Theme parks have been closed for most of the year due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, but investors haven't gone without thrills: The stock market has taken them on one of the wildest rides of their lives. The benchmark S&P 500 lost more than a third of its value in about a month during the first quarter, then took less than five months to completely recoup all of its losses. That's about a decade's worth of volatility crammed into a six-month time frame.
The good news for investors with a long-term mindset is that this volatility has allowed them to buy into great companies on the cheap. Best of all, you don't need to start with a lot to become wealthy over time by investing in high-quality companies.
If you have $250 to put toward your financial independence, you have more than enough to buy into some of the best stocks on Wall Street.
Making bank is easy when you own businesses on the leading edge of the healthcare innovation curve. That's why telemedicine pioneer Teladoc Health (NYSE:TDOC) is such a no-brainer buy for investors with $250 to put to work.
Teladoc has directly benefited from the COVID-19 crisis. Physicians and hospitals are doing their best to streamline medical visits while also keeping at-risk patients out of their offices. Telemedicine is serving its purpose, which is why we saw virtual visits more than triple for Teladoc during the second quarter.
However, Teladoc's business was booming well before the coronavirus pandemic struck. The company's compound annual growth over the past seven years is close to 75%, which is a direct reflection of the benefits of virtual visits throughout the healthcare industry. Virtual visits are less costly for insurance companies, and can be far more convenient for both the patient and physician.
What's more, Teladoc Health is in the process of acquiring applied health signals leader Livongo Health (NASDAQ:LVGO) in an $18.5 billion cash-and-stock deal. Livongo targets patients with chronic illnesses and relies on artificial intelligence to send its subscribing members tips and nudges. These nudges help patients better control the symptoms associated with their chronic illness. Livongo has nearly doubled or more than doubled its full-year Diabetes member count in each of the past three years.
As a combined company, Teladoc and Livongo could offer some of the most robust sales growth in the entire healthcare sector.
Innovative Industrial Properties
Investing in the marijuana industry has been hit-and-miss for the past 18 months. But one company that's been a surefire hit is cannabis-focused real estate investment trust (REIT) Innovative Industrial Properties (NYSE:IIPR).
Like any REIT, the game plan is simple: Buy assets and lease them out for extended periods of time. In IIP's case, it purchases cultivation and processing assets in the U.S. and leases them out for between 10 and 20 years. As of the beginning of this week, the company owned 63 assets in 16 states, with a weighted-average lease length of 16.2 years.
The beauty of the REIT model is that it's highly transparent and very predictable. Innovative Industrial Properties remains responsible for the upkeep of its owned assets, but the costs to do so are generally minimal (beyond the initial purchase price for a property). Further, IIP is able to pass along inflationary-based rent hikes each year, and collects a 1.5% property management fee tied to this base rental rate. In other words, there's some very modest, inflation-topping organic growth built into the company's business model.
Innovative Industrial Properties has also benefited from a lack of cannabis banking reform in the United States. With multistate operators struggling to find consistent access to capital, IIP has stepped with its sale-leaseback program. With these deals, IIP acquires an asset for cash and immediately leases it back to the seller. This helps to beef up the balance sheets of multistate operators, while netting IIP a long-term tenant.
Innovative Industrial Properties is the most profitable marijuana stock on a per-share basis in the industry, and is the only pure-play company to currently pay a dividend.
When in doubt, buy into companies that are proven winners. Although financial stocks are inherently cyclical, payment facilitator Visa (NYSE:V) has shown time and again that it's virtually unstoppable over the long run.
Just how dominant has Visa been? Between 2009 and 2018, the dollar amount traversing its credit card networks in the U.S. increased by more than 155%, with Visa expanding its market share of credit card purchase volume in the U.S. by over 10 percentage points to 53%. That's more than 30 percentage points higher than chief rival Mastercard as of 2018. Since the U.S. is a consumption-driven economy, Visa is sitting pretty as the preferred payment facilitator for the world's top economy.
Also of note, Visa is strictly a payment facilitator and not a lender. Though some of the company's peers act as both payment processors and lenders, the lure of double-dipping has never tempted Visa's management. That can certainly be good news during periods of recession, because it means no direct exposure to rising credit delinquencies for Visa. With no worries about setting aside capital for loan-loss provisions, Visa's profit margin remains at or above 50%.
Visa also has one heck of a cashless opportunity beyond the borders of the United States. In 2016, it acquired Visa Europe in order to access the region's developed and developing markets. It has ample opportunity to expand its processing infrastructure into underbanked regions of the world (e.g., Africa and the Middle East), too. With a majority of global transactions still conducted in cash, it's not as if Visa lacks for long-term growth opportunities.