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Setting the Right Expectations

Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

What’s a Good Annual Return in the Stock Market?

The average return in the U.S stock market over the past 30 years has been approximately 10%, but that amount can vary each year.

For example, in 2013 and 2019, the market experienced very good years and gained nearly 30% in each. On the other end of the spectrum, the stock market lost almost 20% in 2022 and nearly 40% in 2008.

How Often Does an “Average” Return Happen?

The short answer…almost never!

If we define an “average” annual return as 8-12%, then over the past 30 years the market has accomplished this only 3 times. (2004, 2014, and 2016).

Every other year the market has either gained or lost more than 8-12%. When you measure your returns, be sure to do so over multiple years and decades and not weeks, months, or just a single year.

Which Investments Have Performed the Best?

The annual performance of different investments is best summarized using what’s known as an asset class quilt. The quilt below ranks the best performing asset classes from top to bottom. As you will notice, the best performers in a given year are sometimes among the worst performers the following year.

2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Emerging Markets Cash U.S. Large Cap U.S. Small Cap U.S. Large Cap Cash
International Bonds U.S. Small Cap U.S. Large Cap Real Estate Bonds
U.S. Large Cap High Yield International Emerging Markets U.S. Small Cap High Yield
U.S. Small Cap U.S. Large Cap Real Estate International International International
Real Estate Real Estate Emerging Markets Bonds High Yield U.S. Large Cap
High Yield U.S. Small Cap High Yield High Yield Cash Emerging Markets
Bonds International Bonds Cash Bonds U.S. Small Cap
Cash Emerging Markets Cash Real Estate Emerging Markets Real Estate

U.S. Large Cap – The S&P 500 Index®
U.S. Small Cap – The Russell 2000®
International – The MSCI World ex-USA®
Emerging Markets – MSCI Emerging Markets®
Bonds – Bloomberg US Aggregate Bond Index®
High Yield – Bloomberg High Yield Bond Index®
Real Estate – FTSE EPRA Nareit Developed REIT Index
Cash – The 90-day Treasury Bill

Key Takeaway: Diversify your investment portfolio since you can’t know in advance how each asset class will perform.