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long term investment

Long-term investing is often the best way to build wealth that stands the test of time. It’s how you plan for retirement and build a legacy to pass on to your children and grandchildren. Long-term investments require patience, but they have the potential to pay off with a much higher return than the quicker-fix choice of short-term investing. If you’re looking to figure out which long-term investment options are best for you, it may make sense to talk to a financial advisor. SmartAsset can help you find one with our free financial advisor matching service.

What Is Long-Term Investing?

Long-term investing is the practice of buying and holding investments rather than buying with the express purpose of selling quickly. The exact definition of how long you must hold an investment for it to qualify as a long-term investment varies. Generally, it is between one and five years, though it can be much longer.

Investors hold short-term investments for a much shorter period of time. Short-term investments are about getting a quick cash-out but often come with higher risk or lower potential return. Long-term investments require more patience on your part. That patience is a trade-off for potentially lower risk and/or a higher possible return.

Common sense says that long-term investing is more conservative. Sometimes that’s true, but not always. You can invest in the stock market, generally considered one of the riskier possible investment choices, with the intention of holding the stocks for a long time. There is still a good amount of risk involved even though it’s technically a long-term investment if you hold the stocks for a longer period of time.

Types of Long-Term Investments

long term investment

There are a number of long-term investment options to consider when building a portfolio. As always, remember that diversification is an important part of any investing strategy, so don’t think you need to commit to any one option or that you can’t also include some short-term investments to build a strategy that works for you.

  • Stocks: Buying stocks is one of the classic long-term investing strategies. When you’re buying stocks for a long-term strategy, you aren’t interested in selling them as soon as you see a rise in price. Instead, you want to find stocks that you believe will steadily increase in value over the next five to 10 years, or perhaps even longer. This requires you to stand pat when stock prices inevitably dip, understanding that the market is cyclical and you are, after all, in it for the long haul.
  • Bonds: There are various types of bonds you can purchase, including corporate bonds, municipal bonds and U.S. Treasuries. Pick bonds with maturity dates far in the future for long-term investing, and you’ll have a low-risk investment that will pay off down the line.
  • Mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs): Mutual funds and ETFs are collective investments. Managers invest money from a number of people into various places, such as stocks, bonds and other investments. This is a good long-term investment because it diversifies your money. You can hold mutual fund or ETF investments for a long time, but just like with stock investments, you’ll need to be willing to sit through market downturns.
  • Certificates of deposit (CDs): With CDs, you give money to a bank for a predetermined period of time. At the end of that time frame, you get your money back plus interest. The longer you leave the money in, the higher the interest rate. While shorter-term CDs are available, you can also get a CD with a term of up to 10 years. Just make sure you won’t need the money for the entire time, as there are severe penalties for early withdrawal.
  • Gold: Gold is a commodity that will likely retain its value, save for a full societal collapse. Investing in gold and holding it for a long period of time is a good choice for long-term investing.

How to Approach Long-Term Investing

long term investment

It’s important to approach long-term investing with patience. You aren’t going to see the quick increases in portfolio value that you might with short-term investing. Also, it isn’t always going to be the most exciting type of investing. Keep your eye on long-term goals like retiring, paying for your child’s education and passing on some of your wealth to your family.

In addition to your financial goals, make sure you’re thinking about how much volatility you can stand. Make sure to choose an asset allocation that aligns with your risk tolerance as well as your time horizon. Typically, the longer you have to invest your money the more risk you can afford to take.

The Bottom Line

Investors hold long-term investments for a period of several years. Long-term investing is about buying and holding securities rather than selling at the first sign you could make some money. Long-term investing is about patience and waiting out bad cycles. You have to think about how an investment is likely to pay off down the road. There are a number of possible long-term investments you can make. Just think about your own financial situation before deciding which of them is right for you.

Investing Tips

  • You have to find the right long-term investments for your portfolio, and a financial advisor can help. Find an advisor who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You just answer a few questions about your financial situation and goals. Then we match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. We fully vet all advisors and they are free of disclosures. You’ll talk to each advisor match to decide how you want to proceed.
  • If your long-term investments pay off, you’ll likely owe a capital gains tax. Figure out how much you may owe with SmartAsset’s capital gains calculator.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/marchmeena29, ©iStock.com/skynesher, ©iStock.com/bee32

Ben Geier, CEPF® Ben Geier is an experienced financial writer currently serving as a retirement and investing expert at SmartAsset. His work has appeared on Fortune, Mic.com and CNNMoney. Ben is a graduate of Northwestern University and a part-time student at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing. When he isn’t helping people understand their finances, Ben likes watching hockey, listening to music and experimenting in the kitchen. Originally from Alexandria, VA, he now lives in Brooklyn with his wife.
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