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There's no guarantee at all. In a really bad year (2008?) you might get -50% or worse. Then you might get some really nice returns in the years after (or not!). If you average over several decades, historically, the returns have been around 7 or 8 per cent per year, but the standard deviation is enormous. Just look at a long-term chart of e.g. the S&P 500 at https://finance.yahoo.com/chart/%5EGSPC - click "Max" and "Settings" -> "Logarithmic" (you'll want a logarithmic axis so that equal percent changes are equal distance on the plot). You'll see that on average it went up over the decades, but between June '07 and February '09, it lost over 50%, and tripled since then.

I encourage you to read up on this, but someone else with more knowledge should recommend some books.

All of this is correct, but the standard S&P 500 index doesn't include dividends, so your typical index fund will (should) do 1-4% better each year than the S&P 500. The S&P 500 does have a lesser-known version that includes the total returns: https://www.google.com/finance?q=INDEXSP%3ASP500TR&ei=WWJNWK...

Index funds such as SPY do include the dividends. VGO (specifically) also has a 1.94% yield.

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