Thursday, September 01, 2011

Was There a Lost Decade?

An interesting article in the NY Times about whether investors should have had a lost decade - losing money over the last ten years or for the first decade of the 21st Century. The author argues that if you were properly diversified then you wouldn't have lost money. So I decided to check it out based on the data I have collected. I have been keeping accounts and returns on investment in a spreadsheet since 1996, so I have several years of data shown in the graph above. As at the end of last year the S&P 500 had a very meagre positive return over the previous decade. It's a little better now because it is coming off a lower base in 2001 in the tech crash. After inflation you would have lost money investing in the index. The MSCI World Index though had a return of 3.07% and would have about broken even after inflation. I was a little ahead with 4.31%. Right now I'm at 4.57%, MSCI at 3.77% and the S&P500 at 1.52%. So the author's point about diversification holds up. Back in the depths of the GFC all three were losing money. If you had a lot of relatively safe bonds you might have been above water. Not if you had a lot of Australian Dollars which fell dramatically in value in the crisis. So it depends what period you pick exactly, what result you get.

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