The Biggest Urban Legend in Finance

From Arnott,  The Biggest Urban Legend in Finance:

“A 30-year stock market excess return of approximately zero is a huge disappointment to the legions of “stocks at any price” long-term investors.But it’s not the first extended drought. From 1803to 1857, U.S. equities struggled; the stock investor would have received a third of the ending wealth of the bond investor. Stocks managed to break even only in 1871. Most observers would be shocked to learn there was ever a 68-year stretch of stock market underperformance. After a 72-year bull market from1857 through 1929, another dry spell ensued. From1929 through 1949, stocks failed to match bonds,the only long-term shortfall in the Ibbotson time sample. Perhaps it was the extraordinary period of history—The Great Depression and World War II—and the spectacular aftermath from 1950–1999, that lulled recent investors into a false sense of security regarding long-term equity performance.”

This length of underperformance in years is roughly  the same as a human’s current expected lifespan in the US.

Bonds outperformed stocks over an entire lifetime (and to be clear during this time life expectancy was around 40 years in the US so really this is TWO lifetimes).  So, really when one is talking about stocks for the long run, they must mean something other than a human.  A tortoise, deep sea tubeworm,  or sequoia tree perhaps…