The market's a mess right now. The S&P 500 sits about 24% below its January high, and it is still toying with lower lows. A big reason for this is the fact that inflation is running rampant even though interest rates have reached their highest level in years. Plenty of pundits are now tossing around the "R" word -- recession -- as well. It would be easy for an investor to get discouraged.

The fact is, stocks are still the best and most accessible wealth-building tool around. And the market's going to pull out of this bearish funk sooner or later, as it has every other time it's stumbled throughout its history.

With that as the backdrop, here's a closer look at three great stocks to step into while they're down. They're appropriate for nearly anyone looking for reliable long-term growth that may seem somewhat out of reach in the current environment.

1. Microsoft

Microsoft (MSFT 0.23%) is of course the company behind one of the world's most prolific computer operating systems, though it also sells all sorts of software. Microsoft is deep into the cloud computing market as well. Research outfit Canalys estimates the software giant generated nearly $15 billion worth of cloud infrastructure revenue in the second quarter of this year alone.

However, investors keeping close tabs on the company may recognize that this reach isn't helping as much right now as it normally might. Microsoft has dramatically slowed its hiring just within the past few months in response to a slowing economy, and in August it shuttered a project that directly impacted 200 people. The company has also curbed travel and training expenses wherever it can, spending that at one point would have been approved without a second thought. These red flags are a key reason this stock has lost a third of its value just since November.

Largely overlooked by all of these sellers is that we are talking about Microsoft, the centerpiece of the personal computer arena. Its Windows operating system is installed on 75% of the world's PCs, according to data from GlobalStats, with no end to that dominance in sight. Much of the world's software is coded with Windows in mind. Microsoft is also the name behind the Xbox gaming console, it owns LinkedIn and search engine Bing, it has its own laptop brand (Surface), and it remains a powerhouse within the office productivity software space.

The company may be bumping into a headwind right now. But as long as the world continues to rely on technology and the internet, it's going to continue paying Microsoft to make it easy to do so.

2. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSM -0.24%) is another ticker that's been beaten up of late. It's been halved, in fact, since its January high.

It's not a household name, although there's a good chance you or someone in your household is using a product it made. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing is -- just as the name suggests -- a manufacturer of microchips on behalf of tech companies that don't make all of their own silicon. Apple, Qualcomm, and Nvidia are just some of its regular customers.

There's no denying Taiwan Semiconductor has been in the wrong place at the wrong time for a while. The COVID-19 pandemic wrecked technology supply chains (coming and going), prompting key players like Intel and the aforementioned Qualcomm to start handling more of their own chip production. Since then, the global economic slowdown has simply crimped demand for microchips, which explains the stock's most recent weakness.

But as is the case with Microsoft, the recent selling has been largely unmerited.

See, it's unlikely any tech company will ever be willing or able to invest enough money in its own chip foundries to keep up with long-term demand, or even keep pace with never-ending chip technology improvements. It takes a specialized manufacturer like Taiwan Semiconductor to offer the scale, flexibility, and upgradeability needed to make affordable silicon that's always top-of-the-line. As evidence of this idea, last quarter's top-line growth of 36% pushed sales past expectations, as did per-share earnings of $1.79.

Look for more of the same sort of surprising success going forward too. While Taiwan Semiconductor acknowledges the upcoming softness for the chip industry, and is dialing back planned capital expenditures to the tune of 10% for the current year in response to the headwind. Even so, the company's revenue guidance for the fourth quarter now underway was better than expected, and analysts are still projecting company's revenue to grow by 28% this year despite the softening economy. That should be followed by more muted revenue growth of 9% next year, but the organization may be understating what's really in store.

3. Mastercard

Finally, add Mastercard (MA 0.01%) to your list of stocks to consider if you're looking to turn a little money now into a lot of money later.

Yes, the credit card payments middleman is an ancient relic. It's been around in a form we would recognize since the 1960s, and during this time we've seen the advent of several other payment options. PayPal, cryptocurrency, and direct debit are just some of the alternative forms of making payments that can (and do) circumvent platforms like Mastercard's.

The fact of the matter is, consumers and companies increasingly lean on middlemen like Mastercard rather than looking for ways to circumvent them. In pre-pandemic 2019, the company handled the purchases of more than $6.4 trillion worth of goods and services, up nearly 10% from the prior year's gross dollar volume and extending MasterCard's long-standing growth. The pandemic obviously rattled this trend, for better and for worse.

But with the impact of the coronavirus shrinking in the rearview mirror, Mastercard is bigger and better than ever. It's facilitated almost $4 trillion worth of purchases through the first half of 2022 alone, not just up from year-earlier levels, but up nearly 30% from where it was at this point in 2019 -- before the pandemic.

Much of this continued growth demonstrates that Mastercard isn't as stuck in the past as some might think it is. The company's top brass includes a chief innovation officer, for instance, and it operates a digital research and development lab aimed at helping its client companies build better consumer-facing services. Mastercard provides the framework for Emirates Airlines' rewards program, as an example of this division's capabilities.

The point is that, until people stop paying for stuff, Mastercard will find plenty of growth opportunities to plug into.