Long-Term vs. Short-Term Stocks

Common stocks represent fractional ownership of a company. As a stockholder, you can continue to own the stock until you choose to sell it or until the company goes out of business or is merged into another company. There are two styles of stock ownership: long-term investing and short-term trading.

Long-Term Investing

"Buy and hold" is a term that refers to long-term investing. A long-term hold, as defined by the Internal Revenue Service for tax purposes, is owning a stock position for one year or longer. Theoretically, the longer you hold a stock, the more likely you will ride through periods of volatility and eventually enjoy profits as the underlying company grows. This is based on the presumption that a good company will continue to grow its business and revenues over time and the stockholders will participate in that growth through stock price appreciation. Long-term holding also applies to dividend-paying stock that will continue to provide dividend income over the long-term.

Short-Term Trading

Short-term trading is not limited to day trading. The IRS defines short-term holdings as those that are sold within one year of their purchase. A short-term holding of a stock is primarily associated with trading the stock to take advantage of short-term market volatility that produces a quick profit.


Tax treatment of short-term and long-term holding periods is different. Short-term capital gains are taxed at a higher rate than long-term capital gains. Historically, the actual tax percentages applied to both holding periods have fluctuated. This tax treatment is designed to discourage short-term trading and encourage long-term investment.


While short-term trading may seem enticing, as it presents the possibility of quick profits, it takes considerable skill to time the market. It also costs a lot of money to pay the transaction fees for numerous trades within a short period of time, which shrinks your profits.


About the Author

Victoria Duff specializes in entrepreneurial subjects, drawing on her experience as an acclaimed start-up facilitator, venture catalyst and investor relations manager. Since 1995 she has written many articles for e-zines and was a regular columnist for "Digital Coast Reporter" and "Developments Magazine." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in public administration from the University of California at Berkeley.