2015 S&P 500 Return

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Although many sources will report that the S&P 500 returned -0.73% in 2015... if you include dividend reinvestment, the 2015 S&P 500 Return was actually 1.19%.

Including dividends is the difference between reporting a negative return and a positive one.

Dividend Reinvested Returns are Key!

As we point out every year, most financial publications will report a lower return on the S&P 500 than a buy & hold investor would actually experience.  Most stories leave out the effect of reinvesting dividends and distributions - the act of buying more shares of a security when that security returns money to shareholders.

Logically, this doesn't make much sense - even if investors aren't reinvesting dividends, they aren't using their dividend checks to heat their homes by throwing them in a fire - making an attempt to account for dividends is a necessityS&P Dow Jones Indices, the owner of the S&P 500, publishes an index called the "S&P 500 Total Return Index" specifically for this purpose.  The S&P TR reports how investors would have performed had they immediately reinvested dividends.

We maintain two calculators which do the math for you with monthly resolution:

The 2015 S&P 500 Return

You can find some historical data on the S&P 500 and the Total Return counterpart at Marketwatch.  Here's how the two indices look like on the same chart:
2015 S&P 500 Return: Price vs. Index

2015 S&P 500 Return: Price vs. Index

So there you have it - simply choosing how to report the index's returns made a massive difference this year, literally the difference between making and losing money.  Since the psychological difference of a loss with even a small gain is so great, we hope you'll agree with our assessment - you need to account for those dividend checks!

01/01/2015 Open12/31/2015 CloseAnnual Return
S&P 500 Total Return3776.493821.61.19%
S&P 500 Index2058.92043.94-0.73%

See other annual S&P 500 returns:

For those of your with a crystal ball or a need to answer some questions, chew these ones over:

  • Where will the S&P 500 go from here?
  • Are you a dividend reinvester?  A dividend spender?  A user of dividend checks to heat your home?


PK started DQYDJ in 2009 to research and discuss finance and investing and help answer financial questions. He's expanded DQYDJ to build visualizations, calculators, and interactive tools.

PK lives in New Hampshire with his wife, kids, and dog.

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