3 Rules for Successful Long-Term Investment Growth

Investment growth takes time. Have patience and follow the rules.

Two tall trees growing toward the sky.
Trees don't grow massive over night. Neither do investments. Credit: Eastcott Momatiuk

Investing for growth involves purchasing something that will appreciate in value. Real estate, stocks and business ownership are the most common forms of growth investments.

No matter what your age, part of your portfolio should be allocated toward investment growth. For those within ten years of retirement, the right amount would be somewhere between 60% - 80% of your portfolio.

To have a successful experience investing for growth, follow these three rules.

1. Invest for the Long-Term

Long-term means when you buy something for the purpose of investment growth, you need to plan on owning it for at least ten years.

Statistics tell us that 70% of the time, the stock market will have a positive calendar year return; 30% of the time it will be negative. Pretty good odds! You can play these odds by buying an index fund, which owns all the stocks in the S&P 500 Index. But they key is owning it for a long time. Out of every ten years, expect three to four of them to have negative returns. That could happen the very first year you invest. It doesn't mean you won't see growth. That's just the way it works. Stay invested, and the investment growth that occurs in the positive years will outweigh what happens in the negative years.

If you buy an individual stock, these odds don't apply. An individual stock may do even better than the market as a whole, or it may do much worse.

Some companies go bankrupt, and the stock becomes worthless. Others do exceptionally well. An index fund owns all of them, so you experience the collective results.

2. Invest. Don’t Speculate.

People lose money in the markets every day. Why? They are speculating; not investing.

Speculators try to time the markets to make a quick profit.

They may win big; or they may lose big. This is not the strategy to take with your retirement money. Investment growth does not occur from speculation; it occurs from buying an asset that, over time, will appreciate in value.

Take the time to learn how the investment will grow. This means you must understand what you own. I prefer to classify investments on a risk scale of one-to-five. Speculative investments are a "five" and ultra-safe investments are a "one". Ranking choices on this scale can help you see how much risk you are taking.

Stocks aren't the only place people speculate. It applies to real estate too. You can try to flip a home quickly and make a quick buck, or you can invest for the long haul. Speculating always has more risk.

3. Diversify

If you put your assets in a single stock, or a single piece of property, you might as well go to Vegas. This is like betting, not investing.

Long-term investment growth is achieved by setting up a disciplined approach to invest systematically across stocks and real estate in a diversified way. Diversifying means owning different types of investments, both safe ones and growth-oriented investments, and owning things that don't all react to market and economic news in the same way.

Using this approach means you are following Modern Portfolio Theory, and it has been proven to be effective.

If you’re investing in stocks, use index funds so your money is spread out across thousands of stocks.

If you’re buying real estate, set up plan to buy smaller, affordable investment properties, rather than putting all your money into one large piece of property.

You will achieve long-term investment growth if you patient, thoughtful, avoid the temptation to speculate, and diversify your investments.