It has been a long time since I have revisited any financial planning concept. So time for rehashing some basic investment fundas!
How many really take an active interest in managing their portfolios? People tend to leave it to the fund manager to manage money in case of mutual funds and tend to put any spare cash in the latest fund that is "in" or as chosen by a "financial adviser", else choose a "safe" inflation beating instrument. The more judicious squirrel away a little bit systematically in "safe investments" and do a bit of active portfolio management while the experts look for gains in the stock market.
But there are some easy to use personal finances tools out there which actually make our money work well with a modest financial planning. However, due to ignorance, overconfidence or maybe simple laziness we tend to ignore them. Value Averaging is one such tool. Its an unbelievably simple financial planning tool that anyone with even the most rudimentary knowledge about investments can use to good effect.
In value averaging one puts/withdraws a certain amount of money into/from investments so that the value of the investment remains the same.
Here's a way to make it work well and work with one's portfolio.
Choose two asset classes - preferably diversified equity and a steady liquid asset. Lets say one has a portfolio of $100,000. You put 75000 into the equity portfolio and 25000 in the liquid asset. On a fixed date every month (or quarter) review the portfolio. If say the equity portfolio has gone up by $3000, book that profit and shift the money to the liquid, low risk portfolio. And if the equity portfolio has fallen, shift money from the liquid asset into equity, so that the value of the equity portfolio remains constant either way.
The advantages are obvious. One has kept booking profits and shifted it to a safe investment at every opportunity and rise in equity markets. Also one has invested in equity when at low, unlike dollar cost averaging where one blindly puts in a fixed amount into equity every month, whether high or low.
The trick in value cost averaging is to maintain discipline over a longish period. Its truly a golden way to beat the bears.
After all, you spend so much time earning, shouldn't you spend a little time to make your hard earned money work best...its not really rocket science.
(This is also published in my blog http://nav-india.blogspot.com/2008/10/concept-of-value-averaging.html )