Quantitative Analysis of Investor Behavior

Since 1994, DALBAR's Quantitative Analysis of Investor Behavior (QAIB) has measured the effects of investor decisions to buy, sell and switch into and out of mutual funds over short and long-term timeframes. These effects are measured from the perspective of the investor and do not represent the performance of the investments themselves. The results consistently show that the average investor earns less – in many cases, much less – than mutual fund performance reports would suggest.

The goal of QAIB is to improve performance of both independent investors and financial advisors by managing behaviors that cause investors to act imprudently. QAIB offers guidance on how and where investor behaviors can be improved.

The 26th Annual QAIB examines real investor returns in equity, equity index, fixed income and asset allocation categories of investors. The analysis covers the 20-year period to December 31, 2019, which encompasses the aftermath of the crash of 1987, the drop at the turn of the millennium, the crash of 2008, plus recovery periods leading up to the most recent bull market.

To purchase our QAIB products, please visit our online store

QAIB 2020 Available March 31, 2020! Pre-Order now!

Importance of QAIB

The best financial professionals double as behavioral finance coaches of their clients. When markets are down or even volatile, questions will arise from concerned clients and perspective will be needed. The QAIB report and materials give advisors the tools to tell a story, put things into perspective, and deliver the calming messages that are needed to mitigate return-destroying behavior.  Such messages include:

  • The prudence of a long-term, buy and hold approach
  • The folly of measuring investment success against statistical benchmarks
  • Awareness of common behavioral influences
  • Lessons from past markets
  • The importance of investing assets as early as possible

Frequently Asked Questions

All QAIB products except the Advisor Edition allow the purchaser to use its contents in customized communications. The Advisor Edition does not include the rights to use its contents in customized communications. 

The Advisor Edition can only be distributed in its entirety to the Advisor’s clients. However, an additional Copyrights Add-on may be purchased for $249 that allows for data to be used in customized communications.

The Standard Edition, formerly known as the Full Study, for $795 is the complete report and includes copyrights for purchasers to use the data in customized communications. 

The Advisor Edition for $99 is an investor summary and excludes data found in the Standard Edition to make it more comprehensible to the average investor. This report is able to be customized for one Advisor and can be distributed in its entirety to the Advisor’s clients. Additional copyrights may be purchased for $249 that allow for data to be pulled from this report for customized communications.

Purchasers of the Advisor Edition are able to brand the cover to display the name of one advisor, his or her firm name, address, phone number and email. This will populate automatically using the information collected during the purchasing process.

Firms may purchase an Advisor Edition of the QAIB report and customize the cover with their logo for firm-wide client distribution for $1,000. Please email QAIB@dalbar.com with your request.

How Can I Share QAIB Data with the public?

Each item in the QAIB Store has copyright rules. Please refer to the table below for each product. 

No. However, the Advisor Edition may be posted in its entirety under a password protected URL for the Advisor to share with clients.

For more information on creating a custom analysis or presentation using the QAIB data and methodology, contact Cory Clark at QAIB@dalbar.com.

QAIB uses data from the Investment Company Institute (ICI), Standard & Poor’s, Bloomberg Barclays Indices and proprietary sources to compare mutual fund investor returns to an appropriate set of benchmarks. The study utilizes mutual fund sales, redemptions and exchanges each month as the measure of investor behavior. These behaviors reflect the “Average Investor.” Based on this behavior, the analysis calculates the “average investor return” for various periods. These results are then compared to the returns of respective indices.

QAIB uses the aggregate balances of mutual fund investors each month to calculate investor profits or loss after all performance limiting factors are considered. This reflects the market gain or loss that the average investor would see on a statement. Additional research is used to identify solutions that reduce the underperformance.

Four factors cause the gap between investor returns and an appropriate index: 

  • Availability of capital to investors for the entire period being measured. 
  • Need for capital by investors before the end of the period being measured. 
  • Expenses and under performance of the funds. 
  • Investors’ irrational behavior, based on generally accepted but misleading opinions.

Voluntary investor behavior includes: 

  • Delaying an investment decision
  • Withdrawing funds before they are needed or withdrawing from a less than optimal source
  • Reinvesting after there is evidence of a market recovery

QAIB measures assets after all costs and expenses are deducted and flows after all sales charges are paid. While some measures attempt to make adjustments for differing share classes and expense ratios, QAIB makes no such adjustments since only net assets and net flows are used.

No. QAIB reports the returns that are most visible to most investors, the investor’s personal return and the most widely used indexes. 

The decision to compare the most visible measures of return allows QAIB to reflect the investors' perception and therefore to properly define the problem. 

Having defined the problem, methods have been developed and are being developed to narrow the gap between these two measures. QAIB presents an "investor's" view of the fund. 

Asset weighted returns by definition ignore the time during which the investor is out of the investment and do not provide a measure of the lost opportunity. As such asset weighted returns are a “fund’s” view, reflecting only returns when money is in the fund.


The average investor refers to the universe of all mutual fund investors whose actions and financial results are restated to represent a single investor. This approach allows the entire universe of mutual fund investors to be used as the statistical sample, ensuring ultimate reliability.

QAIB quantitatively measures sales, redemptions and exchanges (provided by the Investment Company Institute) and describes these measures as investor behaviors. The measurement of investor behavior is the net dollar volume of these activities that occur in a single month during the period being analyzed.

QAIB calculates investor returns as the change in assets, after excluding sales, redemptions, and exchanges. This method of calculation captures realized and unrealized capital gains, dividends, interest, trading costs, sales charges, fees, expenses and any other costs. After calculating investor returns in dollar terms (above) two percentages are calculated: 

  • Total investor return rate for the period 
  • Annualized investor return rate

Total return rate is determined by calculating the investor return dollars as a percentage of the net assets, sales, redemptions and exchanges for the period. 

Annualized return rate is calculated as the uniform rate that can be compounded annually for the period under consideration to produce the investor return dollars.

The Average Equity Fund Investor is comprised of a universe of both domestic and world equity mutual funds. It includes growth, sector, alternative strategy, value, blend, emerging markets, global equity, international equity, and regional equity funds.

The Average Fixed Income Fund Investor is comprised of a universe of fixed income mutual funds, which includes investment grade, high yield, government, municipal, multi-sector, and global bond funds. It does not include money market funds.

The Average Asset Allocation Fund Investor is comprised of a universe of funds that invest in a mix of equity and debt securities.

The Average [Sector] Fund Investor is comprised of a universe of funds that invest solely in companies that operate in related fields or specific industries. The following Average Sector Fund Investors were referenced in this report: Consumer, Health, Financial, Tech/Telecom, Real Estate, Precious Metals, Utilities, and Natural Resources

The Average [Capitalization and Style] Fund Investor is comprised of a universe of funds that are categorized by the types of companies in which they invest: 

Small-cap mutual funds invest primarily in companies with market capitalizations of up to $2-2.5 billion. 

Mid-cap mutual funds invest primarily in companies with market capitalization that generally ranges from $1 billion to $7 billion or in companies with both small and medium market capitalization. 

Large-cap mutual funds invest primarily in companies with market capitalizations which are generally more than $5 billion or in companies with both medium and large market capitalizations. 

Growth mutual funds invest primarily in common stock of growth companies, which are those that exhibit signs of above-average growth, even if the share price is high relative to earnings/intrinsic value. 

Value mutual funds invest primarily in common stock of value companies, which are those that are out of favor with investors, appear underpriced by the market relative to their earnings/intrinsic value, or have high dividend yields. 

Blend mutual funds invest primarily in common stock of both growth and value companies or are not limited to the types of companies in which they can invest.

The Average Equity Index Fund Investor is comprised of a universe of funds that are designed to track the performance of a U.S. equity market index.

The Average Target Date Fund Investor is comprised of a universe of funds that follow a predetermined reallocation of assets over time based on a specified target retirement date.

The Average Alternative Strategies (Alt-) Fund Investor is comprised of a universe of funds that employ alternative investment approaches like long/short, market neutral, leveraged, inverse, or commodity strategies to meet their investment objective. The following Average Alternative Strategies Fund Investors were referenced in this report: Alt-Domestic Equity, Alt-World Equity, Alt – Asset Allocation (“AA”), and Alt-Multisector Bond.

The Guess Right Ratio is the frequency that the average investor makes a short-term gain. One point is scored each month when the average investor has net inflows and the market (S&P 500) rises in the next month. A point is also scored when the average investor has net outflows and the market declines in the next month. The ratio is the number of points scored as a percentage of the total number of months under consideration.

Retention Rate reflects the length of time the average investor holds a fund if the current redemption rate persists. It is the time required to fully redeem the account. Retention rates are expressed in years and fractions of years.

The monthly value of the consumer price index is converted to a monthly rate. The monthly rates are used to compound a “return” for the period under consideration. This result is then annualized to produce the inflation rate for the period.

QAIB Products

QAIB 2020 Available March 31, 2020!

NEW! Pre-order QAIB 2020

Be the first to purchase the 2020 Quantitative Analysis of Investor Behavior Study! The report will be downloadable on the day of publication, Tuesday, March 31, 2020.
NEW! The Investor Panic Relief Tool (i-PRT)
Free Beta Version

With 24 hour news, market analyses, and predictions of doom, financial advisors have a tough job "un-panicking" investors. That is why DALBAR created the The Investor Panic Relief Tool (i-PRT).

Copyrights Add-on

This add-on grants purchasers of the copyrights full permission to incorporate certain materials into other works on the condition that Licensee makes required regulatory disclosures and sources QAIB and DALBAR as appropriate.

QAIB Return Builder

Looking for more than the typical 1, 3, 5? Generate Average Investor Returns based on your custom timeframes of over 25 different categories of “Average Investors”

The DotCom Crash

QAIB look-backs take an in depth look at the average investor during specific, noteworthy periods in the stock market’s history.

"Black Monday" (1987)

QAIB look-backs take an in depth look at the average investor during specific, noteworthy periods in the stock market’s history.

2016 Election

QAIB look-backs take an in depth look at the average investor during specific, noteworthy periods in the stock market’s history.

Max Impact
Maximum Impact Events

This report examines the ways investors can mitigate their money-losing behavior during maximum impact events. It looks at 10 months in which the Average Equity Fund Investor underperformed the S&P 500 by the largest margin.
Quincy & Caroline Part 1

This infographic tells the story of Quincy and his wife Caroline who inherited $20,000 in 1998. They each took $10,000 and invested it in their own account. They both invested in mutual funds with similar performance but this husband and wife have very different styles when it comes to when and how much to invest. Fast forward 20 years and see how Quincy and Caroline are doing today.
Anatomy of Investor Returns: Harry

Meet Harry. He’s a confused, disenchanted skeptic, trying to find answers about his investment account. Use this blunt, light-hearted story to highlight concerns of the average investor and foster an honest discussion about your client-advisor relationship, and what makes you different.

NEW! Quincy & Caroline Part 2

Explaining market recovery to fear-filled investors concerned about a downturn is not easy. This infographic about a married couple who think very differently is a sequel to the 2018 Quincy and Caroline, A Tale of Investing.

For more information about DALBAR's QAIB online store, please contact Cory Clark at 617.624.7156.