Time: The magic ingredient when investing offshore

One way to resist the temptation of buying and selling at the wrong time is to understand no one can predict the future, and long-term trends are what power long-term returns.

Keen to know more about investing offshore? Global investing offers many compelling benefits, but you need to be prepared for the risk and volatility that comes with it. A long-term strategy and staying invested will help reduce your risk – in other words, relying on time in the market instead of timing the market.

Before starting any investment, you need to first make sure you’re prepared for the investment risk it brings. Investment risk is the likelihood that, at some point during your investment journey, you’ll experience losses rather than expected profits because the price of the underlying assets you invested in has gone down.

When it comes to investing in general, and specifically globally, it’s important to understand ways to manage this risk – both for the sake of your returns, and for your peace of mind.

What is volatility and how do you counter it?

In investment terms, volatility describes the speed and amount of price changes. When the price or value of assets, shares or currencies move fast, dramatically and often, they’re called volatile – and are generally considered more risky.

Equity markets can be volatile over the short term, meaning that they go through periods of rapid growth, but also periods of underperformance. However, over the medium and long term, global equity markets trend upwards. When you move your time frame from days and weeks to months and years, the volatility changes into steady gains, as the trend of global growth delivers profits to investors.

The problem is that many investors make the mistake of buying and selling investments based on short-term market movements. This is an attempt to time the market – which rarely works. Inevitably, retail investors end up selling when markets are low or buying assets when their price is high. Adopting this strategy of timing the market almost always leads to lower returns and more emotional anxiety: it is a bad idea.

Expect volatility, and widen that time horizon

The fact is, you should expect offshore equities to be volatile in the short term. The risk element of offshore equity investing is what generates the returns. However, because markets trend upwards consistently, we can be confident that if and when we experience short-term volatility, it will be replaced with growth over the long term.

The more time you have to invest, the less relevant short-term volatility becomes, and the more important the long-term trends that drive company profits globally – and produce investment returns – become.

In short, when you have a long-term time horizon of five years or more, investing in offshore equities can potentially deliver much better returns compared to keeping your cash in the bank.

The importance of staying the course

One way to resist the temptation of buying and selling at the wrong time is to understand no one can predict the future, and long-term trends are what power long-term returns. The returns offshore investors set out to receive can only be realised with a properly diversified portfolio that’s invested for the long term. Time in the market can be a powerful weapon to counter volatility and increase your chances of a strong return.

This is where a trusted financial adviser is crucial. These professionals can help you stay the course by providing objective guidance when volatility in markets make you doubt your strategy. In other words, they can help ensure you don’t make bad short-term decisions with a lasting long-term impact.

This article is not financial advice. Please consult with a financial adviser for financial advice. To better understand how timing the market different from time in the market, watch this video and visit Discovery Invest’s offshore investing info hub for a wealth of free resources to help South Africans make more informed financial choices.

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