The long-term investor is dead -- long live the long-term investor!
I've just discovered I'm one of a dying breed. And the chances are, you are as well. We Fools, we crazy people who still believe in the value of long-term investing, are shrinking by the day.
Fewer than 10% of UK investors are saving for the longer term, which means 10 years or more, according to a new survey from Friends Life.
Most are investing over a much shorter horizon, of up to three years.
Long-term investing has fallen completely out of fashion. And that is absolutely fine by me.
The long and short of it
I can see why people's investment horizons are narrowing. It's hard to look at the long term, when the short term is so troubling. Given the current blitz of bad news, most people are simply too scared to invest.
Nearly one in four are choosing to invest in low-risk, low-return products, according to Friends Life. Most people don't want to risk losing more money. They are probably right to play it safe.
But if you're serious about investing, it's a different matter.
The long shot
If there was ever a time to invest for the long term, it is now. The short term is shot to pieces. The next showdown comes this very weekend, when the Greeks return to the polls.
Who knows where markets will be in three days, three weeks, three years? I certainly don't.
But I'll stick my neck out and say that it in 10 or 20 years, markets will be higher than they are now. Potentially a lot higher.
And that's all I need to know.
Won't get fooled again
I'm feeling bearish myself right now. And I expect to stay bearish until the eurozone crisis is convincingly cleared away.
Last weekend's Spanish bank bailout didn't convince me for a moment, and I'm sure it didn't kid you either. We've all seen far too many failed EU sovereign rescues to be taken in by the latest one.
Even markets were only taken in for a single morning session, on Monday.
The short-term still looks a shambles. It could even end in the great share price apocalypse -- which would be a field day for the likes of you and I.
Land of opportunity
Every time markets fall, I slip another £1,000 into the SWIP Foundation Growth FTSE All-Share Tracker. I intend to leave it there until I retire in 20 years or so; the annual management fee is just 0.11%, plus a £2 monthly platform fee.
There are also some great blue-chips on sale paying nice dividends, such as Aviva (LSE: AV), Diageo (LSE: DGE), McDonald's (NYSE: MCD.US), National Grid (LSE: NG), Reckitt Benckiser (LSE: RB), Royal Dutch Shell (LSE: RDSB) and maybe, maybe, maybe Tesco (LSE: TSCO).
Or you could go for Vodafone, which David O'Hara says is a fantastic large-cap income opportunity.
There are also plenty of small caps with great potential, while this serial dividend raiser is 17% cheaper than four months ago.
Anything you buy now may fall further in value. If so, why not buy a little more of it? Then hang onto them for the long-term and keep reinvesting those dividends.
Friends Life believes the investment industry should respond to the new cautious attitude by showering them with innovative, low-risk products.
That way madness lies -- or worse, structured products.
If you're nervous, stick to cash. Accept its limitations, regularly shop around for the best possible rate, use your cash ISA allowance to take your returns tax-free, and sleep soundly in your bed.
Otherwise you should play the long game.
If you're far-sighted, this is an exciting time to be an investor. It may not seem that way now, but in five years, 10 years, 20 years… now we're talking.
We are the 10 per cent
Nine out of 10 investors are running scared right now. Many of them will eventually switch sides, but only after the recovery is underway, and the big rewards have been banked.
We few, we happy few, we band of Foolish brothers, will win in the end.
Forget the 90%. Be proud to be one of the 10%.
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Further investment opportunities:
> Harvey Jones owns SWIP Foundation Growth, Aviva, Diageo, Royal Dutch Shell and Vodafone. He does not own any of the other shares mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares in Tesco.