This Picture Is Worth a Thousand Lessons

The picture below will help you understand long-term investing more than anything else you'll lay your eyes on. 

It shows the best and worst of the S&P 500 (aka the "stock market") from January 1973 to December 2016... based on rolling returns.

What's a rolling return?  It's easiest to explain through example. 

The 5-year rolling returns from 1973 to 2016 include 5 years from :

1973 - 1977
1974 - 1978
1975 - 1979…..rinse and repeat until…
2012 - 2016 

Pretty simple, right?

So the graph below shows the best 5 years and the worst 5 years.  And then does the same for 1, 3, 10, 15 & 20 year rolling returns. 

(For the nerds - it's actually broken down by month - as in 1/1973 - 12/1973, then 2/1973 - 1/1974, etc.)

And these are ANNUAL returns.  For example, during the best 15 year period, you made 20% every single year.  Not just 20% over 20 years.

Why is this the most important graph you'll ever see?  Because the WORST 15 year return was a  positive 6.5%  annual return.

Patience and long-term investing rewards you with more money.

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