Like in every profession, the world of investments is filled with abbreviations. One of the most popular, and dare I say most important ones, is called “DRIP”.
DRIP is an abbreviation for a Dividend Re-Investment Program which banks may offer their customers when they purchase certain stocks. The idea behind is very simple: When a company pays a dividend, the received cash is being immediately re-invested in more shares of the same company. This way one can automatically increase the amount of owned shares every time a dividend payment is due, without the need for any active involvement from the investor’s side.
It is a very effective and common system in the US. Unfortunately not so in Europe.
Europeans tend to be much more risk-averse and invest on average far less in stocks when compared with Americans. Over my investment lifetime, I had 6 different trading accounts with 6 different banks in Germany and none of them was offering DRIP.
DIY – Do it yourself
Well, if you have a problem and nobody is offering a solution, you got to take things in your own hands.
Every time when dividends are being paid out into my account, I am accumulating them until I reach an amount of approximately 1.000 Euros. Then I re-invest this 1.000 Euros. The 1.000 Euros is my guideline due to the rather high transaction costs charged by my bank. But, as long as I am working and my salary is sufficient to cover my on-going expenses, I am not withdrawing even one cent from my stock account. Ever.
Furthermore, I usually don’t re-invest this money into the same company. Instead, I will be on the lookout for another dividend paying company out there and purchase some shares of a new company.
My idea behind this is to diversify my investments to reduce the risk of any potential downturns in the market. For my FIRE account, I don’t buy companies that don’t pay dividends. So, my annual dividend income keeps increasing with every new investment I make. At the same time, as I spread out my investment over a vast range of different companies, my risk is being deleveraged.
That’s not the way of Mr. Buffett
Investment legend Warren Buffett is not a fan of this approach. He prefers a highly focused and compact portfolio. If I remember correctly, his investments as of today are in less than 20 companies. I have currently 16 different positions in my portfolio and expect to move up to 20 by the end of this year. Next year I hope to add another 10. And the year after another 10. My target is to have some 50 companies in my portfolio with ever-growing dividends.
I would love to have Mr. Buffett’s knowledge and experience, and to be able to make such successful investments as he did in the past. But let’s be realistic. I go to do this my way. I have far less money, experience, time and insights then him. For this reason, diversification is crucial for me.
DRIP or not – you got to keep re-investing
So whether your bank is offering a DRIP option or not. The lesson here is to keep re-investing your income from investments as long as you possibly can. Only this way you will be able to activate the power of compounding and see your dividends and investments grow.
Also, don’t get discouraged in the beginning. Dividend growth and re-investments are like a snowball that is slowly rolling down a mountain. It might take a while to get its momentum and it might even get stuck sometime. But at some point, it becomes a truly unstoppable avalanche.
The current market downturn will offer plenty of great investment opportunities. Watch out for solid, dividend-growing and dividend-paying companies and take advantage of the fear out there to grab them at a discount. Chances are that it will turn out to be a smart move in the long-run.