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Buy-and-Hold Is Not Dead

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It's been an annual ritual for the past umpteen years. During one of our family visits, my brother-in-law invariably produces the latest trinket sent to him by Boston Beer (SAM), a company that he has faithfully owned since the 1995 IPO.

He receives these because he is an "owner" and these gifts seem to always be labeled with that very word. This year he received a nice hat that has, of all things, a bottle opener on the brim.

He takes the "owner" thing somewhat seriously, and has remained a loyal shareholder all these years. In his view, he is part owner (albeit a very small part) of the company.

That's a mindset that has been lost among many investors, partially the victim of too much information and a fast-paced market; partially the victim of fear fueled by extremely volatile market swings in recent years. Investors have also been told that buy-and-hold just does not work anymore.

Don't tell that to my brother-in-law; his Boston Beer shares have compounded at more than 12% per year since the IPO, much better than the S&P 500 (5.5%), Russell 2000 (6.5%), and S&P Small Cap Index (8.9%).

While the path has not been straight up for Boston Beer, the company has not only prospered, but is also one of the only survivors of the publicly traded microbrewery fever of the late 1990's. By 1997, there were a dozen or so publicly traded microbrewers, with a collective market capitalization of about $400 million.

At this writing, by my count, there's only one other survivor; Craft Brew Alliance (BREW), formerly Redhook. Boston Beer was the best of the bunch, and those that have retained the "owner" mentality have done well. It has taken patience, for sure, and the ability to ignore all of the noise; a tall order these days.

SAM ChartSAM data by YCharts

It's not easy to maintain the buy-and-hold mentality with so many pundits telling investors that you can't be successful unless you are trading. It takes patience, some vision and an iron stomach to ignore all of the noise.

When McDonald's (MCD) stumbled in the 2000-2003 era, many wrote off the name, suggesting that its best days were behind it. Performance since then tells a much different tale.

MCD ChartMCD data by YCharts

But, it's not just the big names that are candidates for long-term ownership, as Boston Beer has demonstrated. There are a number of smaller, off the radar names that have had excellent track records.

National Beverage Corp. (FIZZ), the maker of Shasta and Faygo soft drinks, and other off-brand products, has returned an average of 12.5% since going public in 1991. It might not be a company that you are familiar with, but it has benefited from the popularity of off-brand products, fueled by a rough economy and the growth of "dollar" stores.

Another example, J&J Snack Foods (JJSF), the maker of Icee beverages, Superpretzel soft pretzels, and other food products, has returned an average of 13% per year since going public in 1990.

JJSF ChartJJSF data by YCharts

What do all of the aforementioned names have in common? They are all consumer products companies that have historically maintained good balance sheets, and in most cases, a solid brand awareness. They have all been worthy of a buy-and-hold strategy, and have rewarded their shareholders well.

There are others out there, worthy of owning in the long-term sense, as an "owner", and not a temporary steward. Buy-and-hold is not dead. Twenty years from now, my brother-in-law will no doubt still hold his Boston Beer shares, and a couple boxes full of related "owner" trinkets.

At the time of publication the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Jonathan Heller, CFA, is president of KEJ Financial Advisors, his fee-only financial planning company. Jon spent 17 years at Bloomberg Financial Markets in various roles, from 1989 until 2005. He ran Bloomberg's Equity Fundamental Research Department from 1994 until 1998, when he assumed responsibility for Bloomberg's Equity Data Research Department. In 2001, he joined Bloomberg's Publishing group as senior markets editor and writer for Bloomberg Personal Finance Magazine, and an associate editor and contributor for Bloomberg Markets Magazine. In 2005, he joined SEI Investments as director of investment communications within SEI's Investment Management Unit.

Jon is also the founder of the Cheap Stocks Web site, a site dedicated to deep-value investing. He has an undergraduate degree from Grove City College and an MBA from Rider University, where he has also served on the adjunct faculty; he is also a CFA charter holder.

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