower again, but I hate to lose out on these gains. Thoughts?
This is the kind of thinking that gets people into trouble. There is a real danger in adopting a simple (but sophisticated) 3-fund portfolio and not managing it as intended. Your portfolio AA should be designed to to be held long-term and periodically rebalanced. You should not be trying to time the market, jumping in and out. I suggest that you go back to basics and review Bogleheads principles.
Last edited by Call_Me_Op on Thu Jun 12, 2014 11:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Raymond
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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by Raymond » Thu Jun 12, 2014 11:16 am

Shannonks wrote:...I am wondering if it is time to sell, especially for Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund? Of course, I'd buy back when the market is lower again, but I hate to lose out on these gains. Thoughts?
My thoughts:

- How reliable is your crystal ball? :P
- What does your investment policy statement (IPS) say you should do about rebalancing your asset allocation?
"Ritter, Tod und Teufel"

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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by livesoft » Thu Jun 12, 2014 11:20 am

Ha! Ha! Welcome!

We just had this thread and here it is:
http://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtop ... 1&t=140783
Did you enjoy reading it?
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LongerPrimer
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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by LongerPrimer » Thu Jun 12, 2014 11:22 am

I had that urge once.
Created another account for the funds, which I then manipulated to my whims. It maybe about 10% of original account, so any + or - moves didn't affect the majority account. It was interesting to track the differences.

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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by retiredjg » Thu Jun 12, 2014 11:28 am

Quickfoot wrote:If you are nervous enough to consider selling everything that's a good clue it's time to consider your asset allocation.
I agree with this thinking.

Recently I had thoughts similar to yours, although I never considered selling everything or even selling a lot.

To relieve my discomfort, I gave my portfolio a bit of a trim earlier than I would have in the past. In the past, I would have let my stocks rise 5% above my target. Now, I rebalance some stocks into bonds closer to 3% over target.

If I continue to feel the need to do early trims, I should probably just move the target down. In fact, I suspect that may be what is happening - a change in my risk tolerance. Perhaps that is what has happened with you.



On the other hand, if you think you can time the market, you might be in for a very unpleasant awakening. Your thinking that you should know when to sell or that you'll know when to buy back in is completely misguided. It just does not work that way.

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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by Jeff7 » Thu Jun 12, 2014 11:32 am

Shannonks wrote:I follow the three fund portfolio recommended by Bogle and have the following Vanguard index funds:

Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTSMX)
Vanguard Total International Stock Index Fund (VGTSX)
Vanguard Total Bond Market Fund (VBMFX)

I am wondering if it is time to sell, especially for Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund? Of course, I'd buy back when the market is lower again, but I hate to lose out on these gains. Thoughts?
Is this a "high" now? Long-range chart for VTSMX.


March 30, 1997. There's a little dip. Then the market went up. Would you buy or sell then, without knowing what the future held?
May 30, 1999. Seems high. Then it went higher.
November 29, 2000. Uh oh, it's been going lower for awhile now. Better sell. Then it goes lower.
March 30, 2001. Ok, it's low enough now, time to buy back in. Oops, it went even lower. Now what? When will it bottom out?

Or look at any point on the graph that's on an upward slope, and then look to the left to see if there's any higher points. If not, you're at a "market high.
March 30, 1998 was a high point on that chart. So was June 29, 1999. And August 30, 2000. And October 30, 2007. But it's still higher today than at any of those market highs. Without knowing the future, where do you sell, and when do you buy back in?

There's no way to know. People propose "systems" frequently for this sort of thing. They either don't work, or they don't work long-term. Or they make money selling newsletters about their guaranteed-to-perform systems. (Rather than using their failure-proof systems themselves, which should be far more profitable.)



I put money into the 401k and IRA every week, rebalance once a year if it's needed, and that's it. Very simple, and no fiddling.
Last edited by Jeff7 on Thu Jun 12, 2014 11:37 am, edited 1 time in total.

Quickfoot
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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by Quickfoot » Thu Jun 12, 2014 11:35 am

If I continue to feel the need to do early trims, I should probably just move the target down. In fact, I suspect that may be what is happening - a change in my risk tolerance. Perhaps that is what has happened with you.
Noting wrong with figuring out your asset allocation assumes more risk than you are comfortable with. Moving to a 50/50 or 40/60 asset allocation that you can stick with is going to work better than jumping in and out of a 60/40 or 80/20. If we were closer to retirement we would probably drop a level at this point just because our need to take risk would be lower after the last year's equity returns.

For the OP I'd also suggest you take a look at either a target date retirement or a life strategy fund, it sounds like you may not have the resolve to re-balance during a market downturn and both of those families of funds will automatically re-balance for you.

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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by pjstack » Thu Jun 12, 2014 11:50 am

Don't forget the taxes you generate when you sell. They are another drag on your market timing attempts.
pjstack

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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by HardKnocker » Thu Jun 12, 2014 12:04 pm

No matter what I'd decide to do, I do the opposite, because I always do the wrong thing at the wrong time, so I'd do the opposite of whatever I decided not to do, then I don't do that.

In other words I'd do nothing, but that would be something, so I wouldn't do that but then I would.

And then just keep to my asset allocation. :?
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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by covertfantom » Thu Jun 12, 2014 12:09 pm

People thought the market was too high at the beginning of the year. If you had sold then, you'd have missed out on 6% of gains over 6 months. Just goes to show that nobody knows how high is too high...

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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by Doom&Gloom » Thu Jun 12, 2014 1:48 pm

If you cannot stomach holding stocks after they have risen, you should re-evaluate your investment plan as a big drop will almost certainly lead you down a treacherous path.

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Leif
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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by Leif » Thu Jun 12, 2014 2:12 pm

Dr. Bill Bernstein said in November of last year:
And if you’re like me, you like leaning even more against the wind, so that when you see valuations like this, you want your equity allocation to be less than it was two years ago. So if you were 55 percent/45 percent two years ago, maybe today you want to be 45 percent/55 percent or at least 50/50. Believe me, this is not rocket science.
Also from Bill:
Yes, when the intelligent investor does some trimming back, he usually feels like a dummy for the next year or two. And when he trims back again, he feels like a little bit more of a dummy. And he feels dumb for awhile each time after he does it. But then there comes a point, three to five years hence, when he feels awfully smart.
http://www.etf.com/sections/index-inves ... table.html

Now the market is even higher. So if you reached a point where you are getting nervous you can take "a bit" off the table. Better that then selling in a down market. This is further discussed here.

Bill's Boglehead post:
But I've always believed that slight changes in allocation opposite big moves in valuation are generally salutary, and I've certainly not changed my mind on that one; the theme was present in the first electronic edition of Intelligent Asset Allocator in 1996, and is discussed on pp 137-9 in the 2000 hard copy, as well as in my subsequent books.

If you are a true believer in market efficiency, then you *never* rebalance, since that's a bet on better/worse future returns for assets with past worse/better returns. (And, in fact, this is Bill Sharpe's opinion.) Dynamic asset allocation of the type I'm describing is simply a more aggressive form of rebalancing: "overbalancing," if you will.

And, to the extent you could stick with it, it's had a pretty good track record over the past 15 years; the person who maximized/minimized stock allocations in 2001-2 and 2008-9/1996-2000 and 2005-7 was not at all unhappy, in the end, tho he may have felt like a dummy at times along the way.
Bill Bernstein: "Take risk off the table"
Last edited by Leif on Thu Jun 12, 2014 2:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

letsgobobby
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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by letsgobobby » Thu Jun 12, 2014 2:22 pm

I'm very impressed: one post in two years! You have obviously been weighing this move very, very carefully.

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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by shaX » Thu Jun 12, 2014 3:07 pm

Stay the course, go down with the ship. It will always come back up at some point. American brokers are far too greedy to let the stock market stay down forever. Think about it :D

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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by RadAudit » Thu Jun 12, 2014 4:13 pm

What does your IPS say you should do? Are you comfortable with your AA? Has your need, ability or willingness to take risk changed? Have you hit your number?

A lot of questions need to be answered. If you haven't rebalanced in a couple of years, it might be time to re-visit your IPS.

I recommend that you follow your plan.
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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by Dandy » Thu Jun 12, 2014 4:30 pm

Use your re balancing method to prompt you when to make changes is usually the best advice.

My approach is somewhat different: as long as you keep your equity vs fixed income allocation within the re balancing bands you can make changes. So when the market is on a big run and gets near the top of my rebalancing band -- I might sell some. I only do this for the major allocation of equity vs fixed income allocation. I hate making major dollar moves. I some minor sales of equities 3 or 4 times in equity boom of 2013 but none so far this year.

Staying within tight bands won't get you into too much trouble. The problem is really when you "feel" the market is high and want to change your overall allocation from say 60/40 to 40/60. That will get you into market timing and away from establishing an allocation that meets your risk tolerance and your needs.

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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by cfs » Thu Jun 12, 2014 4:55 pm

Testimonial.

It is not my intention to make fun of the original poster, that's not my style. The good investment moves are only known in retrospect and I just can't remember ever making the right move when trying to time the market, every single time I tried to time the market I lost money--and losing money is not fun at all. My only recommendation to any individual investor is to conduct the pillow test--if you can't sleep at night thinking about your investments then you need to take action--pick a desired asset allocation, and forget about it. Good luck with your investments.

Thanks for reading.
~ Member of the Active Retired Force since 2014 ~

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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by rob » Thu Jun 12, 2014 5:07 pm

Shannonks wrote:I follow the three fund portfolio recommended by Bogle <snip> I am wondering if it is time to sell <snip> Thoughts?
I think you might go back to any of his books and read the next few chapters :D If you know when to get in and out than stop using funds as stocks (or options) are a better vehicle for stock picking.
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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by Leesbro63 » Thu Jun 12, 2014 6:36 pm

Yes, sell when the market is high. Once you accurately define high. Was it high when it rebounded from 6666 (or so) to 10,000? How bout when it doubled to 13,200. Or broke thru the prior high of 14200. How about at 15,000? Because if you determined that was "high", you may never get a chance to buy back. And when do you buy back? Right when the DOW dropped below 13,000 as it in 2008? If so, you still lost half your equities.

Pick an allocation you can live with and don't try to time the market. Because you have to be right twice.

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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by Twins Fan » Thu Jun 12, 2014 6:47 pm

Shannonks wrote:I am wondering if it is time to sell, especially for Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund? Of course, I'd buy back when the market is lower again, but I hate to lose out on these gains. Thoughts?
Too late... Today was a little bit of down day. You just lost out on some gains. Might as well let it ride now. :D

As long as you expect and hope the market will be higher 20 - 30 years from now than these highs, leave it alone and rebalance as needed.

For someone that reads and is familiar with what Bogle recommends, you sure seem to have skipped over the market timing part??

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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by Toons » Thu Jun 12, 2014 6:50 pm

I suggest holding a minimum of 20 years ,reinvesting the dividends,cap gains along the way,,just sayin :happy
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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by abuss368 » Thu Jun 12, 2014 7:30 pm

That is a tough question as Bogleheads are investors who use a strategy that incorporates total market funds.

You have a diversified portfolio that is low cost and easy to understand.

Stay the course.
Last edited by abuss368 on Thu Jun 12, 2014 7:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by livesoft » Thu Jun 12, 2014 7:35 pm

I think it is clear that the OP reads the forum and the responses in this thread, but is a person of few posts. Personally, I don't expect another post from them until about this time in 2016.
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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by abuss368 » Thu Jun 12, 2014 7:59 pm

Please stop back with any more questions or concerns you may have.
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Shannonks
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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by Shannonks » Fri Jun 13, 2014 9:02 am

Thank you to everyone for your advice. It is very tempting to take advantage of these highs since I do believe in the mantra, "buy low, and sell high." I really don't see the stock market not going lower at some point, so I thought it wouldn't hurt to do this just once, but I will take the advice of the posters in this post and stay invested. I'm 36, and I have about $300K invested (outside of my 401K) in the three fund portfolio with allocations similar to the Vanguard Target Retirement Fund based on my age. I haven't messed with it in the past, so I guess I shouldn't start now! Thanks again for all of the good advice.

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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by Jeff7 » Fri Jun 13, 2014 9:32 am

Shannonks wrote:Thank you to everyone for your advice. It is very tempting to take advantage of these highs since I do believe in the mantra, "buy low, and sell high." I really don't see the stock market not going lower at some point, so I thought it wouldn't hurt to do this just once, but I will take the advice of the posters in this post and stay invested. I'm 36, and I have about $300K invested (outside of my 401K) in the three fund portfolio with allocations similar to the Vanguard Target Retirement Fund based on my age. I haven't messed with it in the past, so I guess I shouldn't start now! Thanks again for all of the good advice.
"Just once."
That's where it starts to get slippery.

Do it just once.
If it doesn't work, then you lose money, and it might start to sour you on investing. Or it might make you very determined to attempt to right the wrong.

If it does work, then you might be tempted to try it again and again, right up until your luck runs out at a particularly inopportune time.
(Reversion to the mean.)

I started into my IRA right around a presidential election. I thought "Maybe I should wait until after the election." The next thought was "But if I start trying to time political events, who knows where that'll lead." So I started up the IRA, bought $1k of Vanguard's STAR fund, and then put money into it every week. I also increased my 401k contributions. The market does its dances now and then. It does that.
And keep in mind that there have been numerous times when the financial magazines and experts predict doom. People in the industry were talking "This is it. This is the end of the stock market. Investing is dead forever." Yet it's all still here.

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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by retiredjg » Fri Jun 13, 2014 10:23 am

Shannonks wrote:Thank you to everyone for your advice. It is very tempting to take advantage of these highs since I do believe in the mantra, "buy low, and sell high." I really don't see the stock market not going lower at some point, so I thought it wouldn't hurt to do this just once, but I will take the advice of the posters in this post and stay invested.
I think you are missing something. If you are keeping your portfolio at your target (or within bands) you are selling high and buying low. Well, I suppose if you are rebalancing with new money, you are not selling, but you are buying low.

That "just once" bothers me too.

Again, if you feel that things are soaring too high, that may indicate that your chosen asset allocation is too high for your comfort level. If that is true, dial back by 5% and see how you feel. Repeat if necessary.

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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by retiredjg » Fri Jun 13, 2014 10:27 am

Or...maybe you are telling us you have bought and held but have not rebalanced?

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Leif
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Re: Time to Sell Index Funds While Market Is High?

Post by Leif » Fri Jun 13, 2014 1:02 pm

+1 for the "That "just once" bothers me."

Flying by the seat of your pants is dangerous in investing. That is why many stress the importance of having an investment plan that defines what you should do and when you should do it. Unexpected life events can occur that may cause you to adjust your plan, but the market going up and down is certainly not an unexpected event. That is what it does.

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