Saving & Investing

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It matters when you invest . . .
but also how you invest

You can use this chart to explore what investors experienced during different market environments since 1926. See how the results change when you select:

  • Investment amount.
  • Mix of stocks and bonds.
  • Time frame.

You'll see that periods of negative returns had less impact if a hypothetical investment was made annually instead of just once, consisted of both stocks and bonds, and remained invested for longer periods. In other words, investing consistently in a broadly diversified portfolio over the long term has smoothed out the ups and downs of the market's annual returns.

Click Start below to begin.


  • All return figures are annualized.
  • All investments are subject to risk.
  • Investments in bonds are subject to interest rate, credit, and inflation risk.
  • Prices of mid- and small-cap stocks often fluctuate more than those of large-company stocks.
  • Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
  • These hypothetical examples do not represent the return on any particular investment. They are offered for informational purposes and will vary based on the inputs you choose.
  • Be aware that fluctuations in the financial markets and other factors may cause declines in the value of your account. There is no guarantee that any particular asset allocation or mix of funds will meet your investment objectives or provide you with a given level of income.
  • Data source for the interactive illustration above: Vanguard. Stock returns are represented by the Standard & Poor's 500 Index (1926–1970), Dow Jones Wilshire 5000 Index (1971–April 22, 2005), and MSCI US Broad Market Index thereafter. Bond returns are represented by the S&P High Grade Corporate Index (1926–1968), Citigroup High Grade Index (1969–1972), Lehman Brothers U.S. Long Credit AA Index (1973–1975), and Barclays Capital U.S. Aggregate Bond Index thereafter. Returns are adjusted for inflation. Data shown here do not represent any particular portfolio or recommended asset mix. The performance of an index is not an exact representation of any particular investment, as you cannot invest directly in an index.
  • Visual concept for the Vanguard chart originates from the research and designs of Crestmont Research (

Note: Except where noted, Vanguard accepts no responsibility for content on third-party websites.

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