Since the Great Recession in 2008, the Federal Reserve has kept short-term interest rates—called the “federal funds rate”—at basically zero. That means the traditional ways of saving your money and watching it accrue—certificates of deposit, money-market accounts, Treasury bonds—are no longer viable. Stock market investing is one of the few viable ways to have your money work for you these days.
Of course, stock market investing comes with more risk than a safe, low-yield savings account does. Inevitably, not all of your investments will be winners.
In investing, no one really knows for sure what’s going to happen. Every stock you buy amounts to a flip of the coin, with an equal chance that it will rise or fall.
Over time, however, stocks tend to rise. History tells us this. Since 1928, the average annual return in the S&P 500, the benchmark U.S. stock index, is 11.5%. So historically, the average stock rises 11.5% per year.
Successful stock market investing is largely dependent on timing. You can’t just buy any stock and assume it will turn a profit, much less return 11.5%. You have to buy the right stocks at the right time.
For example, if you bought stocks in 2011 and sold them at the end of the year, you probably didn’t fare so well. The S&P 500 was essentially flat that year. However, if you bought stocks at the beginning of 2012 and held on to them through 2014, you probably made a lot of money. The average annual return from 2012-2014 was 20.5%.
Even then, your return would have depended on what stocks you actually bought. Take Apple (AAPL), for example. The largest and most recognizable technology company in the world has been perhaps the single best-performing stock of the past decade. But Apple had a rough stretch from September 2012 to June 2013, falling more than 43% at a time when most stocks were reaching record heights. The rising tide of the market doesn’t necessarily lift all boats—even the biggest boat.
That kind of unpredictability scares some people away from stock market investing. The track record over time should be enough to convince you otherwise.
The stock market is a vast and ever-evolving place, and there are many ways to approach stock market investing. Want to invest in safe companies that offer a steady stream of income? You should probably be a dividend investor. Are you willing to take on a bit more risk to go after bigger, faster rewards? Growth investing is likely for you. Value investing is for investors who like to bargain shop. Options trading is for those who like to invest based on statistical probabilities. And so on.
At Cabot Investing Advice, we have something for every investor. We publish 11 newsletters that cater to various types of risk tolerances and timetables, depending on your preference. Since 1970, we’ve been helping investors of all experience levels achieve market-beating returns, helping our readers double their money 28 times over.
When done right, stock market investing can be a hugely profitable endeavor. For nearly a half-century, we’ve been helping investors maximize those profits—and hope to continue doing so for another 50 years.
Selected insights from Cabot’s premium advisories