Why time in the markets matters

When you have worked hard to build up your savings, it is not always easy to decide how best to look after them, especially for your retirement years. You probably have some or all of the following objectives:

  • Protect your capital and maintain financial security
  • Generate an income
  • Grow the capital, but with an acceptable level of risk
  • Leave a healthy inheritance to your family

You know that you need to invest to earn enough capital growth but may be wary about taking on too much investment risk. If you are invested, geopolitical events and market volatility can make you nervous and wonder if you should sell and sit in cash for a while.

By getting a better understanding of investment principles and working with a financial adviser you can avoid common pitfalls and turn your goals into reality.

The risks of trying to time the market

Successful investors are marathon runners, not sprinters. Staying invested in the markets over the long term usually gives the best returns. When you see markets fluctuate, it can be tempting to buy and sell investments to chase short-term gains or out of fear.  Unfortunately, this can often result in entering or exiting the market at precisely the wrong time. Making emotional investment decisions will rarely help you meet your longer-term financial goals.

For individual investors, it is difficult to anticipate and deal with the wide range and speed of events and issues which can impact economies and markets. External events, investor sentiment and even rumours can have a negative or positive impact, often unexpectedly and suddenly. Reacting to current conditions is usually too late. To be successful, you would need to foresee both the best time to buy and to sell.

Then, there is the risk of missing out. It is surprising what a difference certain days in a market cycle can make to returns. If you are not invested because you are waiting for share prices to stabilise after volatility, you could miss benefiting from rebound days if the market suddenly rallies.

To illustrate this, if you had invested £100,000 in the FTSE All-Share index for the full 10-year period up to December 31, 2021, staying invested the whole time, you would have enjoyed a profit (before fees and charges) of £110,700 – your investment would notionally have more than doubled to £210,700 including the original investment. Investors who missed the five, 10 and 20 best days saw profits (before fees and charges) drop to £64,090, £40,540 and £6,820 respectively. Those who missed the best 30 days saw a loss of £15,800.

While it may feel uncomfortable to stay invested when markets fluctuate, this discipline usually produces better returns over the longer term than chasing short-term gains.

The importance of diversification

Ensure your investing strategy is well diversified and suitable for your situation, risk appetite and goals. Even the most patient investor is unlikely to benefit from an ill-fitting portfolio that does not meet their needs or is overly concentrated in one area.

The best strategy for minimising risk is to diversify by spreading investments across multiple areas. This should include a range of different asset classes (shares, bonds, cash, real assets), geographical regions and market sectors. Diversification gives your portfolio the chance to produce positive returns over time without being vulnerable to any single area or stock under-performing.

Choosing an adviser who uses a dynamic ‘multi-manager’ approach can help increase diversification. Combining several carefully-selected fund managers reduces reliance on any one manager making the right decisions in all market conditions.

Establishing a suitable investment approach

It is crucial to carefully assess your situation, income requirements, goals and timeline alongside your appetite for risk. This is best done objectively by a professional who can then build a diversified portfolio with the right balance of risk/return for your peace of mind. Your arrangements should also be structured as tax-efficiently as possible for Portugal.

If you have capital to invest but today’s climate makes you nervous, you could consider spreading the timing of your investments over a period by investing in tranches. The ‘pound (or euro/dollar) cost averaging’ approach can help smooth out volatility and potentially improve average returns over longer time periods.

Ultimately, a long-term, diversified investment approach is vital to help protect and grow your capital. While a ‘keep calm and stay invested’ approach usually gives the best overall results over time, make sure you still review your planning once a year to realign your investments with your risk profile and continue meeting your financial goals.

These views are put forward for consideration purposes only as the suitability of any investment is dependent on individual circumstances; take individual personalised advice. The value of investments can fall as well as rise as can the income arising from them. Past performance should not be seen as an indication of future performance.

Keep up to date on the financial issues that may affect you on the Blevins Franks news page at

Dan Henderson

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Dan Henderson is a Partner of Blevins Franks in Portugal. A highly experienced financial adviser, he holds the Diploma in Financial Planning and advanced qualifications in pensions and investment planning from the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII). |