If you aren't thinking about owning a stock for 10 years, don't even think about owning it for 10 minutes.
-- Warren Buffett
Short-term trading can be exciting, but the best way to consistently generate wealth is to buy shares of fantastic companies and hold them for long periods of time -- often for decades. Buffett has described his favorite holding period as "forever," but that may be too ambitious of a goal. Investors looking for stocks they can hold for the next decade have many to choose from, but Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN), and MasterCard (NYSE:MA) stand out in particular.
The social media giant is growing rapidly and squashing rivals
Facebook has faced a fair amount of skepticism throughout its relatively brief existence. Some wondered if the company's core social networking model was a fad. Others expected it to be overtaken like those that came before it -- another MySpace. There were widespread doubts that Facebook could make the transition to mobile, as consumers ditched PCs in favor of smartphones and tablets.
All of those concerns have been put to rest. Facebook has beaten down every challenger it has faced, emerging as the dominant social networking platform. Potential rivals, including Instagram and WhatsApp, have been purchased and integrated. Meanwhile, revenue continues to grow rapidly -- it rose more than 40% last year -- and the vast majority comes mobile devices. More growth is likely, as Facebook has yet to pull key monetization levers. Both Messenger and WhatsApp could provide a steady stream of additional sales in the years ahead. Facebook is also pushing forward, investing in new computing platforms. Through its ownership of Oculus Rift, it's a virtual reality pioneer.
Facebook has become something of a utility for its more than 1.5 billion loyal users. At this point, it's hard to imagine the company facing a significant disruption. It may face some lumpiness in the years ahead, but patient investors could find that the company's stock is far more valuable a decade from now.
Amazon continues to post tremendous sales growth
Amazon has experienced rapid growth in recent years, enjoying rising revenue and rewarding investors. By market cap, Amazon is now the nation's largest retailer, which may incline some investors to conclude that the company has hit its peak. But nothing could be further from the truth. In terms of sales, it still has quite a ways to go. Last year, Amazon brought in $107 billion -- about one-fifth of the $499.4 billion Wal-Mart's business generated.
More broadly, the majority of American consumers continue to do most of their shopping in person. E-commerce sales represented less than 8% of total retail sales last year. Over the next 10 years, online shopping seems likely to take a far greater percentage of retail sales, as ongoing improvements in logistics, automatic ordering, and more rapid shipments make the prospect of buying online ever more enticing. Amazon, as the leading online retailer in the U.S., seems best positioned to capitalize on that secular trend.
Cash remains king -- for now
Despite the growth of electronic payments, many transactions are still conducted in cash. A 2014 Federal Reserve study found that Americans used cash for about half their purchases. The same was true for consumers in countries such as Canada, France, and the Netherlands. Other societies, including Germany, China, and Japan, remain dominated by cash purchases. It's hard to imagine cash payments vanishing entirely over the next 10 years, but the convenience and safety of electronic and digital payments should continue to win out over time. As that trend unfolds, MasterCard could reward shareholders.
The company owns one of the largest payment processing networks in the world, through which it collects fees from merchants and lenders. MasterCard-branded credit and debit cards take advantage of this network, offering consumers an alternative system of payment. MasterCard's network operates in virtually every corner of the globe -- 210 countries and territories.
MasterCard faces intense competition from direct rivals and alternative payment services, but the company appears well positioned to capitalize on the move away from cash.