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A third of investors expect annual returns of 10% to 19% - why so optimistic?

 
Emma Stevenson
Investors are buoyant about the outlook for investment returns over the next five years

The Global Investor Study carried out by Schroders in 2017 found that investors’ expectations of returns are high. More than a third were looking for a return of 5-9% per annum, over the next five years, while 31% expected 10-19%.


Those investors looking for income have similarly high targets, with our 2016 study finding that 41% of investors were looking for income of at least 8% a year.

With interest rates still at low levels ten years after the global financial crisis, it may seem surprising that investors have not adjusted their expectations downwards.

If anything, the opposite has happened, with our study finding that milliennials have the most optimistic return expectations of any age group.

However, a typical trait of human beings is that we take the experience of the past and extrapolate it into the future. That is, we largely expect the future to be much the same as the recent past. And, when it comes to investing, the recent past was an era of high returns.


High returns not such a distant memory

The chart below shows annualised real returns (i.e. adjusted for inflation) for both equities and bonds, as experienced by the baby boomer generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) and Generation X (1964-1980).

The point about real returns is an important one here, given high inflation was experienced during the period, particularly in the late Seventies and early Eighties. The charts show equity returns have been fairly high across every region, and bond returns particularly strong since 1980.

Past performance is not a guide to future performance and may not be repeated.

However, most forecasts suggest that future returns will be well below these levels. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, inflation is expected to remain low, albeit rising from recent ultra-subdued levels. Low inflation means a smaller yield premium is demanded by bond investors to compensate for the erosion of buying power inflicted by inflation.

Secondly, low inflation also implies low interest rates. Although on the rise from crisis levels, interest rates are widely expected to remain fairly low because global economic growth is forecast to be slower in future than in the post-World War Two era. Again this is due to numerous factors, including moderating expansion in some emerging economies, and demographic changes such as a slowdown in the growth of the working age population.

As a result of these and other factors, returns are expected to be lower in the future.

Lower returns expected on seven- and 30-year view

The chart below compares the high historic returns with the latest long-run returns predicted by the Schroders Economics Group. These indicate that the 6%-plus equity market returns enjoyed in the recent past are not expected to be reached in the US, UK or Europe. It is an even starker picture for bonds, with negative real returns expected in the UK and Europe on a seven-year view.

Not shown on the chart, Schroders Economics Group forecasts Asian equities to outperform most developed equity markets on a 30-year horizon, as a consequence of differences in productivity growth. Even here though, real returns are forecast at 5.4% for the Pacific (excluding Japan) region and 5.9% for emerging markets.

Higher returns still possible, but with higher risk

What does this mean for investors? With interest rates looking set to stay low, cash savings will be eroded by inflation. Investors seeking higher returns may need to save more and/or broaden the asset classes they invest in.

This brings other risks, for example investors in higher-dividend paying equities will need to be mindful of the price they pay for those stocks. Credit (corporate debt) is another option but higher-yielding issuers often carry higher risk of default.

Income-seekers may need to invest over longer timeframes, and keep currency risk in mind if they invest outside their home region.

As a result, investors looking for higher returns and income may need to turn to asset managers for help in achieving their aims while mitigating these risks.

The value of investments and the income from them may go down as well as up and investors may not get back the amounts originally invested.

The forecasts included should not be relied upon, are not guaranteed and are provided only as at the date of issue. Our forecasts are based on our own assumptions which may change. We accept no responsibility for any errors of fact or opinion and assume no obligation to provide you with any changes to our assumptions or forecasts. Forecasts and assumptions may be affected by external economic or other factors.

Further reading: How asset managers can help achieve your income goals

Important Information: The views and opinions contained herein are those of Emma Stevenson, Investment Writer, and may not necessarily represent views expressed or reflected in other Schroders communications, strategies or funds. The sectors and securities shown above are for illustrative purposes only and are not to be considered a recommendation to buy or sell. This communication is marketing material.

This material is intended to be for information purposes only and is not intended as promotional material in any respect. The material is not intended as an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any financial instrument. The material is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for accounting, legal or tax advice, or investment recommendations. Reliance should not be placed on the views and information in this document when taking individual investment and/or strategic decisions. Past performance is not a guide to future performance and may not be repeated. The value of investments and the income from them may go down as well as up and investors may not get back the amounts originally invested. All investments involve risks including the risk of possible loss of principal. Information herein is believed to be reliable but Schroders does not warrant its completeness or accuracy. Reliance should not be placed on the views and information in this document when taking individual investment and/or strategic decisions. The opinions in this document include some forecasted views. We believe we are basing our expectations and beliefs on reasonable assumptions within the bounds of what we currently know. However, there is no guarantee than any forecasts or opinions will be realised. These views and opinions may change. Issued by Schroder Investment Management Limited, 31 Gresham Street, London EC2V 7QA. Registration No. 1893220 England. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

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