For long-term investment be patient, patient and patient

The investment scenario is most unsettling for many who do not have a long-term time horizon.

The investment scenario is most unsettling for many who do not have a long-term time horizon.

Investors who invested in world stock markets face ongoing uncertainty. Fears of a depression or a recession are written about daily.

It's not only equities that have taken a beating, but property markets too. South African property sellers have not realised yet that buyers are not going to pay their price.

The question on everyone's lips is whether this is an ideal buying opportunity because shares are trading at prices far below their true value.

I can say with confidence that there are some outstanding buying opportunities out there, some real bargains to be had.

Warren Buffet in the US and particularly Allan Gray in South Africa have had a similar philosophy - to buy shares when they are undervalued and then to hold on to them. Buffet recently invested $5 billion (about R50 billion) in Goldman Sacks.

If you have a long-term time horizon, buying a little too soon should not matter in the long-term because if you invest in undervalued shares you will benefit from the capital gain when share prices rise to their fundamental value or beyond. You could also be buying good dividend income that is likely to continue.

For the man-in-the-street who does not have the knowledge, it is essential to use experts who know where to invest to get the best returns when markets do recover. And they will.

Market timing is a mugs game. Few, if any, get it right more than once and even then it has more to do with luck than anything else.

The real concern is that investors are often driven by bold newspaper headlines and financial commentators' views about the present. They forget that questions and answers put to commentators usually require an answer that relates to their short-term views.

A long-term investor looking for growth should realise that coupled to this is their time in the market, which should be anything upwards of seven years.

It is only over such a period that the sharp fluctuations that can and will take place will be ironed out. Don't panic or sell quality equities. The real art of investing is to identify value well before other investors and then to be patient, patient, patient. This will bring rewards over the long-term.