Smart long-term investors in the stock market know that when the market is selling they can pick up bargains if they look carefully.
Lower stock prices may mean you can find some great stocks selling at the price you need to make a long-term investment.
This is basically what value investors do and, if you do your homework, it can be very profitable.
Even better: if a great stock you own drops in price you can add to your holdings. This strategy takes patience and confidence in your original assessment.
If you invested in a great company and nothing has changed your evaluation, averaging down is a way to add even more shares to your holding, if that fits your overall strategy.
Averaging down is a strategy to lower your average cost in a stock that has dropped in price, however there are some risks.
Is this a good idea or throwing good money after bad?
The answer depends on several factors. First, let me describe how it works. You buy 500 shares at $50 per share, but the stock drops to $46 per share. You then buy another 500 shares at $46 per share, which lowers your average price to $48 per share.
Admittedly, this is a simple example, but you get the idea.
Good Strategy or Bad?
Now, is this a good strategy or not? If the stock rebounds to $60 per share, then it was a great strategy. However, if the stock continues falling, you have to decide to keep averaging down or bail out and take a loss.
Which brings us back to the question, is averaging down a good strategy or not? Before we can answer that question, we need to decide if we are investing in a stock or a company. The distinction is very important.
Investing in Stock
If you are investing in a stock, you look for buy and sell signals based on a number of indicators. Your goal is to make money on the trade and you have no real interest in the underlying company other than how it might be effected by market, news or economic changes.
Your best course of action when investing in a stock (as opposed to a company) is to cut your losses at no more than 7%. When the stock drops that much (or whatever reasonable amount), sell and move on to the next deal.
This is not a strategy I recommend. Trading is, at best, a gamble and not a good way to build long-term wealth.
Investing in a Company
If you are investing in a company (as opposed to a stock), you have done your homework and know what's going on within the firm and its industry. You should know if a drop in the stock's price is temporary or sign of trouble.
If you truly believe in the company, averaging down may make sense if you want to increase your holdings in the company. Accumulating more stock at a lower price makes sense if you plan to hold it for a long period.
This is not a strategy you should employ lightly. If there is a heavy volume of selling against the company, you may want to ask yourself if they know something you don't. The "they" is this case will almost certainly be mutual funds and institutional investors.
Swimming against the current can sometimes prove profitable, but it can also get you swept over the waterfall.
If you're playing stocks, averaging down probably doesn't make any sense. Take a small loss before it becomes a big loss and move on to the next trade.
If you invest in companies, averaging down may make sense if you want to accumulate more shares and are convinced the company is fundamentally sound.