The pitfalls of market timing

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The Pitfalls of Market Timing

The stock market is a dynamic and ever-changing environment, and attempting to perfectly time its movements is a challenging and often futile endeavour. While many investors may feel the urge to hop on the bandwagon when markets are soaring and scramble for the exit when prices start to dip, this approach can lead to suboptimal investment returns and missed opportunities.

Consider the following scenario: an investor observes a rising market and decides to invest a significant portion of their savings. The market continues to climb, and the investor feels a sense of satisfaction as their portfolio value increases. However, as the market inevitably starts to retrace, the investor becomes nervous and decides to sell their holdings. Unfortunately, the market rebounds shortly after, leaving the investor with a lower overall return than they could have achieved if they had stayed invested.

This pattern of buying high and selling low is a common pitfall among investors who attempt to time the market. They often buy into the hype of rising markets and sell out of fear when prices start to decline. This impulsive behaviour can lead to significant losses and hinder long-term investment goals.

Take a look at the image below which follows the net flow of money in and out of the UK equity market.  The blue line represents the rise and fall of the market and the white bars represent money being invested in and out of the market.  Can you see the correlation?  People withdraw money after a fall in the market and then put it back in once the market has risen.

This is crazy!  Can you imagine a lady doing this with shoes?  Everyday she walks past a shop window that has some beautiful shoes in the window.  One day the price goes up 20% so she thinks ‘now’s the time to buy’ and the next day they drop by 20% so she thinks ‘nah, I’ll wait until they’re more expensive’.  I cant see that happening can you?

The Slippery Slope of Trying to Time the Market

While it may seem intuitive to buy when prices are rising and sell when prices are falling, this approach can often lead to regret and missed opportunities. Here’s why:

  • Market Timing is Based on Emotions, Not Logic: Emotions like fear and greed often cloud our judgment when it comes to making investment decisions. We tend to get overly excited when markets are booming and panic when prices start to drop. This emotional rollercoaster can lead to impulsive decisions that harm our long-term investment goals.

  • The Market is Predictably Unpredictable: Despite the best efforts of analysts and economists, predicting market movements with absolute certainty is an impossible task. The market is constantly influenced by a multitude of factors, from global economic events to political decisions, making it highly unpredictable.

  • You’re Likely to Miss Out on Market Upturns: Trying to time the market perfectly means missing out on the market’s best days, which often occur after periods of decline. By staying invested, you can ride out the market’s ups and downs and participate in the overall growth of the market over time.

Embrace the Power of Patience and Discipline

Instead of trying to outsmart the market, focus on developing a disciplined and patient investment approach. This means sticking to your long-term investment goals, investing consistently, and avoiding the temptation to react to short-term market fluctuations.

Here are some key takeaways to remember:

  • Time in the market is more important than timing the market. Consistent contributions and dollar-cost averaging can help you ride out market volatility and achieve your long-term investment goals.

  • Don’t try to predict every market move. The market is complex and unpredictable, making it impossible to perfectly time its ups and downs.

  • Focus on your long-term goals. Resist the urge to panic sell or chase after market rallies. Keep your sights set on your long-term financial objectives.

Greed/Buy Fear/SellBy adopting a disciplined and long-term investment approach, you can increase your chances of achieving your financial goals and avoid the pitfalls of trying to time the market.  The opposite is to follow the chart to the left…

If you need any help with your investment strategy or want to make sure your existing portfolio is aligned with your attitude to risk and your goals then feel free to get in touch at

best regards




About the Author:

Brian Butcher is a Director at Ideal Financial Management Ltd and has been giving financial advice for over 25 years. He is also the Author of ‘10 steps to Financial Success - how to get the best life you can with the money you’ve got’ Available on Amazon at