This update is in response to a standing request for real (inflation-adjusted) charts of the S&P 500, Dow 30, and Nasdaq Composite. It includes the latest monthly close data.

Here are two overlays — one with the nominal price, excluding dividends, and the other with the price adjusted for inflation based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Consumers (which is usually just referred to as the CPI).

Nominal Gains

Real Gains


The charts require little explanation. So far the 21st Century has not been especially kind to equity investors. Yes, markets do bounce back, but often in time frames that defy optimistic expectations.

Performance of the SPY ETF

The charts above are based on price only. But what about dividends? Would the inclusion of dividends make a significant difference? Let's take a look at the return on $1,000 invested in the SPY ETF at its March 2000 peak.


The total return certainly looks better 18 years later, but the real (inflation-adjusted) purchasing power of that $1,000 is currently only 692 dollars above break-even, a real compounded annual return of 2.93%.

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