Building wealth typically doesn’t happen overnight. It requires diligence, planning and time. Adopting a long-term approach to investing can be a prudent choice for many individuals looking to grow their wealth. But with so many ways to implement a long-term investment strategy, it’s important to take a step back and consider the many tactics and approaches for building long-term wealth. A financial advisor can help you set financial goals and create a long-term investment strategy to achieve them.
What Is Long-Term Investing?
Long-term investing is a strategy that involves buying and holding assets for an extended period, typically years or even decades, with the aim of building wealth over time. This approach stands in contrast to short-term trading, where investors buy and sell assets quickly, often in a matter of days or weeks, to profit from short-term price fluctuations.
Long-term investing is rooted in the principle of compound interest. Compounding occurs when the returns generated by your investments are reinvested, allowing your initial capital to grow exponentially over time. In essence, you earn returns not only on your original investment but also on the returns themselves.
Additionally, there are tax advantages for long-term investments. That’s because the gains of investments held for at least one year are taxed at a lower rate than short-term gains, providing tax benefits for patient investors with longer time horizons.
Long-Term Investing Strategies
Whether you’re just starting your investment journey or looking to fine-tune your approach, these 10 long-term investing strategies and tactics can help you make informed decisions and work toward your financial goals.
1. Get an Early Start
Time is one of the most powerful tools in investing. The earlier you start, the more time your investments have to grow thanks to compound interest.
For example, a college graduate who starts investing in their 401(k) at age 22 would need to save less than $400 per month in order to have $1 million by the time they’re 62 (assuming a 7% average annual return). Meanwhile, someone who starts investing in a 401(k) at age 42 would need to save nearly $2,000 a month to have around the same amount of money by age 62.
So, don’t procrastinate – start investing as soon as you can.
2. Diversify With Asset Allocation
Diversification is a fundamental strategy in investing and asset allocation is one way to build a balanced portfolio. Asset allocation involves spreading your investments across various asset classes, including stocks, bonds and cash.
In essence, it’s about not putting all your financial eggs in one basket. But remember, diversification can dilute risk but it doesn’t grant immunity against losses. SmartAsset’s asset allocation calculator can help you identify an investment mix that’s potentially suitable for your risk tolerance.
3. Manage Taxes With Asset Location
While asset allocation refers to your strategic mix of investments in different asset classes, asset location is about where you hold those investments. Asset location refers to the deliberate placement of specific types of investments in taxable, tax-deferred and Roth accounts. The primary goal is to reduce the overall tax liability associated with your investments and maximize your after-tax returns.
Generally, investments that generate higher taxes, such as bonds and actively managed funds, are better placed in tax-advantaged accounts. This shields their returns from immediate taxation.
Conversely, investments with more favorable tax treatment, like stocks with long-term capital gains potential, can be held in taxable accounts. This takes advantage of lower tax rates and allows for tax-loss harvesting opportunities.
4. Buy and Hold
The buy-and-hold mantra encourages holding onto stocks for the long haul, ignoring short-term market fluctuations. It’s a long-term approach that minimizes trading costs and taxes while benefiting from the market’s long-term growth. But remember, markets are unpredictable – returns aren’t guaranteed, and losses are possible. However, the longer your money is invested, the more time it has to compound, potentially leading to substantial gains.
5. Don’t Try to Time the Markets
Continuing in the same vein of unpredictability, predicting stock price movements – or “timing the market” – is a risky strategy. Not only do you have to accurately forecast the right time to sell an investment or exit the market, you also need to know the best time to buy back in. Doing so consistently is all but impossible for average investors.
Instead of trying to time the market, consider investing a fixed amount of money at regular intervals, regardless of market conditions. This approach, known as dollar-cost averaging, reduces the impact of market volatility and can lead to more consistent long-term returns.
6. Buy Index Funds or ETFs
Index funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are popular choices for long-term investors. These funds aim to replicate the returns of a specific market index, like the S&P 500. They offer broad diversification at a low cost, making them an excellent choice for passive investors. Just keep in mind that performances can vary, and every fund has its own set of risks.
7. Buy a Target Date Fund
Target date funds are portfolios designed to align with your retirement date. These funds are a set-and-forget option that simplifies long-term investing by automatically modifying their mix of investments to become more conservative as you approach retirement.
8. Invest for Growth
If your financial goals are years away, consider an aggressive growth strategy. Invest in assets with the potential for higher returns, like growth stocks. While these investments come with higher risk and potential volatility, they can also offer greater rewards over the long run.
9. Invest for Income
Investing for income is ideal if you’re looking for regular cash flow, such as during retirement. Assets like dividend-paying stocks or bonds can provide a steady stream of income to cover your expenses. Instead of taking your dividends as cash, consider reinvesting them. Doing so can significantly boost your long-term returns through compounding.
10. Adjust and Rebalance
Your financial situation and goals may change over time. Periodically review and adjust your investment portfolio to stay aligned with your objectives. Rebalancing ensures your asset allocation remains on track, even as different investments perform differently.
Long-term investing requires a disciplined approach and a well-constructed plan. These 10 strategies, ranging from getting an early start to adjusting and rebalancing your portfolio, can potentially provide a comprehensive framework for building wealth over time.
- Contributing to a 401(k) is one way to invest for the long term. Not only do 401(k) contributions help fund your eventual retirement, they also provide a tax benefit. SmartAsset’s 401(k) calculator can help you estimate how much your nest egg could be worth by the time you enter your golden years.
- A financial advisor can help you select investments and manage your portfolio according to your goals. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
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