Missing the Boat

Sanjib Saha

I’VE BEEN WAITING since late last year for a stock market correction. No, I’m not sitting on a pile of cash and looking to time the market. Instead, I’m simply hoping to trim my tax bill.

Last October, I sold the recently vested shares of my company stock and used the proceeds to buy Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (symbol: VTI). This sell-high-buy-high exchange was meant for diversification, but I also hoped that the market would drop later. I could then harvest tax losses by temporarily replacing the Vanguard fund with a combination of Russell 1000 and Russell 2000 ETFs. Given the prospect of an interest rate hike to counter rising inflation, a market correction was a distinct possibility.

The market seemed to move in my favor by November’s end. My Vanguard ETF dropped below my purchase price, but the extent of the unrealized loss wasn’t worth the effort of tax-loss harvesting. I waited for a bigger drop, but a market rally wiped out my unrealized loss.

My hopes were renewed during the fourth weekend of January, as I glanced through Barron’s. My Vanguard ETF shares had dropped more than 6% the week before. Another 3% drop would be enough for some meaningful tax-loss harvesting. I planned to keep an eye on the market on Monday.

I logged onto my brokerage account on the morning of the 24th and was pleased to see a further decline, but I didn’t pull the trigger. The rapid price swings made me nervous. What if the market rose substantially between selling my Vanguard Total Market shares and buying the replacement funds? Anything’s possible in a volatile market. I decided to wait another week, hoping the market would settle down.

Instead, the market pulled off a weekly gain and I missed the boat. For now, I’m keeping my fingers crossed, hoping the next boat will come along soon.

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