Many of you will no doubt be aware of the term “pound cost averaging” when it comes to savings and investments. However, for those that are not familiar with the term a brief explanation would be appropriate as it can form an important part of someone’s investment strategy.
“Pound cost averaging” tends to be focused on saving money on a regular basis but can be used when it comes to investing a lump sum but we will look at that a little later.
Firstly, let’s look at an example to show exactly how “pound cost averaging” may work to your financial advantage. When you save in unit trusts you buy units in a particular fund or funds so let us assume that you set up a unit trust savings plan to save £100 per month and the price of each unit is £1 on the day you make your first deposit.
You do not need a calculator to work out that your £100 will buy you 100 units so your fund is worth £100 ignoring any charges. However, by the time your next £100 goes in next month the unit price has dropped to 50 pence. So your second £100 will buy you 200 units. The value of your unit trust is now worth £150 that is calculated based upon 300 units of 50 pence each. When your third month’s £100 is used to buy units the price of the units has gone back to £1 so you now have 400 units with a value of £400 yet you have only saved £300 – not a bad return!
The above example may seem a bit extreme as far as the fluctuating price of the units is concerned but is merely used to demonstrate what “pound cost averaging” is.
So, as you can see, the benefit of pound cost averaging is that it spreads your risk when saving on a regular basis. It “averages” out the ups and downs of fluctuations in the performance of the stock market going some way towards providing a natural shelter against such changes.
What is perhaps not as commonly known is that “pound cost averaging” can also be used when it comes to making a lump sum investment. Let’s assume that you have £5,000 to invest in unit trusts. Most people would invest the whole amount in one go but there is absolutely nothing to stop you spreading that investment over a number of months. For instance, you could deposit say £1,000 every month for a period of five months.
However, needless to say, there are no guarantees that the value of your fund over say five years will have a greater value than the amount that has been saved or invested over that period but “pound cost averaging” does perhaps provide the opportunity to spread your risk just that little bit more. Yes, it could work against you dependent upon the price of the units when you make your deposits but that is a chance that you take.