The long term

CIO Global Blog

21 Mar 2019

Almost all investors are familiar with this chart showing growth of USD 100for US equities and bonds over many decades:

Fig. 1: Growth of USD 100, 1950–2018

I've started to hate that chart. The scale hides everything interesting about it.I also find it misleading, since it's really easy to look at this chart and think,"Well, I'm a rational long-term investor, so I should just hold everything inequity." Except sometimes this happens:

Fig. 2: Growth of USD 100, 1999–2018

Over the last 20 years, a portfolio that was roughly 60% US equities and40% US Treasuries has had the same return as an all-equity portfolio. Longtermis not one year. It's not five years. It's not even a decade. Long-term ishalf of a working career. Long-term is an entire retirement. Long-term is longenough to make you doubt everything fundamental about investment riskand return and start proclaiming that everything has changed.

There's no doubt in my mind that people who bought equities duringthe 1999–2000 period will outperform balanced portfolios and Treasuriesover 30, 40, and 50 years. But they had to wait almost 20 years for theoutperformance to even start. That's what long-term means, and that's whythere are so few truly long-term investors.

Author: Michael Crook, Head Americas Investment Strategy, UBS Financial Services Inc. (UBS FS)