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Blog » Money Tips » Decoding Real Returns on Your Investments

Decoding Real Returns on Your Investments

Posted on February 6th, 2024
real returns investments

Understanding the real returns on your investments

Investing in financial instruments such as money market CDs, short treasuries, or high-yield savings accounts yielding 5% may seem lucrative. However, investors must comprehend what they’re actually receiving after taxes. The tax bracket an investor falls into significantly impacts their after-tax returns.

For instance, if an investor is in a 24% tax bracket, their after-tax returns would be 3.8%. If they’re in a 32% tax bracket, their after-tax returns would be 3.4%. And if they’re in the highest tax bracket of 37%, their after-tax returns would be 3.15%.

The impact of state taxes on your returns

The state an investor resides in can also significantly impact their after-tax returns. For example, if an investor lives in New York, the highest tax bracket adds an additional 10.9% to their taxes, bringing their after-tax returns down to 2.6%.

In California, the situation is even more dire. The highest tax bracket adds an extra 14.4% to an investor’s taxes, bringing their after-tax returns down to a mere 2.43%.

The risk and returns of cash investments

Cash is often considered a riskless asset. However, a riskless asset will always underperform risk assets over time. This is because risk assets, such as stocks and bonds, have the potential for higher returns to compensate for their higher risk.

Over the past decade, cash has underperformed every primary asset class except commodities. This means that if an investor had invested their money in almost any other asset class, they would have seen higher returns than if they had kept their money in cash.

The futility of timing the market

Many investors try to time the market in an attempt to maximize their returns. They try to buy when prices are low and sell when prices are high. However, this strategy is often unsuccessful.

The market’s movements are unpredictable and influenced by many factors, many of which are beyond an individual investor’s control. Therefore, trying to time the market is often a futile endeavor.

Instead of trying to time the market, a better strategy is to invest consistently over time. This approach, known as dollar-cost averaging, reduces the risk of making a large investment at the wrong time. It also allows investors to take advantage of the market’s long-term upward trend.

Conclusion

In conclusion, investors need to understand the actual returns on their investments after taxes. The state they live in and their tax bracket can significantly impact their after-tax returns.

Cash may seem safe, but it underperforms risk assets over time. And while it may be tempting to try to time the market, a more effective strategy is to invest consistently over time. By understanding these principles, investors can make more informed investment decisions and potentially increase their returns.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the impact of tax brackets on investment returns?

The tax bracket an investor falls into significantly impacts their after-tax returns. For instance, if an investor is in a 24% tax bracket, their after-tax returns would be 3.8%. If they’re in a 32% tax bracket, their after-tax returns would be 3.4%. And if they’re in the highest tax bracket of 37%, their after-tax returns would be 3.15%.

Q. How do state taxes affect investment returns?

The state an investor resides in can also significantly impact their after-tax returns. For example, if an investor lives in New York, the highest tax bracket adds an extra 10.9% to their taxes, bringing their after-tax returns down to 2.6%. In California, the highest tax bracket adds an additional 14.4% to an investor’s taxes, bringing their after-tax returns down to a mere 2.43%.

Q. What are the risks and returns of cash investments?

Cash is often considered a riskless asset. However, a riskless asset will always underperform risk assets over time. This is because risk assets, such as stocks and bonds, have the potential for higher returns to compensate for their higher risk. Over the past decade, cash has underperformed every major asset class except for commodities.

Q. Why is timing the market often a futile endeavor?

The market’s movements are unpredictable and influenced by many factors, many of which are beyond an individual investor’s control. Therefore, trying to time the market is often a futile endeavor. Instead of trying to time the market, a better strategy is to invest consistently over time. This approach, known as dollar-cost averaging, reduces the risk of making a significant investment at the wrong time. It also allows investors to take advantage of the market’s long-term upward trend.

Q. What is the importance of understanding actual returns on investments?

It’s important for investors to understand the real returns on their investments after taxes. The state they live in and their tax bracket can significantly impact their after-tax returns. Cash may seem like a safe investment, but it underperforms risk assets over time. And while it may be tempting to try to time the market, a more effective strategy is to invest consistently over time. By understanding these principles, investors can make more informed investment decisions and potentially increase their returns.

Taylor Sohns MBA, CIMA®, CFP®

Taylor Sohns MBA, CIMA®, CFP®

Taylor Sohns is the Co-Founder at LifeGoal Investments. He received his MBA in Finance. He currently has his Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA) and a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). Taylor has spent decades on Wall Street helping create wealth.

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