Time can affect how you invest, and the results of your investing, in different ways:
Growth potential – Contrary to myth, there’s no real way to “get rich quick” when investing. To build wealth, you need patience – and time. If you own quality investments with growth potential, and you give them years – in fact, decades – to increase in value, your perseverance may be rewarded.
Targeted goals – To accumulate resources for retirement, you need to save and invest throughout your working life. But along the way, you’ll probably also have some shorter-term goals – making a down payment on a home, sending your children to college, taking a round-the-world trip, and so on. Each of these goals has a specific time limit and usually requires a specific amount of money, so you will need to choose the appropriate investments.
Risk tolerance – The element of time also will affect your tolerance for risk. When you have many decades to go until you retire, you can afford to take more risk with your investments because you have time to overcome periods of market volatility. But when you’re on the verge of retirement, you may want to lower the risk level in your portfolio. Keep in mind, though, that even during retirement, you’ll need your portfolio to provide enough growth opportunity at least to help keep you ahead of inflation.
Thus far, we have looked at ways in which time plays a role in how you invest. But there’s also an aspect of time that you may want to keep out of your investment strategies. Specifically, you might not want to try to “time” the market. The biggest problem with market timing is it’s just too hard. You essentially have to be right twice, selling at a market top and buying at the bottom. Also, as humans, we appear to be somewhat wired to think that an activity – especially a long-running activity – will simply continue. This can lead to big mistakes, such as selling after a major market drop even though that can be the time when it may be much smarter to buy because prices are low.
Think carefully about how you can put all the days, months and years on your side. Time is the one asset you can’t replenish – so use it wisely.