A $360 Billion Boo-Boo

Poor Charles Ray Fuller of Fort Worth. He just wants to get ahead. He's industrious, and courageous, and willing to take some risks in order to make more money. Doesn't that sound like a lot of us?

He is a little different, though. For one thing, he got arrested recently when he allegedly tried to cash a check for $360 billion. Oh, dear. He explained to the police that he was aiming to start a record label, and that his girlfriend's mother was giving him the moola for his venture.

Apparently, it didn't occur to Fuller that few people can write checks for $360 billion. That's more than the entire market capitalization of General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) ! It's more than the market caps of Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG  ) , Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) , and Nike (NYSE: NKE  ) -- combined!

Still, although our misconceptions may not reach the same level as Fuller's did, most of us still have some. For instance, many of us don't have realistic expectations of the stock market. Did you know:

  • The long-term historic average annual return of the stock market is about 10%, without taking into account inflation. (With inflation, it's closer to 6%-7%.) So if you're investing in the market expecting to earn, say, 35% annually, you'll end up disappointed.
  • Money can grow substantially even at modest growth rates, if it's left alone long enough. A mere $10,000 will become nearly $175,000, growing at 10% for 30 years. If it's in a top-notch mutual fund that averages 12% annually over 30 years, it will become nearly $300,000! (You can find great funds with a little help from our Motley Fool Champion Funds newsletter.)
  • Stocks outperform bonds over most long-term periods. It can be helpful to diversify into bonds a bit, especially as you approach retirement, but for long-term money, focus more on stocks.

I don't want to criticize Charles Ray Fuller, since he admittedly inspires me to dream big. He dared to dream of starting a business. Many of us might do well with our own businesses, if we just dared to try it.

(We should, however, try not to ask our friends and family members for more than, say, $360 million.)

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