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This Is What Stocks Do

This Is What Stocks Do

November 07, 2017

To many observers, the returns on stocks over the last nine years have been too high.  The +15% annualized gain on the S&P 500 since 2009 is 50% more than the +10% long-term average.  But we've been in a bull market, and this is what stocks do.

Here is a picture of those returns:

Here is a snapshot of the +20.9% annual gains for the nine years ending 1999:

Here's one for the +17.6% annual gains over the 10 years ending in 1989:

Of course, we have had a few bear markets as well (1990, 2000-2002, 2008, and 2011).  But they were unpredictable and over in a short amount of time.  Bull markets routinely generate stock returns that are well above long-term averages; it has to be this way to make up for the losses from periodic bear markets.  

This is why trying to time the market is so foolish -- you're attempting to profit from rather infrequent losses.  Only 6 out of 38 years (16% of the time) qualified as bear markets.  But you run the serious risk of missing out on prolonged gains.  32 of 38 years (84% of the time) qualified as bull markets.  The only reliable way to earn the high long-term return of stocks is to buy and hold on; you'll participate in the infrequent but inevitable bear markets, but more importantly, you will be assured of earning every bit of the gains from bull markets.

So stick to your plan, accept whatever short-term returns the markets provide, and know in doing so you're probably going to end up better off compared to most other investors who can't sit tight and profit from the ride.


Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Index and mutual fund performance shown includes reinvestment of dividends and other earnings but does not reflect the deduction of investment advisory fees or other expenses except where noted. This content is provided for informational purposes and should not to be construed as an offer, solicitation, recommendation or endorsement of any particular security, products, or services.