32.39% was the 2013 S&P 500 Return, not the 29.60% you’ll see quoted on tons of other sites.
We told you last year, but we’ll obnoxiously repeat the lesson once again: dividends matter. While every other web site on the internet gives you the price returns of the S&P 500, we do the extra step and tell you both types of returns: price returns and dividend reinvestment returns.
2013 S&P 500 Return
Dividend reinvested returns in green, index returns in orange.
We’ve heard plenty of arguments to the contrary, but they all fail for the same general reason: it makes no sense to consider index returns without doing something with the dividends. Yes, SPXT isn’t a perfect comparison (it ignores taxes and trading fees to list two issues), but it’s vastly superior to ignoring dividends altogether.
So, once again, when you look at the S&P 500, please use the S&P 500 Total Return Index, graciously provided by S&P to fix this commonly made error. For longer time frames, Don’t Quit Your Day Job has a S&P 500 Reinvestment Calculator which uses Robert Shiller’s data back to 1871 (and, hilariously enough, covers times when the S&P “500” wasn’t 500).
|1/2/2013 Open||12/31/2013 Close||Annual Return|
|S&P 500 Total Return||2504.45||3315.59||32.39%|
|S&P 500 Price Return||1426.19||1848.36||29.60%|
Don’t believe that the 2.79% makes a difference? I’d strongly suggest you heed our advice: dividends matter.
Take a look at our calculator – a 65 year old investor who started investing in January, 1973 and sold in November, 2013 (we have data through mid-November so far) saw a solid 1416.765% in index price returns, 6.886% a year. Of course, dividend reinvestment put said investor at 5020.207%… 10.118% a year.
Still don’t care?