Inflation, the rise in prices over time, can erode your investment return. Long-term investors should be aware that, if portfolio returns are less than the inflation rate, their ability to purchase goods and services in the future might actually decline.

Portfolios with the highest average returns also tend to have the highest chance of short-term losses. The table at right provides the average dollar return of four hypothetical investments of $100,000 and the possibility of losing money (ending value of less than $100,000) over a one-year holding period.

Data supplied by Morningstar Investment Management, LLC.

Investing involves a trade-off between risk and return. Historically, investors who have received high long-term average returns have experienced greater fluctuations in the value of their portfolio and more frequent short-term losses than investors in more conservative investments have.

Historically, markets have experienced downturns, both short-term and prolonged, followed by market recoveries. Suppose you owned a well-diversified portfolio that fell by 20% (i.e. $1,000 initial investment would now be worth $800) over a short period, consistent with the overall market.

The graph at right shows the hypothetical results of four sample portfolios over a one-year holding period. The best potential and worst potential gains and losses are presented. Note that the portfolio with the best potential gain also has the largest potential loss.

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