Long before stocks and bonds were a significant part of the individual's portfolio, returns were in single digits and a big day on the Dow was 40 points in either direction. And I am not talking about the 1940s. I remember working on the trading desk (muni bonds) and the Dow never hit 100 points of change in the mid-1980s. Of course, that was pre-crash.
But I am getting off topic. The point is that nobody expected those 10% per year returns let alone the insane returns of the 1990s. Oil chugged along at some low range. Gold was back down to "normal" levels after the inflationary spiral of the Carter years. You get the point. We did not expect huge returns and people got along just fine.
Then we got the tech bubble. Boom! What happened to my Pacific Century Cyberworks? My Ventro corp B to B? Sock puppet-led Pets.com? But the groundwork was laid and appetites whetted such that low interest rates made the next bubble possible.
Real Estate. Then commodities just last year. We are conditioned to expect to make insane returns somewhere and when we cannot find them in legitimate arenas we make them up. Weapons of financial mass destruction indeed.
My point is that the stock market can be facing years of nothingness now. Our expectations have been shattered and so has the ability for the geniuses on Wall Street to create new "products." The entitlement well has dried up, friends, and we are going to have to figure out how to make a living. Working seems like a plan.
For investors, while I do think years from now we'll look back at bargains today, we probably do not have to rush back to get them.