Russ Gremel bought $1,000 worth of Walgreens (WBA) stock when he was 28 years old. Seventy years later, the Chicago native is now a millionaire thanks entirely to that one investment. Gremel’s story is perhaps the best case yet to buy and hold stocks for the long term.
The Power of Buying and Holding
The Chicago Tribune reported the remarkable story of Gremel, now 98. Gremel bought his Walgreens shares in the late 1940s, reasoning that pharmacies would never go out of style—people would always need medicine, makeup and toiletries. Turns out he was right: Walgreens is now the second-largest pharmacy store chain in the U.S., with more than 8,000 locations.
He held onto the stock for seven full decades, watching it balloon from $1,000 to $2 million. Gremel never cashed out. Instead, he just donated the whole thing to the Illinois Audubon Society to help it establish a new 400-acre wildlife refuge, saying he “didn’t need the money.” That kind of selflessness and generosity is rare these days. The discipline to buy and hold stocks for that long without cashing out is equally rare.
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Sitting on a winning growth stock for 70 years is extreme, of course. We frequently talk about “forever stocks” here at Cabot Wealth Network, though the term “forever” is loosely defined. In general, forever stocks are long-term stocks you feel confident will beat the market over time, whether that be 10 years, 20 years, 30 years or simply until you reach retirement age. They’re stocks that have the potential to make you rich. And that’s exactly what Walgreens stock did for Mr. Gremel.
Sometimes the hardest thing to do with a stock is hang on to it, particularly when it goes through rough patches. We typically don’t advise hanging on to stocks when things get really rough: most of our advisors recommend setting stop losses in the 10% to 20% range. We also often recommend taking profits on the way up, selling partial positions in winning stocks as a way of rewarding yourself incrementally for the sound investment decision you’ve made.
But if you buy a stock you’re convinced will rise for decades to come, then simply leaving it alone can be a truly wealth-building strategy. It was for Gremel … or, I should say, the Illinois Audubon Society.
Which stocks today could be the next Walgreens? Well, it just so happens our president and chief investment strategist Tim Lutts recently completed a five-part series on his five favorite forever stocks. His latest was on Baidu (BIDU), the Google of China. To read it (completely free, by the way), click here. (From there you can find links to the other four stocks.)
Five Traits of Buy and Hold Stocks
In trying to identify the best forever stocks, Tim looks for the following five characteristics:
- A product or service or business model that is revolutionary.
- A product or service or business that serves a mass market.
- A company that’s still small enough to grow rapidly.
- A company that is not respected—perhaps not even known—by the majority of investors.
- Last but not least, a chart that shows that other investors have begun to recognize the company’s potential as well; that tells Tim that his thinking is on the right track.
For Russ Gremel, Walgreens checked all of those boxes. And that’s how he became a millionaire, at least temporarily.
Read Tim’s “Forever Stocks” series, and perhaps you will be a millionaire too some day!
Investment analyst and Chief Analyst of Cabot Wealth Daily, Chris Preston brings you all the latest from the investing world. Sign up to get updates and breaking news delivered FREE to your inbox. Get unlimited access to our library of complimentary investing reports.Sign up now!