Are Index Funds Easy To Sell? Can You Sell Them Anytime?


When you invest in index funds, you may have concerns that you won’t be able to withdraw your funds quickly in case of an emergency. Are these concerns valid? Are index funds easy to sell?

Index funds can be sold anytime if you are with a legitimate broker. However, in general, you should only sell your index funds when the market is up; otherwise, you could lose money. Moreover, index funds aren’t short-term investments. So, only invest the money that you won’t likely need soon. 

Read on if you want to learn how to sell your index funds. I will also discuss a few tips for when you do decide to sell your index fund positions. So, without further ado, let’s get started.

What Is an Index Fund?

An index fund is a diversified collection of shares. When you put your money into an index fund, you’ll be buying small fractional shares in a vast number of companies.

Index funds are a great way to invest for several reasons.

First, they carry less risk than individual stocks. This is because, instead of putting all of your money into one company and sector, you’re evening out your money across several industries and hundreds of companies.

Therefore, if one company were to fail, you wouldn’t be affected too much. And when one company succeeds, this evens out the other’s failure, so your money grows steadily.

Index funds also don’t require any knowledge about the stock market. You need to pick your fund and then set up a direct debit with your bank. You’ll probably even forget you’re investing; it’s that simple!

So, in short, index funds are a great way to invest. But what if you want to withdraw your money and sell your funds?

Selling Index Funds

Index funds are actually pretty simple to sell. Generally, all you’ll have to do is log on to your brokerage account and head on over to your profile. On sites such as vanguard, you’ll be able to view your investments.

From there, you can choose to sell your funds. You can select however much you want to, and then just press sell.

When you return to your profile page, there should be an ‘available cash’ widget. Clicking on this will take you to all of your money on the site that isn’t in investments.

You’ll be able to withdraw this money at any time. It’ll probably take a few business days, but it’s as easy as putting your bank details in, and pressing confirm.

So, you absolutely can sell your index funds at any time. But, should you sell them?

The Dangers of Selling Index Funds at Any Time 

While you can physically sell index funds at any time, a more extensive and perhaps more prominent question is, should you?

There are two dangers of selling index funds at any time. Either you’ll sell them much too early, or you could sell them when the markets are down. Let’s take a closer look at both of these dangers:

Selling Too Early

To make serious capital gains from Index funds, you’ll need to hold them for a prolonged period- ideally 30 years or more. This is because you need to let your money grow through compounding.

Compounding is when you reinvest the capital gains that you make from the stock market. This money then makes you more money, which is reinvested. 

The cycle continues until you eventually make more than multiple times what you would have had if you didn’t reinvest your capital gains. This is some serious money that you can make if you can stay patient and consistent.

However, if you sell your funds too early, you risk losing out on a method of making huge financial gains.

Perhaps, an example will make it more clear: 

If you invested $100 each month for 20 years, at an 8% average interest rate, and then withdrew your money, for a house payment, for example. You’d have just under $60,000. 

However, if you invested the same amount for 35 years, you’d be left with more than $200,000.

The former might seem like a lot of money, but by simply waiting for a few more years, you can increase the value of your portfolio by almost four times.

So, selling your index funds early might not be a good idea after all.

Selling When Markets Are Down

If there’s one thing that stays consistent in the investing world, it’s that the market is never constant.

One day it could be booming, and the next, it could crash. This unpredictability and volatility could cause you to lose a lot of money if you decide to sell your index funds at the wrong time.

For instance, in 2020, the market dropped by nearly 10%. So if you chose to sell in that year, you would have 10% less money than if you sold during a high.

And selling during peaks is easier said than done, too. When the market starts to climb, you don’t know when they peak and then start falling again. This makes selling stocks in general pretty tricky.

Timing the markets to sell is such a challenging task that many just panic and sell when they see the market falling.

But is there a solution? 

You could try selling your funds in increments over a few months or years. This will help to average out the market volatility, and you should receive what your portfolio is worth.

There is another and perhaps more sustainable option, though. Read on to find out more.

A Good Idea for Early Retirement

Generally, stocks, bonds, and other funds should be built until retirement to give you enough money to live the rest of your life comfortably.

When you’re young, index funds are a great way to build your wealth. However, as you reach retirement, the volatility of the stock market may seem too risky. 

This is entirely understandable, and there is an alternative solution to selling in an undesirable market and losing much of your money.

The solution is to transfer your index funds into bonds. Now, you may be asking a few questions. What is a bond? Aren’t bonds less profitable than stocks? Why would I transfer my growing index fund into something as dull as a bond?

Well, a bond is simply a loan issued by a government or company. You give them a lump sum of money, and they pay it back with interest. 

Bonds aren’t as profitable as stocks. But, as you get older and start to reach retirement, you’re going to want security over capital gains. In addition, bonds are much more dependable than index funds, as you’re guaranteed an income. 

Stocks, on the other hand, are unpredictable and could go down overnight. Imagine if you planned to retire in 2020- your portfolio would be worth so much less due to the pandemic.

Therefore, it’s a great idea to slowly transfer your funds from stocks to bonds as you get older to reduce your risk exposure.

Conclusion 

Overall, Index funds are incredibly easy to sell. It’ll take ten minutes to complete the process and a few business days to get the money into your account.

However, choosing when to sell is much more difficult. You certainly don’t want to sell when the market is down, but it’s also hard to predict this. You don’t want to sell too early, but you don’t want to get stuck in a market crash just before retirement.

Your best bet is to plan ahead. Realize that selling your funds is more complicated than just clicking a few buttons. 

  1. Investor bulletin: Index funds. (2018, August 6). SEC.gov. https://www.sec.gov/oiea/investor-alerts-and-bulletins/ib_indexfunds
  2. Busting the myth that active funds do better in bear markets. (2020, August 27). Morningstar, Inc. https://www.morningstar.com/articles/999669/busting-the-myth-that-active-funds-do-better-in-bear-markets
  3. If index funds perform better, why are actively managed funds more popular? (n.d.). Knowledge@Wharton. https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/if-index-funds-perform-better-why-are-actively-managed-funds-more-popular/
  4. Index fund. (n.d.). Investor.gov. https://www.investor.gov/introduction-investing/investing-basics/glossary/index-fund
  5. Iacurci, G. (2020, November 24). Some mutual funds are pricier than others. Here’s when they may benefit investors. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/24/heres-when-active-mutual-funds-tend-to-outperform-index-funds.html
  6. Index funds and the future of corporate governance: Theory, evidence, and policy. (2018, November 28). The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance. https://corpgov.law.harvard.edu/2018/11/28/index-funds-and-the-future-of-corporate-governance-theory-evidence-and-policy/

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Welcome To TradeVeda

Navdeep Singh

Navdeep has been an avid trader/investor for the last 10 years and loves to share what he has learned about trading and investments here on TradeVeda. When not managing his personal portfolio or writing for TradeVeda, Navdeep loves to go outdoors on long hikes.

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