If you have a time horizon of 3 years or longer, you have the choice of going the route of mutual funds or buying individual stocks. If you have the time and interest to do some homework and willingness to track results closely, we would recommend that you take your chances with individual stocks. If you would prefer to be an armchair investor, a good value oriented mutual fund would be our recommendation. For a middle-of-the ground approach, choose a sector specific mutual fund once you have identified a strong upward trend in the markets. This requires a certain amount of reading and research on your part, but after that, you can hand over your money to the fund manager and let him or her manage the money for you.
Back in the mid-1990s, Internet stocks was the place to be. The trend however was not apparent until later in the decade (1998/1999 were spectacular years). The trick was to get in on the ground floor, and to make sure to step out somewhere near the top floor. From around 2000-01, precious metals (gold, silver) as well as commodities like copper, nickel and aluminum had a great run. This run has now entered a consolidation phase, and the near term trend is definitely south. But the larger upward trend of commodities is nowhere near running its full course, even as a third of the human population finally gets to experience a higher standard of living.
As part of the commodity trend has been the trend in the energy sector. This sector has seen an even more spectacular rise than the general trend in commodities (and grabbed more headlines for sure). And in a situation that is somewhat unique to this sector, "peak oil" is looming as an imminent possibility. "Peak oil" is that point in the overall production of oil from where the amount of oil produced from oil fields around the world cannot be increased any further. This does not imply an end of oil - simply that oil production cannot keep up with the rising world demand anymore. The resulting effect on prices will be spectacular (though we may have more to worry about than just price of oil at that stage).