- Investment

The Best Time to Invest in Stock Funds and Bond Funds

Individual investors should invest money in stock funds as well as bond funds in order to give their investment portfolio balance. There is a best time to invest money in both, and there is also a worst time.

Mutual funds are longer-term investments and timing is not normally the major issue for investors. But what if you suddenly find yourself with a lump some of money (like inheritance, or from a 401k) that needs to be invested somewhere soon? This could happen when the timing is good, or it could happen at one of the worst times. Here we look at the best time to invest money in the past, and then look forward to 2015, 2016 and beyond.

Probably the very best time to invest money in stock funds was in 1982 when the Dow Jones Industrial Average bottomed at 777. In the year 2000 (18 years later) it hit an all-time high of 11,723… up over 1400%, with the NASDAQ up over 3000%! The year 1981 was optimal timing for bond funds, as interest rates peaked and they were paying dividends of 14%, 15% or more. To most of you 1981 and 1982 are ancient history, but if you understand what happened then you might better understand what could happen in 2015, 2016 and beyond.

The best time to invest money in stock funds is after stocks have been beaten up significantly; and investors START to see a light at the end of the tunnel. By 1982 interest rates and inflation had reached record HIGHS after several years of rising and acting as a major drag on both corporate profits and stock prices. When interest rates turned around and started to fall the stock market shifted gears and headed north.

In 2015 and beyond we could be looking at the flip side of the above scenario, because interest rates have hit record LOWS and inflation has been low. The market has been hitting all-time highs, and has been up six years in a row. A significant reversal of interest rates could signal a change in market trend and spell bad news for investors.

The best time to invest money in bond funds is when interest rates are high and start falling. The worst is when interest rates are low and starting to climb. The value of their portfolios goes UP when rates fall; but goes DOWN when rates rise. By the time interest rates peaked in 1981, some investors in these funds were approaching losses of almost 50% as fund share prices (values) plunged. If interest rates soar in 2015 and beyond investors could again suffer severe losses.

Many of today’s investors are unaware of this risk because they have never personally experienced a period of rising interest rates. Rates have generally been falling for many years and are now so ridiculously low that they can’t go much lower. This is not cheerful news if you have money that you need to put to work in 2015 and beyond. The question now is what to do about it.

Include some safe alternatives in your portfolio, like money market funds and short-term CDs. Go with conservative, high quality intermediate-term bond funds and blue-chip stock funds that pay good dividends. Pay attention to your portfolio and the financial news. If you start losing money and rising interest rates start making headline news, this could be your signal to cut your exposure to funds and increase your holdings in safe alternatives.

In the past there was little need to be concerned with the best time to invest money in stock funds and bond funds, because losses in one were generally offset by gains in the other. In 2015 and beyond both face the same threat: rising interest rates. Good luck, and keep your eyes open as this brave new world unfolds.