Imagine you had invested $10,000 at the bottom of the 2008-2009 Financial Crisis. The results you find below might not blow you away on an actual basis, but the amount invested is all relative based on your financial situation. It’s the percentage gain that’s more important because that number is going to be the same for everyone – assuming investors poured money into the market at the exact same time for this hypothetical situation. In addition to looking at how much money you would have made, we’ll also take a brief look to see if the same kind of return is possible over the next 10 years.

S&P 500

The S&P 500 consists of approximately 500 large-cap stocks (it’s never exactly 500 stocks and always tends to change) that are either listed on the NYSE or NASDAQ. Most professional investors and traders refer to the S&P 500 as a barometer for the market because its components represent a lot of the significant activity that occurs on a daily basis. The S&P 500 Index is also the index that is generally used when calculating beta. (For more, see: Seasonality of S&P 500 and Mega Cap Stocks.)

The bottom for the Financial Crisis was March 9, 2009, when the S&P 500 hit 676.53. For simplicity purposes, we’ll call it 676. If you had $10,000 to invest at that time, it would have bought you 148 shares of the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) at $67.95 (this is rounded up from 147.17 assuming you could have thrown in a few extra bucks). Today as of Oct. 5, 2018, the S&P 500 stands at 2,888.07 and SPY trades at $288.10.

2888.07 – 676 = 2212.07 for a 327% gain or 3.27x increase

$288.10 - $67.95 = $220.15 for a 324% gain or 3.24x increase

Thus, holding all of your shares, your investment would be worth $42,638.80. Pretty good for a $10,000 investment. And this doesn’t include the dividend yield, which is always changing, but currently stands at 1.89% for the S&P 500 Index and 1.72% for SPY.

DJIA

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is intended to track the 30 strongest blue-chip stocks throughout the entire market. Regardless, the DJIA stood at 6,507 on March 9, 2009. A $10,000 investment with the SPDR Dow Jones ETF (DIA) would have bought you 153 shares at $65.51 each. Today as of Oct. 5, the DJIA trades at 26,388.02. (For more, see: Understanding and Playing the Dow Jones Industrial Average.)

26388.02 – 6507 = 19881.02 for a 306% gain or 3.06x increase

$263.62 - $65.51 = $198.11 for a 302% gain or 3.02x increase

Thus, holding all of your shares, your investment would be worth $40,333.86.

Nasdaq

The Nasdaq is historically known to track mostly technology stocks. Technology stocks on the Nasdaq vary among tech and biotech with some other company types mixed in as well. The Nasdaq Composite consists of approximately 4,000 stocks. Whether they’re tech stocks or not, you’re going to find more growth companies in the Nasdaq. This will lead to bigger gains during bull markets and bigger sell-offs during bear markets. On March 9, 2009, the Nasdaq traded at 1,268.64. A $10,000 investment in Fidelity’s Nasdaq Composite ONEQ ETF at $50.75 would have bought you 198 shares. Today as of Oct. 5, 2018, the NASDAQ trades at 7,761.01.

7761 – 1268 = 6493 for a 512% gain or 5.12x increase

$304.20 - $50.75 = $253.45 for a 499%

Thus, holding all 198 of your shares, your investment would be worth $60,231.60.

Looking Ahead

Whether you’re bullish or bearish, the odds of the above returns repeating themselves over the next 10 years are not likely. If you believe that the economy is on a steady track, that’s fine and there will still be growth ahead but the odds of returns greater than 300% are not likely. Add in central bank policy, which is increasing base level Treasury rates and causing balance among fixed income and equities in the marketplace, and those expectations are more for steady returns back to historical levels of 8% to 10%.

The Bottom Line

If you were savvy enough to get in at the bottom in 2009, you did well. As such this gives you a much higher baseline to invest for the future but don't count on a rerun of the last 10 years. However, for investors willing to maintain the risk of their S&P 500, Dow Jones or Nasdaq investments, steady returns of a more historical average nature could still lead to substantial gains. (For more, see: S&P 500 vs. Dow Jones ETF: Which Is a Safer Investment?)

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