This Is the Key to Long-Term Growth

Is your portfolio a globetrotter? Or is it strictly local?

There's a lot of growth happening in the far corners of the world. In fact, over the next decade, the hottest markets in the world are likely to be far from American shores. But many investors find non-U.S. stocks to be daunting, especially if they aren't traded on the U.S. exchanges. It's hard to get timely financial information on many overseas companies. Even when you can get it, it often appears in an unfamiliar format, is in a foreign language, or is hard to understand for other reasons.

Lots of investors lack the time and energy to hunt down and sort through information on companies like those. Fortunately, there are ways to put that growth to work for you -- without having to learn another language.

Find the companies investing for global growth
Just as you and I would like to profit from the growth in emerging markets like China and India, lots of big (and not-so-big) American companies are investing in those growth markets as well. Take, for example, Ford (NYS: F) , a company I follow closely for the Fool and which is currently investing heavily in some of the world's most promising growth markets.

Going back a decade or so, a few global automakers had the foresight, connections, and resources to invest in creating a presence in China's emerging car market. Two in particular have thrived: Volkswagen, and -- believe it or not -- General Motors (NYS: GM) , which through its local joint ventures has become China's largest-selling automaker.

Ford was late to that party, as its former managers had other priorities. But now, recognizing that Ford's traditional strongholds in the U.S. and Europe are mature markets, the company's managers are investing heavily in China, Russia, and India, hoping to have a major presence in place by mid-decade.

Ford's leaders know that those countries are likely to see significant growth in coming years, and they plan to use their company's strong global brand and products to garner some of it. And while Ford could be a pretty good buy right now (for that and other reasons), the good news for investors is that there are lots of other strong American companies thinking -- and investing -- along these same lines.

I say that's good news, because I think these are the kinds of companies that many of us really ought to own now.

A good answer to a tough problem: investing for retirement
Finding good sources of growth over the next decade will be a challenge. But our retirement savings depend on it: It's not like Social Security is going to be booming over the next decade. Investing internationally is going to be a big key to finding the growth we need to retire comfortably.

As my Foolish colleague Robert Brokamp points out in the new issue of Rule Your Retirement, chances are that you're surrounded by things that were invented, assembled, or grown outside of the United States. Investing outside of the U.S. just makes sense. And doing it by investing in American companies that are positioned to take advantage of that growth makes even more sense, especially if your time and zeal for research are limited.

Think about the possibilities of McDonald's (NYS: MCD) , which has seen its stock quadruple over the last decade or so thanks to overseas growth -- and which is in the process of opening over 500 new locations in emerging markets in search of even more growth. Think about Nike (NYS: NKE) and Coach (NYS: COH) , two big American brands that are already generating big sales in China. Both are looking to roughly double their current sales in China over the next few years, growth that should do nice things for their stock prices.

Want more ideas? We've got 'em: Check out the new issue of Rule Your Retirement, where expert Fool analysts give their picks for the best stocks to buy now for overseas growth in your long-term portfolio. And we haven't forgotten your 401(k), as Foolish fund expert Amanda Kish points you to the best mutual fund bets for foreign-market growth in coming years.

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At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributor John Rosevear owns shares of Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford and Coach.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of General Motors, Ford, McDonald's, Coach, and Nike, as well as creating a synthetic long position in Ford and a diagonal call position in Nike. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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