There's nothing more satisfying than having the stocks you buy immediately produce bigger returns than you thought imaginable. Frequently, though, you'll buy stocks you think are top quality, only to see them lag behind some other group of hot stocks, or even lose value.

Although making money is the ultimate goal of your investing strategy, the choices you make when your investments don't immediately pan out the way you want are the most critical to your long-term investing success. You don't want to cost yourself big returns you could get elsewhere. But at the same time, you also don't want to bail out of what turns out to be an even better stock just because you were impatient.

Waiting for the big names to pop
That's the situation that many investors in large-cap companies are facing right now. As this month's new issue of the Fool's Rule Your Retirement newsletter discusses, large-cap companies with healthy fundamentals have put in a pretty mixed performance over the past couple of years.

During 2008's bear market, steady large-cap stocks were exactly the right place for investors. A few stocks, including Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE:WMT) and McDonald's (NYSE:MCD), actually managed to eke out gains despite the S&P 500's 37% drop. And even though most didn't manage to escape losses entirely, shareholders in other big companies didn't suffer nearly as much damage as the overall market.


2008 Return

2009 YTD Return

Wal-Mart Stores






Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ)



Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO)



Southern Company (NYSE:SO)






General Mills (NYSE:GIS)



Source: Morningstar. As of Dec. 4.

However, as you can see above, the returns these same stocks have posted in 2009 look pretty lackluster when you compare them to the triple-digit returns that some other stocks have seen. In fact, most of these stocks haven't even managed to match the S&P's rise of almost 22% so far in 2009.

Don't touch that dial
Given the opportunities that you've missed out on, you might think that keeping your shares of large-cap stocks like these is an overly conservative move. In particular, if you only got interested in high-quality large-caps after the worst of the market panic hit late last year, then you've got two strikes against you: You didn't benefit when they didn't fall as much as the broader market during 2008, but you've lagged behind the market this year.

But as Robert Brokamp, the lead advisor of Rule Your Retirement, recently told his subscribers, that sluggish past performance may make large-cap stocks an especially attractive investment right now. Several respected money managers, including bond guru Bill Gross and GMO chief investment strategist Jeremy Grantham, believe that the recent rally is extremely overextended, especially among companies that don't have the financial strength and quality of business that blue-chip stocks enjoy.

If that's the case, then you might expect to see several years in the near future that look a lot like 2008 -- not necessarily because the market drops as much as it did last year, but rather because large-cap stocks reclaim their place as leaders in a tough market environment. And although investors in "junk stocks" may have heard commentators like Gross cry wolf so many times that they won't heed their warnings, you can count on the fact that at some point, the inevitable cycle will turn in favor of large-caps again.

What to buy
So which investments look most attractive right now? One of the biggest benefits that Brokamp's readers get is an inside connection to insight from analysts at the Fool's other investing newsletters. In his article, Robert reveals some high-quality stock names that offer a healthy combination of attractive value, healthy dividend income, and potential for higher stock prices in the future.

Meanwhile, if you're already sold on large-caps and feel like you've been missing out on the rally, don't worry. Your day will come. Although short-term results don't always pan out the way you want, the best companies prove themselves over the long haul with the great returns you deserve.

Want to see which stocks Robert and his peers are recommending right now? Becoming a subscriber to Rule Your Retirement is easy, and a free 30-day trial gives you full access without any obligation. Click here and get in on the action today!

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger only gives up on annoyingly bad football teams. He doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart Stores are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola, and Southern Company are Motley Fool Income Investor recommendations. The Fool owns shares of FPL Group. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Fool's disclosure policy is always there for you.