"Our favorite holding period is 'forever'."
-- Warren Buffett in Berkshire Hathaway's 1989 shareholder letter.
Buying a stock and then holding it forever may sound like a crazy idea in a world where fast-paced trading seems to rule the market, but investing in companies you want to own forever has proved to be a very profitable way to invest here at The Motley Fool. It forces investors to take a very long-term view of a company's prospects, and takes some of the emotions out of the short-term swings in the market.
If you're ready to buy and hold stocks for the very, very long term, here are four I would start with:
Digital payments continue to grow as a platform, and Visa (NYSE:V) is at the center of the industry. The company is a standard-bearer for credit cards, debit cards, and digital payment platforms like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. As the intermediary between banks, businesses, and consumers, it has an extremely valuable position in the payment ecosystem.
The financial results of Visa's market position show how the company is able to both grow the top line and provide leverage to the bottom line. You can see below that revenue has more than tripled in the last decade while net income has surged to $7.2 billion.
I see the market continuing to trend toward digital payments within mobile platforms or even messaging services. That'll work in Visa's favor, and the company should continue to play a valuable role in our digital payment future.
No company has defined the internet over the last two decades quite like Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG)(NASDAQ:GOOGL). The company is the first place most of us go to search online, and it's now worked its way into our email, onto smartphones, and even into streaming television.
Alphabet has grown even faster than Visa over the past decade, and shows no signs of slowing. Its advertising platform is at the heart of how companies connect with customers on the internet, and no one knows more about people and what they're looking for than Alphabet (except maybe Facebook).
What gives me confidence that this is a stock to own forever is the push the company has made into new markets. It identifies new opportunities for self-driving cars and artificial intelligence and is able to put the resources behind building a market leader before competitors can catch up. It won't succeed in all of its "moonshots," but if it can hit on a few, it'll continue to disrupt the world of technology and continue generating value forever.
The companies I've mentioned so far are connecting consumers to businesses and the world over the internet in ways we've never seen before. But someone has to run the platform that connects all these new devices, and that's where Verizon (NYSE:VZ) comes in. The company has the biggest network of wireless customers and is adding services like fiber and television to increase value for customers.
What'll drive the next phase of growth for Verizon is the 5G network it's building out right now. The super-fast wireless network will allow consumers to connect home wireless devices to Verizon's network instead of Wi-Fi, will enable self-driving cars, and may even make virtual reality a mobile platform.
Telecommunications isn't a high-growth business like digital payments or online search, but it's a valuable and profitable business to be in long term. That's why this is a stock I'll hold forever.
There may not be another company in the world as diversified as 3M (NYSE:MMM). The company makes everything from consumer products to healthcare items, and is probably even in the screen you're reading this article on right now. That diversity allows 3M to take advantage of business opportunities as they arise and survive the downturn of other industries.
As primarily a component maker for other company's products, 3M can focus on highly valuable niches that generate high margins, exemplified by an operating margin of 22.8% in the company's most recent quarterly report.
Arguably the best reason to own 3M's stock is the dividend, which has now been paid for 100 years straight. You can see below that it's steadily risen for decades, even through the recession of 2008/2009.
If you're looking for a stock you can buy and never think about again, 3M is a good place to start.
Buy-and-hold investing at its finest
Holding a stock forever may sound crazy in a world of fast-paced trading, but it's a great way to build wealth while reducing the stress of investing.
I think Visa, Alphabet, Verizon, and 3M are four top-notch stocks that would make a great foundation of a "forever portfolio," and that's why I have outperform calls on each stock in MyCAPS page, one of which is already beating the market by over 100 points since my original call in 2013. Click here to see which stock it is.