How mum and dad investors are beating fund managers at their own game

Retails investors can give themselves a pat on their back as they are besting most fund managers in the COVID-19 rebound!

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Retails investors can give themselves a pat on their back as they are outperforming most fund managers in the COVID-19 rebound!

The S&P/ASX 200 Index (Index:^AXJO) made a stellar 32% bounce since the bear market trough 11 weeks ago and most of the gains were reaped by everyday investors.

It's the so-called "smart money" that have been playing catch-up as they were bracing for a second sell-off that never came.

Right warning, wrong timing

Remember back in early May when ASIC issued an usual warning to mum and dad investors? The market regulator was alarmed to see a spike in new and dormant trading accounts springing up and cautioned them about the likelihood of losing money.

"Even market professionals find it hard to 'time' the market in a turbulent environment, and the risk of significant losses is a regular challenge," said ASIC.

"For retail investors to attempt the same is particularly dangerous, and likely to lead to heavy losses – losses that could not happen at a worse time for many families."

Lion's share of the gains

This is very sound advice and there may be some retail investors who have lost big during the market turmoil.

But there's little doubt it's retail investors that have been backing the V-shape recovery in our market while fund managers sat on their hands.

I don't have the data to prove this, but there is enough anecdotal evidence to suggest this is true – and it isn't only happening here.

US retail investors are laughing too

Retail investors in the US have also been jumping head first into the market. Bloomberg reported that retail brokerages, including Charles Schwab Corp. and TD Ameritrade Holding Corp., posted record account sign-ups and trading volume.

All this while the S&P 500 was surging over 40% from its bear market bottom in on March 23.

Call it dumb luck, but retail investors here and in the US couldn't have timed their entry any better!

Buying the bottoms and selling the tops

I have been actively buying the market since speculating at the end of March that we may have seen the worst of the sell-off.

But the purpose of this article isn't self-congratulatory. There are a few important takeaways from this experience.

For one, ASIC is right to warn investors not to try to time the market – and this probably applies to fund managers too.

The right strategy for those with a longer investment horizon is to stay invested in the market and to buy when you believe there is value, as opposed to worrying about whether there's another shoe that will drop.

No one can consistently buy the bottom and sell the tops. Making this your ultimate goal will drive you crazy.

Should you be day trading?

Unless you know what you are doing, trading in and out of the market will often leave you nursing losses as over 80% of short-term and day traders get wiped out in the first two years of starting.

For those first timers who are lucky enough to make a killing in this new bull market, they should get educated about the market quick. Pay to attend courses and read up on managing risks. Avoid the free seminars as there's usually a reason why they are free.

Most of all, don't over extend yourself. You know you are in this camp if you can't pay your bills or feed yourself if the market suddenly turns.

Tips for dips

Finally, don't be afraid to buy the dips. The fact that many fund managers have been slow to buy into this new bull market means there's a lot of cash sitting on the sidelines waiting for opportunities.

This doesn't mean we won't get a market correction of up to 10%, but after such a big jump, we are very unlikely to be retesting our March 23 lows.

Motley Fool contributor Brendon Lau has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Follow me on Twitter @brenlau.

The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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