InvestingInvestment StrategiesQAIB Dalbar Study of Investor Returns 2023: Time in The Market Beats...

QAIB Dalbar Study of Investor Returns 2023: Time in The Market Beats Timing The Market

And what you can learn from this to get better returns on your portfolio…

We are audience supported - when you make a purchase through our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The timeless wisdom still holds true: Time in the market beats timing the market. This principle is once again evidenced in Dalbar’s 2023 Quantitative Analysis of Investor Behavior (QAIB) study, which analyzes mutual fund investor returns and the costly impact of short-term speculation.

As Dalbar’s annual QAIB research has shown over 30+ years, emotional investing triggers frequent trading that too often backfires. Attempts to outsmart markets typically underperform simple buy-and-hold strategies.

So why do most investors fail to match market returns? This article will explore the latest QAIB report insights on how impulsive decisions undermine returns more than investment selection. We’ll examine why patience pays when it comes to long-term investing.

You’ll discover core reasons everyday investors lag benchmarks, earning nearly 3-4% lower annual returns compared to the S&P 500 over 3 decades. The analysis spotlights behavioral traps like loss aversion and herding that tempt market timing.

Time in The Market Beats Timing The Market

Arm yourself with knowledge on how to avoid these pitfalls. You’ll learn research-backed tips grounded in the key investing principle that time IN the market wins, timing the market loses.

Key Takeaways: QAIB Dalbar Study of Investor Returns 2023

  1. Understanding Investor Behavior: The QAIB Dalbar Study of Investor Returns 2023 reveals a crucial insight: time in the market often leads to greater success than trying to time the market. This study, analyzing mutual fund investor returns, shows that emotional investing and frequent trading often backfire, leading to suboptimal returns. Curious about how this plays out in real scenarios? There’s more to this story.
  2. The Cost of Market Timing: The study highlights a stark reality: the average equity investor’s returns lag significantly behind the S&P 500 over three decades. This underperformance is attributed to impulsive decisions driven by market volatility, emphasizing the importance of a long-term investment perspective. Ever wondered why patience is key in investing? Let’s dive deeper.
  3. Behavioral Traps in Investing: Dalbar’s analysis spotlights common behavioral traps like loss aversion and herding, which often lead investors to make poor timing decisions. These emotional biases result in selling at lows and missing out on market recoveries. Intrigued by how our minds can play tricks on our investment strategies? We’ll explore this further.
  4. Strategies for Optimal Returns: The study underscores the value of maintaining a diversified portfolio and sticking to a long-term investment plan. By avoiding the pitfalls of market timing, investors can align their strategies with performance fundamentals and principles of behavioral finance. Ready to learn how to optimize your investment returns? Keep reading.

After these key takeaways, you’ll discover the core reasons why everyday investors often earn nearly 3-4% lower annual returns compared to the S&P 500 over three decades. The Dalbar Study of Investor Returns 2023 not only highlights the pitfalls of emotional investing but also provides actionable insights for smarter financial planning.

Stay tuned as we get into the intricacies of investor behavior and how you can apply these lessons to your investment journey.

Overview of the Dalbar Study of Investor Returns

Since 1994, Dalbar Inc. has published the Quantitative Analysis of Investor Behavior (QAIB) report, an annual research study examining mutual fund investor returns and the impact of investor decisions and behaviors. The methodology utilizes statistical analysis of net fund sales, redemptions and transfers along with historical price and fund performance data.

The 2023 edition builds upon Dalbar’s 30-year series analyzing timeless investor principles.

Dalbar Study Time in The Market Beats Timing The Market
*Feel free and share this image, just attribute it with a link Ex. Source: Investors vs Indexes (

Now, let’s unpack the latest revelations from Dalbar’s QAIB research. It turns out, letting emotions steer your investment ship might lead you off course. The study highlights how attempts to time the market often result in subpar equity investor returns, especially when compared to the steady journey of the S&P 500 over three decades.

Emotional Investing: A Roadblock to Optimal Returns

The study vividly illustrates how impatience and irrational behaviors can penalize portfolio performance, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a long-term perspective in line with behavioral finance principles.

The Dalbar Study spotlights two contrasting investor archetypes: the seasoned player who stays the course through ups and downs, and the reactive trader who tries timing markets. This analysis reveals why their paths diverge so dramatically.

Picture an investor reacting hastily to market dips versus one who stays the course. The difference in their portfolio performance over time can be staggering.

stock market returns if you missed the best days
*Feel free and share this image, just attribute it with a link Ex. Source: Market Returns if You Missed The best Days ( )

Example of How Investors Behave

Take Emma – her diverse portfolio held for years reflects patience honed over decades riding market cycles. She understands times of volatility and news-grabbing swings are inevitable. Emma embraces a long horizon, allowing compound growth to work its magic.

Now consider Jack, ever-swayed by headlines. His buys and sells attempt to perfectly capture peaks and valleys. While exciting, this approach proves costly. Jack ultimately learns reacting to daily ripples obscures broader trends.

The QAIB study shows Emma’s durable strategy typically outearns short-term speculation. Why?

Market timing requires two hard feats – knowing both when to exit and when to reenter. Evidence reveals most choosing this route err more than succeed.

Yet path corrections made Jack wiser. He now focuses not on daily dips but on long-range goals. Dalbar suggests personalized plans matching risk tolerance and timeline offer reliable guides when panic strikes.

Investor returns fall short dalbar through 12312013 cant beat markeets
Time in The Market Beats Timing The Market

The core takeaway? Experienced investors know strained market timing yields lower returns than time itself. While easier said than done, durable plans, perspective and patience lead to investment success.

Have you ever made an investment decision in the heat of the moment and regretted it later? That’s why it is important to understand the impact of investor psychology.

Traffic Ahead

Let’s simplify this even further with an analogy I would always talk with clients about.  Have you ever got on the highway and a few minutes later you hit some traffic?  Of course, we all do.  You are sitting there in your lane, and the lane next to you keeps moving.

What do you do? Do you switch lanes and dart in and out of traffic trying to get ahead? I would hope not, because that would be dangerous. 

But you do it anyway.  And then what happens?

Exactly,  The lane you just switched into slows down, eventually coming to a complete stop.  And what happens to the lane you just came out of?  It starts to move and the cars that were behind you start passing you.

Instead, trust your GPS – or in this case your portfolio investment strategy and asset allocation  . Most people try to time the market by trying to move in and out of investments, but that is risky. Instead, if you stick with your investment strategy, eventually the market will clear and you will come out ahead.

Why do investors underperform?

Don’t just take my word for it.  People much smarter than me have studied this over and over again.  I am here to help explain this to you so that you understand what is happening, and how to get better returns in your portfolio over time. 


Stock Market Open Today and Is The Stock Market Closed on Weekends?

Analysis of Market Timing Drawbacks

The allure of timing the market is strong, but does it really pay off? Dalbar’s 2023 study suggests otherwise. It reveals that the average equity mutual fund investor often earns significantly lower returns than those who simply stick with index funds.

The Cost of Chasing Market Shadows

Investor returns fall short dalbar through 12312013
*Feel free and share this image, just attribute it with a link Ex. Source: Average Investors Returns (

The study highlights a stark discrepancy: while the average equity investor achieved a 30-year annualized return of just 5-7%, the S&P 500 boasted a 10.5% return. This gap underscores the real-world costs of reactive trading based on short-term market fluctuations. Consider the investor who jumps ship after a market dip, often missing the recovery, versus one who remains invested through the ups and downs.

Think about your own investing style: Are you playing a risky game of market hopscotch? Learn how to debunk market timing myths.

In essence, Dalbar’s study paints a clear picture: timing the market is often a losing game.

Key Findings: Decoding the Dalbar Study: A 30-Year Journey into Investor Behavior

Ever wondered why some investors seem to always be ahead while others struggle to keep up? Let’s dive into the Dalbar Study of Investor Returns, a pivotal piece of research that sheds light on this mystery.

Since 1994, Dalbar Inc. has been dissecting mutual fund investor returns, revealing how investor decisions and behaviors shape financial success. The 2023 edition of this study, part of a 30-year series, offers fresh insights into the timeless principles guiding investor behavior.

A widely cited study of pension plan managers saYS that 91.5% of the difference between one portfolio’s performance and another’s are explained by asset allocation.

The Dalbar Study utilizes a robust methodology, analyzing net fund sales, redemptions, transfers, and historical price data. This comprehensive approach helps unravel the complex tapestry of investor behavior and its impact on returns.

Did you know that your investment decisions could be subtly influenced by behavioral patterns you’re not even aware of?

Highlights from Dalbar’s latest QAIB research reinforce that emotional investing often backfires:

Time in The Market Beats Timing The Market  2023 dalbar study
Time in The Market Beats Timing The Market

Embracing the Power of Patience in Investing: Analysis of Market Timing Drawbacks

Patience is a virtue, even in the fast-paced world of investing. As the timeless wisdom says, “Time in the market beats timing the market” This principle suggests that the duration of your investments matters more than trying to predict the next market peak or valley.

Dalbar’s 2023 study found the average equity mutual fund investor earned significantly lower returns than simply passively holding index funds:

Average stock investor under performs cant beat the market index
  • Average equity investor 30-year annualized returns reached just 5.0%
  • Meanwhile the S&P 500 returned 10.5% annually over the same timeframe
  • This discrepancy shows real-world costs when investors reactively trade based on short-term views
    The analysis attributes the lagging performance to emotional biases including loss aversion sunk costs that result in selling lows after dips. An infographic summarizes key statistics on overall reduced yields.

The Cost of Market Timing

Attempting to time the ups and downs of the market rarely pays off. As Dalbar’s recent research shows, the average equity mutual fund investor’s annualized returns over 30 years hit just 5.0%, while the S&P 500 returned 10.5% over the same period.

This discrepancy reveals the high costs of basing decisions on short-term speculation rather than long-term fundamentals.

The Value of Consistency

timing the market poorly sp500 hypothetical $20000 investment
*Feel free and share this image, just attribute it with a link Ex. S&P 500 If You Missed Days (

In contrast, investors who take a steady, consistent approach focused on long time horizons tend to achieve better results. Rather than reacting to market volatility, they adhere to disciplined strategies aligned with personal financial goals.

Compound interest and reinvesting dividends can magnify gains over years and decades, especially when weathering inevitable market cycles.

Tuning Out Noise

Seasoned investors know that headlines screaming about new highs or flashed warnings of a dip rarely reflect durable market trends. Yet our innate nature tempts us to give into fear and greed.

Establishing a personalized investment roadmap based on horizon and what your risk tolerance is, provides a guide when emotions run high.

Try our Risk Tolerance Questionnaire here

Eyes on the Horizon

While easier said than done, evaluating portfolio decisions across 5, 10 or 20 year timespans rather than day-to-day changes can help avoid compromised long-term returns. Committing to financial plans for the future has shown far greater reward than chasing temporary gains. With time as an ally, patience in investing tends to pay dividends.

The core takeaway rings clear – when it comes to growing your money, time invested in the market wins out over trying to time the market. Maintaining perspective and prudent choices adds up far more over the years than capitulating to Investment fads or volatility.

The Impact of Investor Behavior

The human temptation to time markets can seriously damage investment returns. Here’s an inside look at emotional pitfalls facing investors.

Look at this incredible chart by JP Morgan about Diversification and Asset Allocation. 

The Data Tells the Story

By comparing actual client returns to market benchmarks, Dalbar illuminates how emotions often steer investors wrong. On average, investors fail to match broad index returns by wide margins, demonstrating real-world consequences of irrational decisions.

Inner Turmoil Sabotages Success

In my client conversations, fears of losing money or missing out on hot stocks often built pressure to abandon careful plans. Greed and panic breed restless investment behavior, leading to frequent trading, high taxes and fees, and subpar long-term results.

Staying Grounded in Markets’ Reality

Avoiding emotional traps starts with awareness and discipline. I coach clients to create a personalized investment strategy aligned with their goals and risk tolerance. Tuning out short-term noise can keep your plan on track. And consider advisory support to bring reason when emotions take over.

The data shows it, and I’ve seen it – impulsive market timing takes a toll. But with commitment to long-term planning, investors can overcome self-sabotage.

Working with a Financial Advisor

Turning to an advisor helped many of my past clients achieve investing success. Let me tell you how.

Which is Better For Me? Financial Coach vs Financial Advisor?

Steering Clear of Pitfalls

Emotions often cloud judgement, so having support adds discipline. Advisors use research and experience to plan smarter moves fitting your situation. I helped investors assess risks realistically and tune out hype driving bad impulse decisions.

Staying the Course

Sticking to financial plans over long periods allows compound growth to work its magic. But patience wears thin when markets swing. My guidance kept clients committed to customized strategies aligned with their goals, not reacting to headlines.

Real Examples, Real Results

Take my client Carla who fretted about every market dip, ready to sell. As her advisor, I showed data explaining normal ups and downs, helping her expectations adjust.

Carla stayed invested through volatility, ultimately retiring earlier than planned thanks to 7-figure portfolio growth!

As a matter of fact, the pioneers of low cost investments, Vanguard, even see the value in a Financial Advisor.  Read the study here and see how Vanguards research puts the value of working with a financial advisor or financial planner at about 2% a year…

Steps Investors Can Take

Apply what Dalbar teaches about behaviors that hurt returns. Watch for them in yourself! Plus make plans to withstand volatility.

There are a number of things that investors can do to try to beat the market. Some of these are:

  1. Diversify your portfolio: One of the best ways to protect yourself against market volatility is to diversify your portfolio across a number of different asset classes. This way, if one asset class falls in value, you will hopefully be offset by gains in another.
  2. Invest in quality companies: Another way to try to beat the market is to invest in high-quality companies that have a track record of outperforming the market. These companies tend to be well-managed and have strong fundamentals.
  3. Use a disciplined approach: A disciplined approach to investing, such as following a strict set of rules or investing according to a particular strategy, can help you avoid making emotional decisions that can hurt your returns.
  4. Stay patient: One of the most important things to remember when trying to beat the market is to stay patient. It can take time for your investments to achieve their full potential, so it is important to be patient and not to sell too soon.
  5. Have realistic expectations: Finally, it is important to have realistic expectations when trying to beat the market. It is important to remember that there will be times when the market outperforms your expectations and times when it falls short. Trying to beat the market is a long-term game and it is important to stay focused on your goals.

Different Asset Allocation Models: Which Is Right For You?

Still not convinced that emotions take over the investor and cause them to miss out on market returns? According to The Courage of Misguided Convictions the 20 Most active traders during their study had an average annual portfolio return of 11.4%

How much did the least active 20% investors fare? 18.5% return. And that is during a GREAT market being studied – when you would expect people to invest less emotionally. Less active traders still greatly outperformed those who were trying to time the markets.

Next Steps

The Dalbar Study reveals most investors significantly underperform the market due to emotional, short-term decision making. Behavioral biases like loss aversion lead to market timing attempts, resulting in subpar returns.

The key to investment success lies in maintaining a long-term perspective focused on diversified portfolios resilient to volatility. Like Emma who embraced patience and compound growth, investors should chart a steady course and remember – it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Stay tuned for more insights on building optimized portfolios. Sign up for our newsletter for personal finance tips and strategies time-tested through decades of market turbulence.

Average Investor vs. The Markets in 2021 – Summary Dalbar Study Findings 2022

  • The third-largest underperformance ever recorded by the QAIB survey, which dates back to 1985, was experienced by the average equity fund investor, who underperformed the S&P 500 by more than 10% (18.39 percent vs. 28.71 percent).
  • The equity index funds, equity value funds, and real estate sector funds provided buy-and-hold investors with the highest average returns in 2021. Bond fund investors performed poorly, according to Dalbar’s Quantitative Analysis of Investor Behavior (QAIB) for the time frame ending December 31, 2021.
  • According to Dalbar, the typical investor has continued to allocate around 70% to stock and 30% to fixed income since 2017. The inflation rate in 2021 was 7.04 percent. 
  • Despite a massive market crash in 2020, there was an investor gap (difference between index performance and average investor performance) in 2021 of 1.31 percent. A $100,000 buy-and-hold strategy would have generated $28,705 in profits.
  • Investors in fixed income funds on average finished 2021 with a negative return (1.55 percent), compared to the Bloomberg Barclays Aggregate Bond Index’s 1.54 percent. 
  • The best-performing sector fund investor in 2021 was the typical real estate investor, who earned 38.89 percent.
Michael Ryan
Michael Ryan
Who Am I? I'm Michael Ryan, a retired financial planner turned personal financial coach. And author and found of blog. My advice is backed by decades of hands-on experience in finance and recognition in esteemed publications like US News & World Report, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance. 'here'. Find answers to your financial questions, from budgeting to investing and retirement planning, on my blog My mission is to democratize financial literacy for all.