9 Charts Summarize 96 Year (1926-2021) Capital Markets History


  • 2021 was a good year for stocks, but not bonds
  • The post-2008 recovery has been spectacular, one of the best 13-year US stock markets.
  • We provide a table of details for the entire 96 years as well as 5-year and 10-year sub-periods

Here are investment performance highlights for the year 2021 and the 96 years 1926-2021:

  1. Most asset classes earned positive returns in 2021. Real estate and commodities led with 41% returns. Bonds and gold lost value in the year.
  2. Target date funds with long horizons and moderate risk earned double-digit returns in 2021, as they did in 2020.
  3. Stocks, measured by the S&P 500, returned 29% in 2021, triple the 96-year average of 10%. Bonds lost 2% based on the U.S. Investment Grade (Bloomberg) Aggregate index, well below the 96-year average of 6%.
  4. The 2021 stock return is above median and the 2021 bond return is below median.
  5. The recovery from the 2008 stock market crash has been sensational. Stocks have soared 600% in the past 13 years, one of the best 13-year periods.
  6. Target date funds started in 2008 and have grown to $3 trillion. Conservative TDFs have earned 8% per year over their 14-year history while aggressive TDFs have earned 9.5%. TDFs are excellent benchmarks for multi-asset portfolios.
  7. Details are provided in a table.
  8. There’s never been a worse time to retire.

1. Most asset classes earned positive returns in 2021. Real estate and commodities led with 41% returns. Bonds and gold lost value in the year.

Asset class returns for 2021

2. Target date funds with long horizons and moderate risk earned double-digit returns in 2021, as they did in 2020.

Target date funds

3. Stocks, measured by the S&P 500, returned 29% in 2021, triple the 96-year average of 10%. Bonds lost 2% based on the U.S. Investment Grade (Bloomberg) Aggregate index, well below the 96-year average of 6%.

Stock and bond returns

Source: Target Date Solutions

4. The 2021 stock return is above median and the 2021 bond return is below median.

96 year return history of stocks

96 year return history of bonds


5. The recovery from the 2008 stock market crash has been sensational. Stocks have soared 600% in the past 13 years, one of the best 13-year periods.

13 years of consistently high returns

6. Target date funds started in 2008 and have grown to $3 trillion. Conservative TDFs have earned 8% per year over their 14-year history while aggressive TDFs have earned 9.5%. TDFs are excellent benchmarks for multi-asset portfolios.

Target date fund returns

7. Details are provided in the following table.

Total return chart

Source: Target Date Solutions

8. There’s never been a worse time to retire

Despite recent high returns, and partly because of it, this is a terrible time for our 78 million baby boomers to be retiring, as summarized in this interview. There are five reasons that it really is different, and bad, this time and ten threats to the economy and stock market that endanger baby boomer lifestyles in this decade.

Ron Surz is CEO of Target Date SolutionsAge Sage, and GlidePath Wealth Management, and co-host of the Baby Boomer Investing Show that you can binge watch on Patreon. He authored the Book Baby Boomer Investing in the Perilous Decade of the 2020s.

Please watch and support our Baby Boomer Investing Show and visit our Baby Boomer Libraries, our Target Date Fund blog, and our GlidePath blog.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.



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