It's been interesting to observe the zeal with which people have taken part in the Fool's debate about buy-and-hold investing. There have been many arguments in favor of buy and hold, some against, and some in between.

My view is that the buy-and-hold strategy is fading fast, right before our eyes. The days of holding onto a stock for 20 or 30 years and forgetting about it until retirement are over.

Thanks to technological advancements that enable far greater competition, as well as global economic uncertainty, the buy-and-hold approach just isn't effective in today's market. For example, consider a company like Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ:JAVA), which was riding high during the tech boom of the late 1990s. Investors at the time felt Sun would be a long-term buy given its significant tailwinds -- it was providing software and Internet equipment for the ever-growing World Wide Web.

But the tech bust, along with furious competition from IBM (NYSE:IBM) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), dismantled Sun and its stock price. Although this is just one admittedly extreme example (Sun is down 85% over the past decade), it serves to remind us how critical it is to actively monitor stock investments to gauge when to make appropriate decisions to sell.

Several comments from our Foolish members support the view that buy and hold is rapidly fading. Here are a few interesting ones:

  • "Holding anything for a long period of time has never been a good idea, and even less so today. In our economic system, money moves rapidly and constantly, so while you're sitting on your money for a long period of time, a lot of people are using/moving your money and making big profits, and in the end you'll get a few scraps back after sitting on it for ten years. If a 8-12% return on your investment after several years seems good to you, then fine, but in reality it's a very paltry sum compared to what other made with your money in the same time period. And as many of you know, after ten years you may be even be down, not up." -- IMHarvey

  • "I vote YES. When I became a cognizant being in the 60's and 70's, BAH had a rather concrete meaning. You bought a stalwart American company, an engine of capitalism, like AT&T or GM or a utility. You held it forever; the rest of your life; until you die. When you retire, you harvest your crop.
    TMF seems to quote 10 years as a horizon, but I wonder if many journalists and everyday investors are thinking of 5 years; I know I do." -- jerryguru69

  • "In my opinion, the buy and hold days are over. That does not mean you should become a day trader, but modern technology is changing so fast that the probability that any one company is going to be the top dog forever is very low. I now set stop losses on every stock I buy and if it drops significantly it automatically sells. If it turns out I should have kept the stock, I can buy it back again for $7 on many on line sites. I will never again let my portfolio drop significantly based on predictions from so called stock experts, that on reality don't know any more than I do." -- harry1n

As with all great debates, both sides must be heard. Although I strongly hold the view that buy and hold is fading fast, some members provided evidence to the contrary:

  • "Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO), a blue-chip stock anyone with a 5th grade education can understand, is up over 9,000% over the last 35 years, yet more than 97% of the population missed the run. As recently as March 2009, this simple, yet very powerful stock was trading at a very reasonable 14 times earnings, yielding 4% in dividend income. This is the same PRICE Warren Buffett paid for it in 1989! (adjusted to 4 bucks a share, post splits). Yet, there were with NO takers!!!

    Truth be told, most people do NOT have the stomach, nor the patience for the stock market. You need both.

    If you are reading this post, are less than 45 years old, and do not smoke, then you are likely going to live for another 30-40 years. If history has taught us anything, over that kind of time horizon, a 50-60,000 handle on the DJIA is simply inevitable.

    Thus, the one thing all LONG TERM equity investors have in common is FAITH. For without faith, I would have tossed my Dow Chemical, General Electric, Harley Davidson (NYSE:HOG), McDonald's (NYSE:MCD), and Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) stock overboard a long time ago." -- daveandrae

Wherever you fall in the debate, you cannot ignore the fact that today's market is filled with volatility and uncertainty. Knowing this, investors must stay on top of their portfolios and actively track, follow, and yes, even manage, their holdings.

What's your take? Is buy and hold quickly fading or not? Leave us a comment below and let us know!

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