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I'm ready to invest. But what's the best timing?
I'm ready to invest. But what's the best timing?
Walter Updegrave Long View columnist
Question: I have been in cash since August 2007, but your articles have convinced me to put my money in stocks now. I'm not sure of the best way to do it. In terms of timing the market, is it better to invest periodically over several months or invest the lump sum immediately? --Name withheld, Grapevine, Texas

Answer: Timing the market is a hopeless exercise; even professionals can't do it consistently. But in terms of maximizing returns, it's better to take a deep breath and invest the cash all at once.

If you are feeling nervous about continued market volatility, however, there's an effective and simple way for you to deal with it. Using the Asset Allocator tool, you can craft a mix of stocks and bonds that will give you a shot at the market's long-term growth potential while offering at least a bit of shelter during downturns.

That said, if you're so worried about losses that you can't bring yourself to switch over at once, move in a little at a time over the next 12 months. Either way it's better than trying to time the market.

NEXT: How can I buy a stable-value fund?
Last updated December 26 2008: 9:20 AM ET
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