Investing: should you invest for the short term or the long term?

Naturally, you want to get the highest possible return on your investments. With that in mind, ranging from a few hours to ten years, how long should you ideally leave your money invested in order to achieve a return? Whether it is better to invest for the short or long term depends on your situation, investment objectives and knowledge. We summarise the pros and cons of both strategies so you can decide which approach suits you best.

When to opt for the short term or invest for the long term

If only it were possible to say unequivocally which option works best. In reality, however, it depends on numerous factors and the risks and costs you are willing to bear. Sometimes short-term investing is better, sometimes long-term is the wiser choice.

Correctly predicting sharp price movements within a short period of time can definitely yield good returns. That sounds good in theory, but in practice making such predictions is not so easy as it seems. Investors who suffer losses in this way often stop investing altogether. And that's a pity, because those investors would have had a better chance of higher returns if they opted for the slow but steady approach.

Overall, investing for a longer period carries less risk of bad timing or incorrect predictions. That’s because your money has longer to absorb all the fluctuations in the market. Moreover, investing for longer helps keep any investment stress under control, because there’s no need to continuously check to see how your investments are performing at every moment.

Short-term investing

Short-term investing is active investing. You are looking to achieve the highest possible return in the shortest possible time, from just a few hours to several years. An approach in which you trade your investments within as little as a few hours is actually called 'speculating'.

Chasing high returns does come with risks and, of course, costs. If you are willing to put a lot of thought and time into monitoring your investments and you have the necessary knowledge, you can opt for shorter investment terms.


  • Chance of higher returns
  • Potentially get your money back sooner


  • Higher risk due to market fluctuations
  • Need to have sufficient time to monitor investments
  • Investment knowledge needed

Getting started with short-term investing:
Using our online investment platform Bolero, you can invest in the stock market yourself online.


Long-term investing

When you invest for the long term, you allow a longer period for the market take its course. You should preferably invest for several years: the longer the better, in fact. There is then less need to worry about market fluctuations, because over time the market always manages to come good.

With a long-term investment, you can diversify your investments more widely, making you less dependent on the results of a single company or sector. As a result, the risks reduce (though of course they do not disappear completely). Moreover, one of the biggest advantages is that you are able to benefit from the 'capitalisation effect', increasing the potential return on your investment even further. The longer you remain invested, the more the capitalisation effect can enable your wealth to grow.


  • Less risky
  • Much less need to monitor your investments
  • Not much investment knowledge required


  • Potentially slightly lower returns than with short-term investments
  • Locking up your money in investments for longer periods of time

Is long-term investing for you?
An investment plan allows you to stagger your investments over time, regularly investing an amount of your choice.

Investing in an investment plan

Know more first?

Would you like to explore all the options to start investing, or would you rather discuss your ideal approach with a KBC employee first? Contact KBC Live or arrange a meeting to receive personal advice.