This chart shows the annual returns of the S&P 500 going back to 1990. Please note that the S&P 500 returned its average only one time in 25 years. The significant points that come from this chart are 1. To show the variance of returns in any given year which also should help with 2. The setting of proper expectations regarding returns in any shorter-term period (less than 5 years). No one can predict what the stock market will do year by year, but, history has shown that the odds of long-term positive returns are pretty good.