Buy and hold. Can't go wrong. Has to work. High-quality stocks. Got to own them. Forever. Only way to really make money.
There's the litany. The gospel. OK, here is the other side, from a reader, a smart reader who knows the truth:
JJC: I am 47. When I was a kid, my dad wanted to get me interested in reading the stocks page and get me interested in investments. While he enjoyed a good income as an attorney and judge while I was growing up, he never had the money to invest in the stock market. Anyway, I cut grass and saved my pennies. Those were the go-go stock market days of the early sixties. We went down to see Joe, the neighbor, who was a stock broker with Merrill Lynch. Dad and he advised buying a good stable stock that had recently split and would likely do so again, as it was on the way up and, "long-term," should be a good buy. With my pennies I bought General Motors (GM) at 112. Within a year, it was down to 75 and with in two years to 50 per share. I only could afford one share. Needless to say I did learn a lesson but it was not the one my father wanted me to learn. For many years, I wouldn't touch stock investments. There will be many in this market who learn the same lesson, but with a lot more pain. A few years ago, there was a small article in the local paper -- we live in a GM town -- that said, "For those who bought GM in that window, the price finally returned to the price you paid." (Didn't mention the difference in dollars though, due to inflation.) A year ago it did split. I now have two shares. Still keeping them for sentimental reasons. Can't tell you the times over the years I have told this story to people who say, over the long term, all stocks go up.
Thanks, Tom, for this sobering note. And thanks for reminding us that, in the long term, they don't all go up.
James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund had no positions in any stocks mentioned. His fund often buys and sells securities that are the subject of his columns, both before and after the columns are published, and the positions that his fund takes may change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Cramer's writings provide insights into the dynamics of money management and are not a solicitation for transactions. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to comment on his column at