Even after the dreadful losses of 2008 — and despite numerous past recessions and even a Great Depression — the remarkably resilient U.S. stock market has returned, on average, +11.5% per year since the mid-1920s.

That’s for a portfolio of one-half large-company stocks and one-half small-company stocks (based on data from Ibbotson Associates, an industry leader in compiling market statistics). This assumes all dividends were reinvested and ignores the sad fact that in real life Uncle Sam may confiscate a hefty portion of your gains.

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