It’s not an easy time to be an investor, and if you’re feeling conflicted about the stock market right now, you’re not alone. On the one hand, S&P 500 It’s up more than 7% so far this year, which has many investors feeling optimistic. But on the other hand, experts still fear that a recession could be imminent, which could result in stock prices falling again.

If you are thinking of investing now, is it really a safe move? Here’s what history says.

The future looks bright for the market

When it comes to the future of the stock market, there is good news and bad news. The bad news is that no one can predict how stocks will perform in the near term, so whether the market will be up or down a month from now is anyone’s guess.

The good news, though, is that the market’s short-term performance is not nearly as important as its long-term prospects.

Over the past century, markets have faced countless ups and downs — some of them severe. In the last two decades alone, we’ve experienced the dot-com bubble burst, the Great Recession, the crash in March 2020, the current recession, and many minor corrections in between.

^SPX Chart

^SPX data by YCharts.

Despite everything, though, the S&P 500 is still up more than 180%. In other words, if you’d invested in an S&P 500 index fund in January 2000 and simply held your investment, you’d have nearly tripled your money by today — despite all the big recessions.

The market may experience more volatility in the coming months, but that’s okay. There is a very strong possibility that it will earn positive average returns over time. By holding onto it for the long haul, you’re much less likely to lose money.

The key is to keep your investment safe

It’s important to take a long-term view at times like these, but it’s equally important to make sure you’re setting yourself up for success with the right investments. If the market takes a turn for the worse, not all stocks will be able to recover. But healthy company stocks are more likely to survive a downturn or a good market, even if they take a hit in the short term.

Healthy companies will have strong underlying business fundamentals, such as strong finances, a competent leadership team and a competitive advantage in their industry. The more of these stocks you have in your portfolio, the more likely you are to see positive returns over time.

When in doubt, you can choose a fund that tracks the S&P 500, eg Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (Flight 0.38%). Such funds aim to mirror the performance of the index. Since the S&P 500 has a long track record of surviving recessions, this fund should thrive over the long term.

Wherever you invest, try not to get too caught up in the daily fluctuations of the market. It may be tempting to sell your investments or avoid the stock market altogether during periods of volatility, but this can sometimes do more harm than good.

If you sell your stock when the price is lower, you end up selling at a discount and locking in that loss. Then if you reinvest after the market rebounds, you’ll pay a premium for the same investment you just sold. But by keeping your money in the market, you can wait for your stock to recover without losing anything.

If history has taught us anything, it’s that this too shall pass. By investing in the right places and holding those investments for the long term, you can rest easy knowing your money is as protected as possible — no matter what the future market holds.

Katie Brockman has a position in the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF. The Motley Fool has positions and recommends the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF Motley Fool has a revealing policy.

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