COVID-19 has been hammering the U.S. economy since cases started multiplying in March. Not only have millions of Americans lost their jobs in the past two months, but the stock market has lost a fair amount of value compared to its highs back in February. And the longer the COVID-19 crisis drags on, the more volatility we're apt to see.

Surprisingly, though, that volatility isn't turning younger investors off. Quite the contrary: Millennials' primary financial priority is to increase their investments, according to a recent survey by investment management company Wealthfront. In fact, 46% of younger Americans say that recent turbulence has actually made investing more attractive.

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If you've been shying away from the stock market due to recent volatility, it may be time to rethink that plan. Doing so could put you in a position to make some serious money in the coming years.

Why now's a great time to buy stocks

Let's be clear: Before you put any money into stocks, make sure you're fully set on emergency savings. You should, under normal circumstances, aim for three to six months' worth of living expenses in the bank, but due to the pandemic and the fact that we may be in recession territory well into 2021, you're better off aiming for the higher end of that range. But assuming you're good to go on near-term cash reserves, it definitely pays to look at boosting your investments.

Earlier in 2020, investing was a tricky prospect because stock prices were so high. In fact, many financial experts felt that stocks were largely overvalued. Now that stock prices have dropped, you have a real opportunity to load up on quality investments without overpaying for them.

Of course, you don't want to just invest your money randomly. Rather, you'll want to put together a strategy for investing in a down market. That could mean seeking out particularly discounted stocks, or focusing on diversification. And if you're not up to the challenge of researching individual stocks, you can always turn to index funds instead. Specifically, you may want to focus on S&P 500 index funds, since that index is comprised of the 500 largest publicly traded U.S. companies, measured by market capitalization. Vanguard's S&P 500 ETF (NYSEMKT:VOO) is a good place to start.

Think long-term

While investing in today's volatile market is a good plan, it's important to go in with the assumption that you'll hold whatever stocks you buy for at least seven years. That way, if investment values shrink again in the coming months, you'll have plenty of time to allow for a recovery. In fact, a long-term approach to investing is a smart idea in a non-pandemic setting, too. Find stocks you're comfortable holding for years, and plan to do just that. And don't be afraid of a little volatility. That's really nothing new to the stock market, and if you embrace that turbulence rather than run from it, there's a good chance you'll emerge much wealthier than you started out.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.