Oh, man, unless you follow the markets every day as I do, you probably just cannot begin to imagine the utter fraud represented by Wall Street brokerages, across the board, and their talking-head cohorts on CNBC and such.
As a member of the intelligentsia (the Bears), I laugh every day. Of course, that’s not how I trade. As a trader, you are best served by always being agnostic as to market direction, as money can always be made up, down, or sideways.
Try this SNL video.
Now, of course, the markets have been traditionally a decent investment, particularly if you engaged in the "buy & mold" strategy of good companies. They make up for inflation and give you a few pennies extra. (Next time your broker recommends a stock, ask him for a performance chart or graph over the past 10 years, adjusted for inflation.). Mutual funds can be nice, if for nothing else, that someone else manages the investments. But if you’re going to buy mutual funds, then get index funds or buy exchange traded funds (EFTs). Almost no mutual funds outperform the S&P 500 over a 10-year span when you factor in management fees (and God forbid that you ever buy a loaded fund under any circumstances).
The best long-term buy/hold stock strategies are those that seek excellent companies with stock selling at bargain prices. It’s how Buffet made his billions. But it takes lots of knowledge and lots of work, and you really can only trust yourself.
But never deal with a full-service broker (a stock salesman, and any stock will generally do), and be very wary of investment advisers. Securities are not like real-estate. Even if you listen to an R/E broker who advises you to buy when smart money might be inclined to hold, you can at least live in the place until it turns around.