Risk Without Reward: ‘Lost Decade for Stocks’

“The Sky is Blue,” “The Earth is Round” & Other Bold Pronouncements

A disastrous ten years for the stock market ends in just a month. Will the turning of a new decade change investors’ luck?

–Ben Steverman, “Stocks: The ‘Loss’ Decade”; Business Week (12/1/09)

If you’re a long-term investor, you don’t need pundits to tell you that the last decade has been a washout for stocks.

Unfortunately, that won’t stop the onslaught of year-end articles surveying the damage — or predicting what comes next.

Exactly how badly have stocks done?

Excluding dividends, the S&P 500 — the most popular benchmark of big, U.S. stocks — is about 20% lower today than at the beginning of the decade.

What makes that return even worse is all the volatility and gyrations you had to endure along the way.

Put it this way: unless you’re a financial masochist, or somehow find eye-popping, jaw-dropping roller coaster rides entertaining . . . you’re probably a lot worse for the wear.

And I’m not even getting to truly epic — and offensive — executive compensation, backdated stock options, lavish pensions, parachute payments, bonuses, unpoliced insider trading — you name it.

The Choices: Up, Down — or Flat

Which naturally leads to predicting what comes next.

Here’s Steverman’s takeaway:

Investors in 2009 are looking out into an unknown future. Those willing to make big bets could profit. Or they could face yet another decade of dashed hopes and shrinking 401(k)s.

Or . . . I suppose the market could end up where it started.

There, that should exhaust the possibilities!

Thanks, Ben. That’s awfully bold of you . . .

P.S.: Personally, I suggest taking Mark Twain’s stock market advice: ‘making money in stocks is easy: only buy stocks that go up. If they don’t go up, don’t buy ’em.’

Or this chestnut: ‘October is a particularly treacherous month for buying stocks. The others are September, November, December, January . . . . “

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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