What Is Dollar Cost Averaging?

July 27, 2023
Dollar-cost averaging (DCA) is the technique of investing equal sums of cash at regular periods, despite the price of a stock. It can help to lessen the general effect of price volatility while also lowering the average cost per share. Traders acquire additional stakes at cheaper rates and fewer shares at higher prices by purchasing consistently in up-and-down markets. This approach avoids an untimely lump sum investment at a possibly higher cost. Dollar-cost averaging could be beneficial to both new and experienced investors.

What is dollar-cost averaging?

Dollar-cost averaging is a method that may assist you in managing unstable markets by automating purchases. It additionally helps a shareholder's effort to invest on a regular basis. Dollar-cost averaging is spending the same amount of cash in an ideal investment periodically over a particular time frame, irrespective of price. Traders may minimize their average cost per share and lessen the effect of fluctuation on their investments by employing dollar-cost averaging. As a result, this method removes the need to time the market to purchase at the best pricing. The constant dollar plan is another name for dollar-cost averaging.

The working methodology of the dollar-cost averaging

Dollar-cost averaging is a primary shareholder method to create substantial savings and investments. It is also a strategy for ignoring short-term fluctuations in the larger markets. Long-term dollar-cost averaging is widely used in 401(k) plans, where staff members invest regularly, irrespective of the actual investment cost. Employees can pick the amount they want to contribute and the investments given by the strategy to invest through a 401(k) plan. Subsequently, every pay month, investments are made automatically. Depending on market conditions, employees may see greater or lesser assets added to their accounts.

Unlike 401(k) plans, dollar-cost averaging can also be employed. Traders may use it, for example, for frequent purchases of mutual or index funds in another tax-advantaged account, such as a conventional IRA or a taxable brokerage account. One of the finest tactics for prospective buyers wanting to trade ETFs is dollar-cost averaging. Furthermore, many dividend reinvestment programs allow shareholders to dollar-cost average via recurring purchases.

The advantages of dollar-cost averaging

·       Risk mitigation

Dollar-cost averaging decreases investment risk while preserving wealth in a market meltdown. It saves money, which gives you liquidity and flexibility while managing your investment portfolio. DCA addresses the drawback of round-figure investing by purchasing an asset when the cost has been inflated artificially owing to market sentiment, resulting in the acquisition of stock in less than the needed amount. When a security's value reaches its inherent value due to economic recovery or the bubble bursts, the holdings of an investor will suffer.

Some declines are extended, reducing net portfolio worth even more. Adopting DCA guarantees a minimum loss and potentially significant profits. DCA can alleviate regret by providing short-term downside protection against a rapid decline in a security's price. Because a dropping market is sometimes considered a purchasing opportunity, DCA may significantly improve long-term portfolio return potential when the market begins to rebound.

·       Less expensive

Purchasing market assets when prices are falling offers a more significant return for the investor. Using the DCA method implies that one can purchase more assets than if they bought at a high price.

·       Be patient during declines in markets.

The DCA method involves investing modest sums in dropping markets regularly, which can help you ride out market downturns. The portfolio utilizing DCA may maintain a healthy balance while leaving the possible benefits to improve portfolio value over time.

·       Consistent saving

Adding money to an investment account regularly enables disciplined saving since the portfolio balance grows even when the portfolio's current assets depreciate. A lengthy market fall, on the other hand, might damage the portfolio.

·       Prevents inconvenient time

Market timing is not a precise art that many shareholders, even experienced ones, can grasp. The investment of a lump sum at an inappropriate time can be dangerous and have a significant negative impact on the value of a business. Because market fluctuations are difficult to foresee, the dollar-cost averaging technique will smooth the cost of purchasing, which may profit the stakeholder.

·       Control emotional investment

The phenomenon of emotional investing, caused by various circumstances, such as making a significant lump-sum investment and loss aversion, is not uncommon in behavioral theory. Emotional investing is eliminated or reduced when DCA is used. A controlled purchasing technique using DCA directs the shareholder's attention to the work. It avoids updates and data buzz from different forms of media regarding the stock market's short-term achievements and prospects.

Dollar-cost averaging critics

There is adequate proof that DCA may cut average dollar costs when used with discipline and in favorable market conditions. Other research, however, questions the benefits and practicality of successfully implementing the DCA investing approach.

i.       Increased transaction costs

By acquiring securities in modest sums over time, investors face the danger of accruing substantial transaction fees, which can undercut the profits made by the portfolio's present holdings. However, it will mostly rely on the sort of investment plan since certain mutual funds have a high-cost ratio, which can have a negative impact on portfolio value over the medium to long term.

ii.     Priority of asset allocation

DCA detractors believe an investment strategy should prioritize the intended asset allocation to control risk. Pursuing a DCA will increase uncertainty since attaining the desired asset allocation guidelines will take longer.

Because the economic and physical surroundings shift over time, traders must be able to reorient their investments to guard against loss and capitalize on new possibilities. Nevertheless, for a DCA investor, the offer may be unsustainable. It is wise for investors to deposit funds in a money market investment account, where they will generate interest while waiting to be deployed profitably to other strategic assets within the new targeted asset allocation.

iii.   Expected returns are low.

The risk and return dynamics are straightforward: high risk-high rewards and low risk-poor returns. As a result, using a DCA approach to decrease risk will necessarily result in reduced returns. The market often sees longer-lasting bull markets with rising prices than bear markets with falling prices. As a result, a DCA trader is more likely to miss out on investment growth and more significant benefits than a lump sum investor.

The chances of failing to achieve higher returns are more significant than the chances of preventing overall portfolio value degradation; according to a 2012 analysis by the U.S.-based financial firm Vanguard, a lump-sum investment would have given substantially greater returns than DCA 66% of the time.

iv.    Difficult

DCA monitoring each planned payment over a particular time horizon is laborious, significantly when the cost-benefit contrasted to a lump-sum transaction is minor. Monitoring and tracking each donation take time and effort, making it more complex than a lump-sum investment.

Dollar-cost averaging vs. market timing

Dollar-cost averaging functions, given that market values tend to grow over time. However, asset values do not grow consistently in the short run. Instead, they chase after short-term peaks and troughs that may or may not adhere to any discernible pattern.

Numerous individuals have sought to time the market by purchasing low-priced assets. In principle, this appears to be a simple task. Even skilled stock pickers find predicting how the market will move in the short-term challenging. Next week's low might be a relatively high price. And this week's peak may appear to be a relatively modest price a month from now.

Only in retrospect can you determine what advantageous pricing might have been for any particular asset—and by then, it is too late to acquire. When you wait and try to time your asset acquisition, you typically end up purchasing at a price that has stagnated after an investment has already achieved significant gains. Furthermore, attempting to time market conditions can be pretty costly. According to a Charles Schwab study, traders who tried to time the market had significantly lower returns than those who invested consistently using dollar cost averaging.

Benefits of DCA to those with limited investment capital

Dollar-cost averaging allows you to start investing with little amounts of money. For example, you might not have much money to invest at once. Dollar-cost averaging invests smaller sums of your money in the market regularly. This way, you will not have to wait until a more significant sum is saved to gain from market growth.

Regular investments with dollar cost averaging guarantee that you invest even when the market is down. Maintaining assets amid market downturns might be scary for some investors. However, you risk missing out on future gains if you stop investing or remove your existing investments during a weak market.

Who should utilize dollar-cost averaging?

Dollar-cost averaging is a form of investment that can be utilized by any trader who wants to take full advantage of its perks, including a potentially lower average cost, automatic investing at specific periods, and an approach that alleviates the burden of having to make investment choices under pressure when the market is unstable.

Dollar-cost averaging could be particularly beneficial for new investors who lack the knowledge or skill to determine the best times to buy. It can also be a viable approach for long-term traders who want to invest frequently but do not have the time or willingness to monitor the market and time their orders.

Dollar-cost averaging, on the other hand, is not for everyone. Investing is not always ideal when prices continuously go in one direction or another. When deciding whether to adopt dollar-cost averaging, consider your investment perspective and the overall market.

Remember that the recurrent investment required by dollar-cost averaging can result in more significant transaction costs than investing a hefty sum.

Particular considerations

It is worth noting that dollar-cost averaging works effectively as a strategy for purchasing an investment over a certain period when the price varies up and down. If the price continues to grow, individuals who use dollar-cost averaging buy fewer shares. If it falls, people may continue to purchase when they should be selling.

As a result, the approach cannot safeguard investors from the danger of falling market prices. Like the perspective of many long-term investors, the course expects that prices, while decreasing at times, would eventually increase.

When utilized to buy index funds instead of individual companies, the method is significantly less hazardous for less-informed investors. Dollar-cost averaging traders will typically decrease their expense basis in a stake over time. The reduced cost base will result in less loss on assets that decline in price and more gain on those that rise in price.

What motivates investors to use dollar-cost averaging?

The primary benefit of dollar-cost averaging is that it mitigates the negative impact of the mindset of investors and market timing on an investment. By adhering to a dollar-cost averaging strategy, traders eliminate the possibility of making counter-productive decisions based on greed or fear, such as purchasing more when prices are increasing or panic-selling when prices are falling. On the other hand, dollar-cost averaging compels investors to concentrate on contributing a fixed amount of money every time frame while disregarding the cost of the target investment.


Dollar-cost averaging (DCA) has advantages and disadvantages; nonetheless, the desire for a low-risk investment approach may result in inferior returns. On the plus side, if there are dropping markets that do not become prolonged, it is feasible to get a cheaper dollar-cost average for an asset over time rather than a lump-sum investment. An investor should use DCA as an optional technique in addition to other more daring methods such as target asset allocation, diversification, and frequent balancing of your portfolio.