Stocks is the way to go
In the past 150 years, bonds were able to compensate for inflation and even provide a small extra of about 2.3%.
If you want to see bigger returns and are able to invest long term, must look at stocks. This type of investment provided an average real return of 6% over the past 150 years (this includes reinvestment of dividends).
6% might not seem like much, but when converted to ‘nominal’ yields, meaning return including inflation, this gives you 9% per year.
Inflation: the 8th wonder of the world
Those who think 6% isn’t much, might change their mind once they realize this return can repeat itself, year after year. Over the long term, this amasses to a massive amount Albert Einstein didn’t call inflation the 8th world wonder for nothing.
This makes it possible to turn even a small starting amount into a fortune. The condition: an early start and/or a high return. Combining both is the perfect storm.
If a student would invest the money he earns from holiday jobs in shares instead of consuming it, he wouldn’t have to save much for the rest of his life (see table). With an average real return of 6% per year, he increases his purchasing15.7 times. His 10,000 euros has become 157,213 EUR. If this smart student manages to achieve a 7.25% return, his purchasing power will increase to more than 330,000 euros.
Small annual differences give explosive differences due to the miracle of compound interest. Hence also the big difference with the final amount when he invests in bonds.
|At the age of||Invested in stocks (6% yearly real return)||Invested in bonds (2.5% yearly real return)||Saved under a mattress (yearly inflation of 2%)|
|21 (after 5 years)||11,951 EUR||10,775 EUR||8,572.11 EUR|
|30 (after 14 years)||18,204 EUR||13,457 EUR||7,146,96 EUR|
|50 (after 34 years)||58,383 EUR||22,050 EUR||4,771,37 EUR|
|67 (after 51 years)||157,213 EUR||33,552 EUR||3,384,44 EUR|
Of course, that 6% is an average over a very long period of time. It’s very difficult to keep cool during an economic crisis and not sell. Many investors have not forgotten 2008, one of the worst years on the stock market ever. Even the major stock exchanges suddenly dropped by more than 40%. More recently, we also have the Coronacrisis of 2020.
On the other hand, however, there were also years in which prices climbed by 30 or more percent. A weak period is often followed by an episode of high returns.
So even if you enter the stock market at a very bad time, you can end up with a profit – provided you are patient. Anyone who bought shares in the year 2000, at the top of the Internet bubble, and then collapsed with the financial crisis in 2008, saw their capital halved twice. Today, however, even that unlucky man is making a profit.
Globally, since then, the major stock exchanges in 23 countries have offered profits of around 80% (in nominal terms). Admittedly, over those 16 years, that does not give a 6% real yield per year. But even those unlucky ones have seen their purchasing power increase by more than 2 percent a year. A savings account does not yield that.