I was recently listening to a stock market "expert" talk about the market's current state of affairs. I'm not going to name names, because that's not important. What is important is that she noted that the S&P is basically at the same level that we saw in 1998 and then quipped, "asset allocation, the old-fashioned way, doesn't work anymore."

I should expect that kind of short-sighted comment by now since I've heard similar iterations of it -- for instance, "buy and hold is dead" -- over and over again in recent years. But for some reason it really got my goat this time, and I decided that statement -- in all its various forms -- is the most idiotic, brain-dead piece of poppycock I've ever heard.

Those darn Patriots
Just how lame is this line of reasoning? Let's imagine for a moment you decide to place a bet on a football game. The game in question is the New England Patriots vs. Texas' Trinity Valley Community College. Everyone on the Patriots is in the best health of his life, while Trinity Valley CC is missing its starting quarterback to the flu and its entire starting linebacker corps is out of town doing voluntary charity work.

You cash in the kids' 529 plans, take loans of the 401(k)s, take out a third mortgage on the house, and bet everything on the Pats. When all is said and done, sure enough, the Patriots have won by a score of 147-0.

That's great, right? Not so fast. The bookie's line had the Pats by 300 points. You lose. Big.

But what's the lesson from this? That betting on the Patriots is always a bad idea? No! It's that you were a damn fool for betting on the Patriots when the line was that skewed.

Back to stocks
"Old-fashioned" asset allocation models and the strategy to own great businesses at good prices for long periods of time were not the cause of the lackluster performance of the market indices over the past decade-plus. The problem was that investors were paying moronic prices for stocks a decade ago.

I should point out that if what the anti-buy-and-hold crowd is really trying to say is that it's a bad idea to just buy stocks no matter what valuations are like, well then, bravo, you've proved a very self-evident point. Of course, since their solution seems to be short-term trades, Bollinger bands, and stop-losses, I don't actually think that was their point.

Breathe deep, buy stocks
Fortunately, there are plenty of Foolish readers who get this. In fact, they may be reading this right now thinking to themselves, "Well duh! I knew this already!" And that's a good thing. However, it's the prevalence of the comments against long-term investing that makes me concerned that there are a lot of folks out there ready to give up on it.

That's particularly disappointing considering the market environment today. Many of the stocks with the most egregious valuations a decade ago are now far more attractively valued. Tech titans Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL) are perfect examples. Back in 2000, Cisco traded at an average earnings multiple of 174, while Oracle fetched a multiple of 95. Today, the stocks change hands at 16 times and 21 times, respectively, and as of next year, both will also be dividend-paying stocks.

Granted, we're not quite as awash in bargains as we were a year or a year and a half ago. For instance, I recently suggested that McDonald's -- a company that I'm a big fan of -- may have hit overvalued territory. But there are still plenty of worthwhile deals out there. By getting back to the basics -- that is, looking for reliable businesses that are producing attractive returns on equity, trading at reasonable valuations, and paying a dividend -- there are still plenty of deals out there right now.

Here are just a few of them:


Return on Equity

Price-to-Earnings Ratio

Dividend Yield

Altria (NYSE: MO)




DuPont (NYSE: DD)




Exelon (NYSE: EXC)




ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP)




Merck (NYSE: MRK)




Source: Capital IQ, a Standard & Poor's company.

I purposely picked out a cross-section of companies from different industries to underscore that not only is it possible to find attractive stocks right now, but the opportunities are scattered broadly enough that you can build a good, diversified portfolio with them. The companies above aren't without their challenges -- Merck, for instance will have to cope with the loss of patent protection on some of its drugs, while Altria will likely forever have a big legal overhang -- but I think they all could play a solid part in a diversified portfolio.

But these are far from the only good opportunities out there right now. Have a favorite of your own? Head down to the comments section and tell me why your stock will help prove that long-term investing isn't dead.

Is it really the best time to buy stocks right now? See why Morgan Housel thinks history says "yes."

Exelon is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. The Fool has written calls (bull call spread) on Cisco Systems. The Fool owns shares of Altria Group, Exelon, and Oracle. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community.

Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer owns shares of McDonald's, but does not own shares of any of the other companies mentioned. You can check out what Matt is keeping an eye on by visiting his CAPS portfolio, or you can follow Matt on Twitter @KoppTheFool or on his RSS feed. The Fool's disclosure policy assures you no Wookies were harmed in the making of this article.