Panic. Cry. Get angry at Hank Paulson. Sell your stocks and go to cash. Buy penny stocks and hope they double.
These all seem like options in times like these, especially after you've watched stocks around the world decline some 40% in the last year. But these are not good solutions. None of these are what you want to do now.
This is why
One of the best things you can do in times like this is read the commentaries of experienced, professional investors who have decades of experience investing in both bull and bear markets. And when you do, you'll find out fast that they're not panicking, they're not crying about a bad year, and while they may be slightly peeved at regulators for one reason or another, they're not selling their stocks or changing their time-tested investment philosophies.
Instead, they're focusing on what they do best: Buying fundamentally strong companies and holding them for the long term. And as it turns out, if you listen to the experts, now is a fantastic time to be doing just that.
Here comes an expert now
Take, for example, Mark Yockey of Artisan Funds. He acknowledged in a recent letter to shareholders that while there will be times that your investment approach is not rewarded by the market, "what you want to do in times like this is commit to the strongest companies that are best positioned over the long-term, because invariably markets will open up." When that happens, "companies that are growing their earnings, generating cash flow, and expanding their market shares will again be more highly valued."
This is logical. This makes sense.
What may surprise you, however, is where Mr. Yockey is looking to buy those strong, well-positioned companies.
Wherever you go, you can't go wrong
In that same letter to shareholders, Mr. Yockey noted that "valuations around the world are extremely attractive." But while U.S. stocks trade at multiples not seen in decades, "foreign stocks are even cheaper."
That becomes particularly true when you analyze growth prospects around the world. The fact of the matter is that over the next few decades the countries with the best growth prospects are not in North America or Europe. Rather, due to demographics and development, they're in Latin America, Asia, and if you really want to think long-term, Africa. As Yockey wrote, and I agree, "emerging markets are set to grow exponentially over the long-term on the back of increasing urbanization and growing consumption power."
Then how does one explain this?
Think about it. While only about one-third of the U.S. population is under age 30, half of the population in Mexico and Brazil is under age 30. Given that demographic fact, would you rather own a U.S.-based homebuilder such as Toll Brothers
And given that same simple dataset, would you rather own telecom companies such as Verizon
When foreign stocks were selling at rich premiums to U.S. stocks as recently as least year, this was a trickier question. But now that they're cheaper, as long as you stick with best of breed companies, it's a bit of a no-brainer.
What are you going to do with this information?
The fact of the matter is that most investors are running away from international stocks today. They see nothing in them but additional risk.
But that's shortsighted. You can find well-run, well-capitalized public companies everywhere in the world, and many of them, including those mentioned above, have bigger market opportunities than any of their American peers.
To take advantage of this opportunity in the market, focus on buying on the foreign companies with best management teams and balance sheets and be willing to be patient. That's what we do at Motley Fool Global Gains, and we believe the stocks we're buying today are going to make us a lot of money over the next decade or more.
You can see all of our research and recommendations by joining Global Gains free for 30 days. Click here for more information.