Almost everybody wants to get rich, and the stock market has been shown to be a great way for people to do it, with annual returns -- on average -- that would double your money about every nine years. However, there's also a lot of evidence that plenty of investors underperform the market, and more than a few lose money.
With that in mind, we asked three of our investing experts to tell us: What's the easiest way to get rich buying stocks? Here's what they had to say.
Dan Caplinger: It's not sexy, it's not fast, and it's not the answer most people seem to want, but the secret to getting rich in the stock market is no secret at all. By focusing on the stocks of companies that have solid future prospects for long-term growth, you can set yourself up for monumental gains as years and decades pass. And by adding to positions in your favorite stocks month in and month out through automatic investing programs, you can give the power of compounding a boost and take advantage of favorable market conditions to add even more to your portfolio.
That simple strategy has a number of advantages. First, if you have a set amount to invest every month, being diligent in making new investments every month will actually buy you more shares when your stock's price is down, helping you take maximum advantage of price declines to build up your overall position and adding to profits when the stock price turns back upward. Also, as long as you're mindful of fundamental changes that would justify selling your position in a given stock, having long-term confidence in proven businesses prevents you from falling prey to guesswork and emotional decisions that can turn out badly. Maintaining discipline can be hard, but the long-term rewards of smart investing are worth the effort.
Jason Hall: There's a lot of evidence that investing in stocks is the best way for most people to get rich. It doesn't happen overnight, and it takes a lot of work to do well. However, low-cost index funds have made it much easier for people who aren't able or willing to dedicate the time to pick individual companies.
Vanguard has really led the charge, with a number of funds with extremely low expense ratios -- the money the fund takes out each year to cover costs -- that track popular indices, like the S&P 500. By investing in these low-cost index funds, using the method that Dan describes, you can get close to the same long-term returns of that index. What's that worth over time? It can be an awful lot:
If you'd been able to invest $10,000 yearly in the Vanguard 500 Index Fund (NYSEMKT:VOO) -- which tracks the S&P 500 -- starting in 1980, this chart shows your likely returns after the low 0.5% expense ratio was paid. This fund wasn't available back then, and there's no guarantee that you'll get the same kinds of returns going forward, but long-term buy-and-hold investors in index funds are far more likely to get rich than short-term traders, and with a lot less effort.
Selena Maranjian: As Dan pointed out, patience and diligence are key contributors to getting rich through investing in stocks. But what you invest in matters a lot, too, and a powerful set of stocks worth considering is that of dividend payers.
You don't give up stock-price appreciation when you invest in dividend payers. Shareholders of healthy, growing companies that pay dividends will see their stocks' values rise over time. But those companies that pay out dividends will be generating an additional return for their shareholders, and one that can be counted on more than stock-price appreciation, which is generally lumpy over time. If a company pays $0.25 per quarter, as long as it remains healthy, it will keep doing so, as cutting back on a dividend is a big red flag and a turnoff for investors.
Better still, if the company is growing, it will likely increase its payout over time. Imagine this, as an example: You bought into a company when it was trading for $100 per share and it paid out $2.00 per year in dividends, for a 2% dividend yield. But if it hiked that payout over the next 25 years by an annual average of 8%, then it would end up paying out $13.70 per year 25 years later. Compare that to your $100 purchase price per share, and you'd be collecting $13.70 at that point from a $100 investment, for an effective yield of 13.7%! The stock would most likely be worth considerably more than $100 per share, too.
Investing in strong dividend payers is a great way to get rich over time.
These three methods are slightly different, but share a few common elements like long-term focus and continual investing. Does one of these ways fit you best? Let us know in the comments. Looking for even more about successful stock investing? Check out the following link.
Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. Jason Hall has no position in any stocks mentioned. Selena Maranjian has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.