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Stocks: Itty bitty but positive long-term returns

Remember the lost decade?

It was the decade from 2000 through 2009 in which major stock market indexes were virtually flat.

For a few really bad years, it looked like it was going to be the down decade. Flat was at least better than that.

Doing the numbers again, let's go back to 2000 and see what's up. Primarily because of the last two years, the indexes are agead, When you add in dividends, the figures are almost strong.

The Dow, from the end of 2000 to the end of 2010, gained 7.33 percent and posted a total return -- price increases plus dividends -- of 36.38 percent
The Standard and Poor's 500, down 4.74 percent, but a 15 pecent total return.
The Nasdaq, up 7.38 percent and a 15.25 percent total return.

How can you use these figures? You can use these numbers to fend off any claims of hyped stock market returns.

If anyone tells you that stocks produce an average return of .....and you name the figure..... you should understand that the average annual returns in recent years have been small. Very small.

For the Dow, the average annual return from 200-2010 was 3.15 percent. For the S&P 1.41 percent and the Nasdaq 1.43 percent.

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About the author
You've got the job of managing your money. No one in school taught you how. But you and I, we can teach each other, how to handle it, how to save for retirement, how to make money last, how to educate the kids, how to make a budget work. The conversations I have with my readers are fun. Money's important, but discussing it does not have to be boring.

Harriet Johnson Brackey Harriet Johnson Brackey, the personal finance columnist for the Sun Sentinel, is an award-winning business reporter. Her columns for 2008 were named "The Best in the Business," a national award chosen by her colleagues at the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

Brackey has worked at Business Week magazine and at USA TODAY, where she was a founder and part of the original staff of the Money section at the country's first national newspaper. After nearly 11 years there - spent covering the 1980s bull market, the insider trading scandals, the 1987 crash - Brackey left Washington, D.C., and came to The Miami Herald. She spent the next decade writing a column about personal finance that chronicled the stock market's Internet boom and bust, as well as the popular Money Makeover features.

Brackey also has done commentaries for Marketplace Money, which airs on National Public Radio and The Nightly Business Report which is broadcast on more than 250 PBS television stations nationwide. She also has been a radio guest on WLRN’s Miami Herald News.
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