By Ben Carlson, CFA
A Wealth of Common Sense
Historical market data can’t help you predict the future, but I still find it useful as a way to understand the potential risks and rewards you can see as an investor.
One of my favorite free sources of historical returns comes from NYU’s Aswath Damodaran. Each year he updates the annual returns for stocks (S&P 500® Index), bonds (10-Year Treasuries), and cash (3-month T-bills). I always find something interesting when perusing this data.
Damodaran also includes the inflation rate in his data, which allows you to view real returns.
While performance numbers over nearly 100 years can help provide context in terms of risk premiums — stocks should outperform bonds, which should outperform cash — averages can mask market cycles.