Want to Get Back Into the Stock Market? Here's One Way to Do It

Aggregate data reveal that almost a trillion dollars has moved into money-market funds this year between February and May. And as we know, the market has had an epic rebound since its March lows. Were you one of the ones who sold their stocks?

But now what? Fear not, although fear was the most likely driver for those dumping stocks. There still may be a path forward, although it is likely to prove less profitable than staying the course and rebalancing would have been. It may also test your fortitude as the virus tests ours.

First, understand your time horizon. If you are going to be spending the money in the next two to three years, then it should be saved, not invested. That means that it sits earning almost nothing in an online savings account, but it is also guaranteed not to lose anything.

If you have stayed invested through this, it is important that you rebalance to the asset allocation with which you had established. Those who rebalanced in March were selling bonds and buying stocks. Now, balancing means selling stocks and buying bonds.

If you have money that needs to be invested, here is the best way to manage emotional and portfolio volatility. Stocks go up two-thirds of the time, so it is usually best to invest all your money into the market and regularly rebalance. But since you may not be able to tolerate that, you need to deploy a less-optimum, but more-palatable, strategy.

First, grab a sheet of paper. Take the money that you wish you had kept invested and divide it by 10. Now draw 10 lines and write today's date in one column and the price of the S&P 500 index in the next column. In the third column, put in the value of the 10% of your portfolio you want to get invested.

On each line, write a date one month out, or a value for the S&P that is 5% below the value you listed above it. In the last column, write the 10% of your money to be invested. The plan is to invest your money either every month, or every time the S&P falls 5%. We call each month a date trigger and every time the S&P falls a price trigger.

If you use a price trigger, cross off the price from the last price trigger on the bottom of your sheet. If you use a date trigger, move the price triggers down one month so the lowest price trigger falls away.

The point is to get you invested. If you just use price triggers and the market never falls, you never get back in; if you just use date triggers, you may not take advantage of volatility.

Spend your life wisely.

Related: We Don't Know When This Will End, So We Must Deal With the Now Normal