Investors from Portland to Portland,
All share this one common shorthand.
Go find the trend
With Google, my friend:
We're searching for words of what sort, man?

You know the list of search term suggestions you get while hacking away at a Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) search box these days? That's actually a tool you can use to tap into the hottest trends. Right now, it's telling me that the stock market is confusing and scary to many Web searchers -- but we still believe in a recovery that can put money in our bank accounts.

Play along
You can try this at home, dear Fool. Start typing "stock market is" into the search bar of your browser, or open a new window to google.com. You get 5.6 million results in a search for "stock market is a scam." Other popular queries call the market a "fraud," a "ponzi scheme," and "rigged."

I sense a healthy dose of skepticism, coupled with disillusionment and  fears about the future. That's OK. A skeptical mind gets caught in fewer scams. You have to wonder how different the results would have been a year ago -- or before Enron.

It gets better!
Here's where it gets exciting. The most popular Negative Nancy result occupies way less mind space than far more positive questions like these:

What is the stock market ...

  • ... bottom
  • ... doing today
  • ... going to do tomorrow

These searches lead to anywhere between 3 million and 40 million results. Despite the crash, countless scams and profiteering schemes, and everything else, investors still want to know how the market works. We want to know how it's doing right now. Above all, everyone wants to know where it's going next.

But there's still room for improvement
That's the good news. On the downside, there is a definite short-term mind-set here. "What's the market gonna do for me today?"

Settle down, people. Get-rich-quick schemes will lose you money more often than reward you. Sure, you could day-trade the latest super-volatile stocks, such as Citigroup (NYSE:C) or Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS) and strike it rich by making a long string of correct bets. But, do you have any idea how unlikely that is?

OK, so now what?
You can beat the market and make money for yourself -- and keep it for the long haul. The market may look like a giant Ponzi scheme to the beginner, but a little education goes a long way. You're already in the right place to start learning all about this mysterious, money-making market. Learn how a long-term strategy will make you rich.

The Fool can teach you the basics. I went through the Foolish 13-step program (12 steps just ain't enough for us) many years ago, but the lessons are just as valuable today.

The key, though, is thinking long-term. I'm a Rule Breaker at heart, so I've tended to follow stocks like Hansen Natural (NASDAQ:HANS) or Google; they've grown explosively over the years and still have room to run, at least in my view. But trading in and out isn't the best way to maximize profits.

And as you get closer to retirement and need to tone down your risk-taking, you'll probably want to look at alternatives. I see Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) as a stable dividend payer and Costco (NASDAQ:COST) as an attractive value stock, both of which could help you preserve and grow your wealth.

The point is that there's no one-size-fits-all silver bullet. No, not even Warren Buffet is infallible, and his Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-A) does not belong in every investor's portfolio.

But whichever types of stocks attract you, make sure you don't get swayed by day-to-day distractions that the market throws your way. Once you realize how the market works over the long haul, you won't think it's a scam anymore.

Johnson & Johnson is a Motley Fool Income Investor selection. Google and Hansen Natural are Rule Breakers selections. Berkshire Hathaway and Costco are both Inside Value picks and Stock Advisor recommendations. The Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and Costco. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in Hansen and Google, but holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. He is a prize-winning limerick writer. You can check out Anders' holdings or a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.