The stock market, as represented by the S&P 500, became a sort of money minting machine over the last decade. Quarter after quarter, year after year, investors opened their brokerage statements to the delight of an inflating portfolio. Investing was fun – and easy.
Without much interruption, investors got more out of the market than they put in. They also got more out of the market than the underlying economy warranted. The stock market delivered an illusion of prosperity that many investors mistook for the real thing.