Dollar Cost Averaging aka SIP analysis of S&P 500 and BSE Sensex

Published: August 13, 2015 at 7:54 am

Last Updated on January 2, 2016 at 5:45 pm

What we know as Systematic Investment Plan is an investment strategy (not a financial product!) derived from what is known in the US as Dollar Cost Averaging. Obviously the term SIP sells better(than Rupee cost averaging) !

The Indian stock market is a toddler. Sensex data is available from only 1979. Many have argued with me that stock markets should be analyzed only after liberalization- that is from the early 90’s. So that would make the market an infant, arguably a premature one at that!

The reason for saying that is, the conclusions that one usually makes like, “sell when Nifty PE is >23” etc. are all based on this short history that we have and hence unreliable. It is only when we look at market data over tens of decades, can we understand how it works and how little we understand it. Mandelbrot used over150 years of cotton prices to show to the world that the assumption of normal distribution is wrong.

What if we took S&P 500, the US broad market index, for which data is available from 1871 and studied long term SIP returns on rolling basis (explained below)?

Join over 32,000 readers and get free money management solutions delivered to your inbox! Subscribe to get posts via email!
🔥Enjoy massive discounts on our robo-advisory tool & courses! 🔥

That market has seen two world wars, recessions, terrorist attacks, assassinations, scandals to name just a few. How much has the SIP (DCA) returns varied over say, 15 year periods?

The following was done to answer that question.

Monthly S&P price data, along with inflation index, and 10 year Gov bond rates are available from 1871 here

Unfortunately, Excel will recognize dates only 1st Jan 1900. So we work with that.

Jan 1900 to Jan 1915 represents the first 15 year SIP period for which return (XIRR) is calculated.

Feb 1900 to Feb 1915 is the second period. We have now rolled over the investment duration. 

We roll over until May 2015 is the end date of the last 15-year period.

There are now 1025 such 15-year periods from Jan 1900 to May 2015.

Rolling SIP returns (automated version coming soon) can easily be calculated with a simple Excel macro in about 45 seconds. Then we stare at the graphs in search for wisdom.

Click on the graphs if you wish to see a clearer image.





The SIP returns are the same in the top and bottom graphs. The top graph has the inflation rate for the corresponding investment period. The bottom graph has the 10-year bond  interest at the end of the SIP period.

Each blue point is a 15 year SIP return. Notice many of then are zero. This means, that there is a loss. Expenses have been neglected!

Notice how strongly the return depends on when you start the SIP!!! 

For several periods, the return is zero or below inflation. Inserted the 10Y interest rate data more for information. Don’t wish to conclude anything with it.

Moral of the story: There is no guarantee that SIP will work for any number of years. Since when you start the SIP matters, active management is essential as the financial goal nears. People who recommend equity for short durations are selling products and/or have little knowledge about investment risk.




15-year rolling SIP returns



Notice the number of times the return has fallen below 10% (before taxes).

If you want guarantees that your SIP investments will ‘work’ or help you achieve your goals, you are barking up the wrong tree.

Do share this article with your friends using the buttons below.

🔥Enjoy massive discounts on our courses, robo-advisory tool and exclusive investor circle! 🔥& join our community of 5000+ users!
Use our Robo-advisory Tool for a start-to-finish financial plan! More than 1,000 investors and advisors use this!
New Tool! => Track your mutual funds and stock investments with this Google Sheet!
We also publish monthly equity mutual funds, debt and hybrid mutual funds, index funds and ETF screeners and momentum, low-volatility stock screeners.
Follow Freefincal on Google News
Follow Freefincal on Google News
Subscribe to the freefincal Youtube Channel. Subscribe button courtesy: Vecteezy.
Subscribe to the freefincal Youtube Channel.
Follow freefincal on WhatsApp Channel
Follow freefincal on WhatsApp
Podcast: Let's Get RICH With PATTU! Every single Indian CAN grow their wealth! 
Listen to the Lets Get Rich with Pattu Podcast
Listen to the Let's Get Rich with Pattu Podcast
You can watch podcast episodes on the OfSpin Media Friends YouTube Channel.
Lets Get RICH With PATTU podcast on YouTube
Let's Get RICH With PATTU podcast on YouTube.
🔥Now Watch Let's Get Rich With Pattu தமிழில் (in Tamil)! 🔥
  • Do you have a comment about the above article? Reach out to us on Twitter: @freefincal or @pattufreefincal
  • Have a question? Subscribe to our newsletter using the form below.
  • Hit 'reply' to any email from us! We do not offer personalized investment advice. We can write a detailed article without mentioning your name if you have a generic question.

Join over 32,000 readers and get free money management solutions delivered to your inbox! Subscribe to get posts via email!

About The Author

Pattabiraman editor freefincalDr M. Pattabiraman(PhD) is the founder, managing editor and primary author of freefincal. He is an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. He has over ten years of experience publishing news analysis, research and financial product development. Connect with him via Twitter(X), Linkedin, or YouTube. Pattabiraman has co-authored three print books: (1) You can be rich too with goal-based investing (CNBC TV18) for DIY investors. (2) Gamechanger for young earners. (3) Chinchu Gets a Superpower! for kids. He has also written seven other free e-books on various money management topics. He is a patron and co-founder of “Fee-only India,” an organisation promoting unbiased, commission-free investment advice.
Our flagship course! Learn to manage your portfolio like a pro to achieve your goals regardless of market conditions! More than 3,000 investors and advisors are part of our exclusive community! Get clarity on how to plan for your goals and achieve the necessary corpus no matter the market condition is!! Watch the first lecture for free!  One-time payment! No recurring fees! Life-long access to videos! Reduce fear, uncertainty and doubt while investing! Learn how to plan for your goals before and after retirement with confidence.
Our new course!  Increase your income by getting people to pay for your skills! More than 700 salaried employees, entrepreneurs and financial advisors are part of our exclusive community! Learn how to get people to pay for your skills! Whether you are a professional or small business owner who wants more clients via online visibility or a salaried person wanting a side income or passive income, we will show you how to achieve this by showcasing your skills and building a community that trusts and pays you! (watch 1st lecture for free). One-time payment! No recurring fees! Life-long access to videos!   
Our new book for kids: “Chinchu Gets a Superpower!” is now available!
Both boy and girl version covers of Chinchu gets a superpower
Both the boy and girl-version covers of "Chinchu Gets a superpower".
Most investor problems can be traced to a lack of informed decision-making. We made bad decisions and money mistakes when we started earning and spent years undoing these mistakes. Why should our children go through the same pain? What is this book about? As parents, what would it be if we had to groom one ability in our children that is key not only to money management and investing but to any aspect of life? My answer: Sound Decision Making. So, in this book, we meet Chinchu, who is about to turn 10. What he wants for his birthday and how his parents plan for it, as well as teaching him several key ideas of decision-making and money management, is the narrative. What readers say!
Feedback from a young reader after reading Chinchu gets a Superpower (small version)
Feedback from a young reader after reading Chinchu gets a Superpower!
Must-read book even for adults! This is something that every parent should teach their kids right from their young age. The importance of money management and decision making based on their wants and needs. Very nicely written in simple terms. - Arun.
Buy the book: Chinchu gets a superpower for your child!
How to profit from content writing: Our new ebook is for those interested in getting side income via content writing. It is available at a 50% discount for Rs. 500 only!
Do you want to check if the market is overvalued or undervalued? Use our market valuation tool (it will work with any index!), or get the Tactical Buy/Sell timing tool!
We publish monthly mutual fund screeners and momentum, low-volatility stock screeners.
About freefincal & its content policy. Freefincal is a News Media Organization dedicated to providing original analysis, reports, reviews and insights on mutual funds, stocks, investing, retirement and personal finance developments. We do so without conflict of interest and bias. Follow us on Google News. Freefincal serves more than three million readers a year (5 million page views) with articles based only on factual information and detailed analysis by its authors. All statements made will be verified with credible and knowledgeable sources before publication. Freefincal does not publish paid articles, promotions, PR, satire or opinions without data. All opinions will be inferences backed by verifiable, reproducible evidence/data. Contact information: letters {at} freefincal {dot} com (sponsored posts or paid collaborations will not be entertained)
Connect with us on social media
Our publications

You Can Be Rich Too with Goal-Based Investing

You can be rich too with goal based investingPublished by CNBC TV18, this book is meant to help you ask the right questions and seek the correct answers, and since it comes with nine online calculators, you can also create custom solutions for your lifestyle! Get it now.
Gamechanger: Forget Startups, Join Corporate & Still Live the Rich Life You Want Gamechanger: Forget Start-ups, Join Corporate and Still Live the Rich Life you wantThis book is meant for young earners to get their basics right from day one! It will also help you travel to exotic places at a low cost! Get it or gift it to a young earner.

Your Ultimate Guide to Travel

Travel-Training-Kit-Cover-new This is an in-depth dive into vacation planning, finding cheap flights, budget accommodation, what to do when travelling, and how travelling slowly is better financially and psychologically, with links to the web pages and hand-holding at every step. Get the pdf for Rs 300 (instant download)