Look back through the stock market’s history and you’ll find the rolling returns for different asset classes are remarkably consistent.
And equities win in a landslide. Since 1926, the stock market has generated a positive return in 71 out of 96 years.
Historically, the probability of making money in the U.S. stock market is 50-50 in one-day periods, 68% in one-year periods, 88% in 10-year periods and 100% in 20-year periods.
(That’s something to remember whenever stock prices start wilting like last week’s roses, as they have recently.)
Stocks are not simply red or green electronic blips – or sheets of paper with corporate names on them.
A share of stock is a fractional interest in a business. When a company issues stock, each purchaser has the right to share in the fortunes of the business.
The gangbuster returns from equities surprise some folks, especially those listening to the permabears.
For instance, a reader recently forwarded me this excerpt:
Stocks hit a high in 1929, after which investors waited 27 years (inflation adjusted) for a new high. Measured from the bottom, in 1932, prices rose for 34 years to reach the next top, in 1966.
Then, it was down again, with investors in a losing trade for the next 29 years. Finally, in 1995, the Dow traded once again (inflation adjusted) at levels last seen in 1966.
Sounds scary. However, it’s highly misleading.
Why? Because by looking at the level of the index only – and omitting dividends – it grossly distorts actual returns.
Even if investors bought at the very top before the 1929 crash, it took just 4.5 years for investors reinvesting dividends to be whole again.
No one can tell you what stocks will return in the future, of course.
But it’s reasonable to expect that long-term returns will not be significantly higher or lower than historical averages.
As Patrick Henry famously said, “I know no way of judging the future but by the past.”
“The past” I’m referring to is not the last couple weeks or months… but the last couple centuries.
Yet negativity sells…
The truth is America – despite its biased media, inept political leaders and gargantuan debt – is made up of the freest and most dynamic group of innovators on earth.
Every day, Americans are inventing new technologies, launching new businesses, creating breakthrough medicines and solving real-world problems.
This has turned America into the greatest wealth creator in the history of the world.
Think about the technological advances we’ve seen in the past 100 years…
Countless medical and surgical breakthroughs… the assembly line… TV… the internet… personal computers… smartphones… e-commerce… air travel… space exploration…
Our ancestors would marvel at modern-day life.
But here’s the thing that the media fails to report…
The innovation we’ve seen has been great for everybody: 1.2 billion people have been lifted out of poverty… and life expectancy in every part of the world has risen dramatically.
And they’re also creating astonishing wealth for everyday Americans who know how to spot these opportunities.
Instead of worrying about what the politicians are going to do next, investors should be spending their time on one thing and one thing only…
Identifying great companies that are creating cutting-edge new technologies… launching breakthrough products… beating sales targets quarter after quarter… and rewarding shareholders all along the way.