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The Sequence of Returns

May 18, 2023

Understanding the Impact of Sequence of Returns on Investment Portfolios


The concept of "sequence of returns" refers to the yearly fluctuations in the rate of return of an investment portfolio. Understanding how these variations from the average return can affect a portfolio's final value is crucial for investors. In this article, we will examine different investment scenarios to gain insight into the potential impact of sequence of returns.

Managing the Sequence of Returns During Accumulation:

A study conducted by BlackRock sheds light on the manageability of the sequence of returns during the accumulation phase. The analysis compared three model investing scenarios, each involving three investors who started portfolios with lump sums of $1 million. Over a period of 25 years, all three portfolios averaged an annual return of 7%.

Exploring Different Scenarios:

In two of the scenarios, the annual returns varied, ranging from a hypothetical -7% to +22%. However, the average annual return remained the same at 7%. In the third scenario, the return was a consistent 7% every year.

Consistent Accumulation Results:

Remarkably, despite the varying sequence of returns, each investor accumulated the same total of $5,434,372 after 25 years. This outcome reinforces the notion that the average annual return plays a significant role in determining the final value of an investment portfolio.

Considering Individual Factors:

It's important to note that investing inherently involves risks, and investment decisions should be based on personal goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance. Market conditions can cause fluctuations in the return and principal value of investments. The study by BlackRock assumes that the three hypothetical investors carefully evaluated their financial ability to continue making purchases during periods of declining and rising prices.


Understanding the impact of sequence of returns is crucial for investors seeking to optimize their investment strategies. While deviations from the average return may occur, focusing on the long-term average and carefully considering personal circumstances can help mitigate risks. By aligning investment decisions with individual goals and risk tolerance, investors can navigate the complexities of the market and work towards achieving their financial objectives.