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PROFIT FROM TERRIBLE TIMING

Even stock investors who had the worst timing records could have profited in the stock market between 1969 and 1989, the American Mutual Fund has found. The fund's managers decided to figure out what would have happened to an individual who put $5,000 a year into their fund over the last 20 years. There was one requirement: The yearly purchase had to be made on the worst day of each year, when the market had topped and was about to fall.

You would have ended up broke, you say? Guess again: Your cumulative investment of $100,000 would have been worth $470,701 at the end of the period. And that is after subtracting a maximum sales charge of 5.75 percent from each purchase. That works out to an annual average growth rate of 14.3 percent. If the money had been put into a passbook savings account, your investment would have grown to only $240,000. The moral? Don't bother waiting for the perfect time to invest. "Putting money away regularly and for the long-term gives you your best chance of doing well," American Mutual's managers say. "Even with the odds stacked against you, as unrealistically as in this example, you might do so well it will astonish you."

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