Investment Returns By Asset Class – May 2013 Update

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Here is my May 2013 update of the trailing total returns for selected major asset classes. Passive ETFs are used to represent major asset classes, as they represent actual investments that folks can buy and sell. Return data was taken after market close at the end of April 2013.

I’m trying out a new chart format, in the hopes of easier visual comparisons. Below is a chart of the all the trailing returns for 1-month, 1-year, 5-year, and 10-year periods.

If you focus on the blue and red bars, you can see that in the short-term the stock markets around the world have been on quite a tear. Meanwhile, gold has been dropping. If you’re holding gold as a diversification tool, this may not be a bad thing to see. If you focus on the 10-year trailing returns of the green bars, just about everything looks rosy at the moment. Unless you were making some manic moves like bailing out during the crisis, your portfolio should have done pretty well over the last decade.

In terms of bonds, they have been a relatively safe place to be over the last several years, but you can also can see the effect of dropping rates on their recent returns. Future bond returns are very likely to be lower than in the past.

Here is the usual table of actual numerical values for those same asset classes:

Asset Class
Representative ETF
Benchmark Index
1-Mo 1-Year 5-Year 10-Year
Broad US Stock Market
Vanguard Total Stock Market (VTI)
MSCI US Broad Market Index
1.69% 17.12% 5.87% 8.74%
Broad International Stock Market
Vanguard Total International Stock (VXUS)
MSCI All Country World ex USA Investable Market Index
3.60% 14.61% -1.06% 10.00%
Emerging Markets
Vanguard Emerging Markets ETF (VWO)
FTSE Emerging Index
1.32% 4.71% -0.49% 15.85%
REIT (Real Estate)
Vanguard REIT ETF (VNQ)
6.70% 19.12% 7.43% 12.71%
Broad US Bond Market
Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF (BND)
Barclays U.S. Aggregate Float Adj. Bond Index
0.98% 3.62% 5.67% 5.03%
US Treasury Bonds – Short-Term
iShares 1-3 Year Treasury Bond ETF (SHY)
Barclays U.S. 1-3 Year Treasury Bond Index
0.10% 0.38% 1.79% 2.55%
US Treasury Bonds – Long-Term
iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (TLT)
Barclays U.S. 20+ Year Treasury Bond Index
4.50% 7.32% 9.66% 7.66%
TIPS / Inflation-Linked Bonds
iShares TIPS Bond ETF (TIP)
Barclays U.S. TIPS Index
0.81% 4.21% 6.34% 6.12%
SPDR Gold Shares (GLD)
Price of Gold Bullion
-8.12% -11.40% 10.58% 15.2%

I collect this information because it allows me to keep an eye on the market while still keeping the long-term returns in perspective. Often, the asset classes with the best long-term returns have had recent poor performance. The 1-year chart helps me decide where to invest new funds and also for rebalancing. Note that I do not necessarily invest in all the listed asset classes, see my personal portfolio for details.

* Listed are total returns (includes dividends and interest) as calculated by Morningstar as of 4/30/13. All periods longer than one year are annualized. NAV returns are listed, as there is not a significant premium/discount to NAV (except for GLD) and the NAV returns match the equivalent Vanguard mutual fund returns. In certain cases, I am using the long-term returns of the equivalent Vanguard mutual funds as Vanguard ETFs are simply a different share class of the mutual funds and thus share the same underlying investments (VXUS/VTIAX, VWO/VEMAX, VNQ/VGLSX, BND/VBLTX).

**10-Year returns for TIP are estimated using Barclays US Treasury Inflation Protected Index (tracked here) minus 0.20% expense ratio. 10-Year returns for GLD are estimated using spot price of gold from Kitco minus 0.40% expense ratio.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

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  1. Scott Beeson says

    I like your clear and concise summary on investment returns. I appreciate your effort. Will you be updating your study for 2014 in the next few months? Thank you.

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