5 questions answered about the average Stock Market return:
What’s the Average Stock Market Return?The average annual stock market return is widely reported to be 7%. Trent Hamm at The Simple Dollar believes so. Tom DeGrace mentions the same figure. An article by J.D. Roth acknowledges a book that points to a similar figure. I’m sure I could go on and on.
Now, just because you see people writing that 7% is the number, that doesn’t mean that you have to immediately believe it. You can do your own research. For me, the fact that this number is continually coming up from what appear to be reputable sources gives me a great deal of confidence that the average annual stock market return is 7%. Plus, the data seems to prove this is the case. There are those who believe that the number is different. Why is this? It’s simply because they are using different measures (or standards) to answer the question. If you input a different timeframe, index, or add other factors to the equation such as inflation, the numbers may look different. As an example, J.B. Maverick writes that the average annual return for the S&P 500 is approximately 10% (when measured from 1928 to 2014). He explains that this might lure investors into quite a disappointment when they don’t receive nearly that much in their portfolio. But why? Why can’t people see that kind of a return? Well, it’s possible they could, but it’s unlikely. There are a number of factors that make earning 10% or even 7% on average per year unlikely over a long period of time. While the portfolio may yield 7% annually on average over time, there are factors that can reduce how much you actually keep. That brings me to the next question…
What Can You Expect to Earn from the Stock Market?If I had a dime for every time I’ve been asked this question! Sometimes it comes in the form of the former question, but this is really the question that matters. Below, I’m going to break down some of the factors that can work for and against your average annual return in the stock market. But first, I have to give you a word of caution . . . . Don’t become discouraged! Whatever you do, don’t pull your investments out of the market simply because you think you won’t earn enough to reach your goals! Sorry, did I yell? I didn’t mean to. It’s just important that you keep a balanced perspective. Never forget the power of compound interest and what it can do for your portfolio. Feel me?
Factors that Influence Your ReturnOkay, let’s get to it. Here are just a few factors that can influence your average annual stock market return . . . .
1. Being stupid and investing for a short period of time simply for the gains.If you’re going to invest in the stock market, and you want to make somewhere near the average annual stock market return, you wouldn’t be doing yourself any favors by investing for a short period of time. “But Jeff, what if I make 20% in a year?” Yeah, that’s possible. But you know what? That’s not a sound long-term plan. If you want to do things like save for retirement, put your kids through college, or simply build a lot of wealth, you’re going to need to have a long-term strategy.
Taking your money in and out of the market is what we call “timing the market.” Timing the market may yield some temporary results, but over the long-term, it’s a no-win strategy. Think long-term! Okay, I think you get the picture. And definitely make sure to check out our reviews of some great investing opportunities such as our review on Motif Investing, before you begin your investing journey!
2. Having to take your money out of the market because you need the money.Alright, this is one that you don’t have control over. If you need the money, and you don’t have any other options to fund whatever situation has arisen, then you have to take money out of the stock market. I get that. Now, this can have profound effects on your rate of return over time. Say everything is going well, you’ve been investing for 20 or 30 years, and retirement hits and you need the money. But then, you realize, “Oh wait, there’s a housing crisis. The stock market stinks right now!” Unfortunately, that’s just tough luck. Even though you might have had a solid return all those years, you might have to take a 20 or 30% portfolio loss simply because of the timing – or shall I say bad timing? This has happened to real retirees in recent history. It can happen to you, too. This, my friends, is where a great financial advisor can help you out. If you’re in retirement and are invested solely in the stock market, you can do better. For example, having some bonds in the mix may help you lower your volatility. There are also a number of other safe investments for those who are nearing or are in retirement. Granted, this strategy somewhat involves exiting the stock market, but it’s smart for your overall portfolio.
3. Fees.I can’t tell you how many target-date funds I see that have mutual funds with ridiculous fees. Ugh. Now, fees aren’t evil. People who work hard to create a mutual fund and the people who manage it deserve to be paid. But you know what? Sometimes, there are just better options out there (and there are). It’s important to keep fees low because they do eat into your portfolio. Many times, these fees are recurring fees that pull money from your investments. And you know what? Many people don’t even know they are paying these fees unless they look at the fine print. “But Jeff, if I don’t notice these fees, they can’t be that bad, right?” Wrong. While fees might pull a small amount from your funds, they add up over time. You lose a lot of potential earning power when your money is drained through fees. Hint: Index funds with low fees were a popular choice among experts.
Is There Any Hope?Yes, there’s a lot of hope. Let’s summarize what you should do to raise your chances of a better return:
- Invest for the long-term
- Seek the help of a competent professional – especially if you’re nearing retirement or are in retirement
- Watch out for outrageous fund fees
I agree, very misleading. I can’t believe that that 7% number we see everywhere is adjusted (based on a guess) for inflation. I would much prefer to know how much actual money I can expect to have in X years. Then I can figure taxes and inflation on my own. The good news is, I’ve never been brave enough to imagine earning 11%!
The direct link you gave to show ” the data seems to prove this ” shows “1950-2009”, “Total Return” to be 11.0%, not 7%. 7% may about be the inflation adjusted number, but you later say ” If you input a different timeframe, index, or add other factors to the equation such as inflation, “, implying that your initial analysis did not account for inflation. 11% vs. 7% has a tremendous impact in future financial modeling.
Not to mention those numbers were through 2009 and this article was written in 2016, including one of the sharpest downturns in history but leaving out the recovery that actually occurred.
There was no intention to mislead Bob. When ever you’re dealing with statistics, you’ll get different numbers. This is especially true when the source requires different inputs. That return would be lower for 2009 due to the crash as you said, but that doesn’t mean they were inaccurate. And 7% is still a strong return compared to most other investments.
I agree with Bob on this one. The fact that the 7% includes inflation is the difference between 7-11%.