These days, it's hard to tell investors to look on the bright side.

The market is nothing but doom and gloom and murk and muck -- day after day.

Many of the professional money managers you see on TV and hear from in print seem to become more pessimistic by the week. And that's understandable. For about 18 months, money in the market was merely rotating out of the growth-stock darlings of the late 1990s and into the value stocks that had been totally ignored during the boom. Stocks like

Philip Morris

(MO) - Get Report

, which was up 9% last year, were doing well. So there

were

places to make money.

But lately the entire stock market sold off. Philip Morris, for example, has fallen 20% in the past month. The best-performing sectors of the past month, like trucking and footwear stocks, are only up about 1%. The market feels darker than a winter in northern Alaska.

But when pressed, some money managers and other investment professionals can find the random ray of light.

I asked several investors and advisers to say one positive thing about this market. As always, there are reasons to be optimistic. You just have to look hard and have hope.

Over the Long Haul, Stocks Will Make You Money

"It's tough to buy when everyone else is selling. But if you're willing to look beyond three to six months, I think the market is a screaming buy," says Mark Zandi of Economy.com.

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Indeed, if you go back and look at the performance of the

S&P 500

over several decades, you'll see why you should keep your money in stocks -- assuming you have 10 years or more to invest. If you invested $10,000 in the S&P 500 in early 1970, you would have had $329,544 at the end of June 2002, according to data from Charles Schwab's Center for Investment Research. That works out to an annual return of 11.4%. Even looking at the performance of the S&P 500 since January 1990, the index is still up 11% each year. And $10,000 invested at that time would be worth more than $37,000 at the end of June.

So if you can hang out in the market for 10, 20 or even 30 years, you will more than likely make money.

"And if you were once worried about valuations, you can be less so now," says Zandi.

You certainly don't need to be worried about buying into a bubble. With the Nasdaq at about a five-year low, that thought shouldn't even cross your mind. Some pundits argue that the market isn't cheap, trading at a forward price-to-earnings ratio of about 18. But thankfully, many of those ridiculous companies that had

no

earnings (remember Pets.com?) have disappeared.

Four Down Years Is Unlikely

The last time the

Dow

was down three years in a row was back in 1939, 1940 and 1941. The chances of the market being down a fourth year in a row are slim.

"We're on our third negative year in a row. Rarely has that happened," says Bryan Olson, vice president of Schwab's Center for Investment Research. "It's unlikely we'll have another negative year after this one. We've already gone through a pretty strong down market. Going forward, things look pretty good."

International Stocks: Due for a Day in the Sun

Olson also points out that international stocks have historically outperformed the U.S. The overseas markets were simply shunned by investors when the U.S. was prospering in the late 1990s. But before those heady days, things were very different.

Looking at 10-year periods starting in 1969 (1970-80, for example), overseas stocks outperformed U.S. stocks in dollar terms over every period, other than those ending between 1995 and 2000 (say, 1989-99).

If you don't have at least some of your money in international stocks, now's a great time to move 10% to 15% of your portfolio abroad.

And the foreign markets, thankfully, aren't being plagued by the accounting scandals and corporate fraud that are causing our own markets to crumble.

Taking Out the Criminals

One of the great things about the U.S. market and our capitalist system is that excesses are corrected very quickly. "It's a nasty business, but it gets done, and there are tremendous opportunities," says Jeff Van Harte, manager of the Transamerica Premier Equity fund.

Good business models make money. And bad ones go bankrupt. You've seen that happen with the many upstart telecom companies.

And the market will reward the companies that were playing by the rules and punish those that were breaking them. Unfortunately, it's an ugly thing to watch. But if you can stick it out, you'll be thankful and make money in the long run.

In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, Dagen McDowell doesn't own or short individual stocks, nor does she invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Dagen welcomes your questions and comments, and invites you to send them to

Dagen McDowell.