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

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


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 Licensing

License DALBAR’s industry-renowned Quantitative Analysis of Investor Behavior (“QAIB”) report and enable financial professionals to access a free, customized Advisor Edition.

Give Financial Professionals a Powerful Tool to Help Curb Investor Behavior

Enterprises can purchase a license that enables groups of financial professionals to access a free, customized QAIB report. Report covers will read “Compliments of [PROFESSIONAL'S NAME]”.

Customized for Each Financial Professional to Share with Clients

Licensees receive a dedicated link and/or a unique code that they distribute to their financial professionals. Using the link and code, financial professionals customize and generate their free report. This research may then be shared with their current and prospective investor clients.

Distribution for Professional Use

Internal Use
External Use

This price structure is for distribution to professionals who are under the control of the purchasing firm, such as registered reps of a b/d or IARs of an RIA.

This price structure is for distribution to professionals who are not under the control of the purchasing firm, such as commercial partners and independent advisors.


QAIB Products

NEW! QAIB Advisor Studio
$250 (Already Registered? Login Now)

The QAIB Advisor Studio is an online, interactive hub for investor behavior related content, research and data. Specifically designed for advisors, Studio is filled with unique and practical content that promotes client engagement, reinforces trust, and provides a voice for financial professionals to build their practice. 

2020 QAIB Premium Edition

For the period ending 12/31/2019, the Premium Edition contains everything in the Standard Edition plus additional, exclusive content.
2020 QAIB Standard Edition 

For the period ending 12/31/2019, this report was formerly referred to as the "Full Study" and is for internal use.

The Investor Panic Relief Tool (DALBAR i-PRT)

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

Market Crisis Report Package

During times of crises, give investors an historical view of major market events and their impact on investor behavior. This package contains the 4 reports.

2020 QAIB Advisor Edition

Made for the average investor and designed exclusively to be a client facing communication, this version is customizable for one advisor.

Copyrights Add-on

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

Summary of Returns Table

For the period ending 12/31/2019, the Summary of Returns table displays the 1, 3, 5, 10, 20 and 30-year returns for the for the Average Equity, Fixed Income, And Asset Allocation Fund Investors along with the indexes.

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”
Investor Behavior Infographic

A fun and memorable infographic that highlights 9 major investor behaviors which negatively impact returns.

2019 Returns vs. Benchmark

A graphical representation of the Average Equity, Fixed Income, and Asset Allocation Fund Investor Return for 2019 vs. benchmarks of the S&P 500, BloombergBarclays Aggregate Bond Index, and inflation.
Retention Rates

These 4 graphs show the Retention Rates of Equity, Fixed Income, And Asset Allocation Fund Investors dating back to 2000 as well as a 20-year average.

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.
Quincy & Caroline Part 2

A sequel to part 1, explaining market recovery to fear-filled investors concerned about a downturn is not easy. When investors see the hard data about how often, and how quickly the market usually recovers, it’s a lot easier.

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.

Active Fund Managers, and Women, Are the Stars of the Coronavirus Market Crisis

After years of lagging behind index funds, active managers have long stressed that they would show their worth when volatility hit. Now it has, as the coronavirus has roiled markets.

It is still too early for anyone to say ''I told you so,'' but a quantitative study of investors' behavior during the first half of this year by the financial research firm Dalbar may give defenders of active management some ammunition.

Flows into active funds outpace passive funds for the first time in eight years

Investors in actively managed equity funds fared better than investors in passive equity funds in the second quarter — and even outperformed the S&P 500, according to a new report.

The report, published by Marlborough, Mass-based DALBAR, Inc., found that the average active equity fund investor contributed assets in April, May and June while the average equity index fund investor withdrew assets during each of those months.

Active Equity Fund Investors Beat Indexers in Q2: Dalbar

The second quarter was not only an exceptionally strong one for U.S. stocks but also an especially strong quarter for investors of actively managed equity funds.

According to a new Dalbar study that focuses on investor behavior rather than market or fund returns, the average active equity fund investor outperformed the average equity index fund investor by 223 basis points in the second quarter — gaining 20.97% versus 18.74%.

Active Equity Investors Outperform Market And S&P 500 In 2Q

Active equity fund investors outperformed equity index fund investors and the S&P 500 in the second quarter, and they also withdrew less assets than their peers, according to a Dalbar analysis released today. The cash flow pattern in the second quarter broke an eight-year trend, the firm said.

''The average active equity fund investor outperformed the average equity index fund investor by 223 bps in the second quarter (20.97% for active versus 18.74% for index),'' the Massachusetts-based financial date company reported.

Opinion: Bond blowout outwits investors

Once upon a time John and Jane Public were terrible at timing the stock market. They sold stocks at the wrong time, bought them back at the wrong time, and ended up doing worse than someone who just owned the overall S&P 500 SPX, -0.07% and forgot about it. But this year, John and Jane have made a big advance. No longer are they bad just at timing the stock market. Now they’re bad at timing the bond market, as well.

Fixed-Income, Target-Date Fund Investors Most Aggressive With Q1 Withdrawals

Investors in what have historically been the most conservative mutual fund asset classes were actually the most spooked into making withdrawals during the first quarter’s Covid-related market volatility, according to new research from Dalbar.

Should Investors have FOMO?

Nobody knows if we have reached the turning point in the year's pandemic-induced market meltdown. The markets are not quite as scary as they were at the beginning of March when some markets lost nearly 20% of their value in a single day.
Some recoveries are rather swift, while others take a little more time, but there is one way to know when the market has reached its bottom … just kidding .... there is no way of knowing, and that's exactly why the average investor should not be bailing out of their positions when storm seas get rough.

Staying Steady in a Bear Market

Financial journalists tend to only write about and discuss what to do in a bear market once the bear market has begun. People are usually reactive, rather than proactive, when it comes to investing. When stocks go up, they buy more. When stocks go down, they sell. This childish behavior accounts for the dramatic differences between investor returns and investment returns extensively documented by firms such as Dalbar and Morningstar. Buying high and selling low is an all too frequently experienced investment disaster.

Rocky Balboa offers insights on handling volatile markets

Rocky Balboa said, ''You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done.'' Investors are getting hit hard. The broad US equity market, as represented by the S&P 500 Index, experienced a 30% bear market decline in the course of 23 trading days.1 That's roughly 130 days faster than the typical bear market, dating back to 1900.2 The massive gains of 2019 disappeared between Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day.3 The instinct is to sell. Sit the rest of this out. Yet, we can't stop thinking about all we have learned of the follies of trying to time the market. We summon up the famous DALBAR study, and the analysis showing what happens if we miss the best days in the market (half of those days happen during a bear market4)

Market Timing: More Evidence Why It Doesn't Work

By its very nature, investing in stocks -- both in the U.S. and internationally -- courts a certain amount of portfolio volatility. Trying to make buy or sell decisions based on short-term fluctuations, however, can create an extremely uncomfortable investment experience over time. Of late, major financial publications across the country have been warning of severe repercussions for investors after an outset of coronavirus cases. In such a Jekyll and Hyde period, stock prices dropped. The next moment, values went up. The one constant: markets twisted and turned, churning at a seemingly dizzying pace.

The Asset Allocator: Dalbar Rethinks Asset Allocation (Podcast)

New Dalbar research takes a look at asset protection strategies through the prism of opportunity cost, with a view toward lowering investors’ hedging costs or even increasing their total returns. This podcast (8:10) suggests that Dalbar’s alternative allocation findings are quite helpful, so long as advisors do the appropriate due diligence for their clients, but also proposes another strategy for Dalbar’s quants to test empirically.

Investors, don't be lemmings. The time to sell stocks isn't when everyone else is

The time to sell is not when stocks are down. Yet the principle is so much easier to embrace during rising markets than in the midst of chaotic selling, which causes our flight instinct to kick in. Resist the urge. Money is made at turning points, and the crowd is rarely right at critical moments. Why? Because 50% to 90% of daily volume is driven by the trading algorithms, not by human investors with long-term time horizons.

The Costliest Mistake Investors Must Avoid in 2020

There are numerous ways investors can lose their hard-earned money in the stock market.

  • performance chasing
  • buying yield traps whose dividends are unsustainable and likely to be cut, possibly several times
  • grossly overpaying for quality companies to the extent that even if they grow as expected you might see negative returns for years or even decades
  • ignoring deteriorating fundamentals (thesis breaks about 20% of the time even if you perform proper due diligence)
But of all the potential mistakes that stand in the way of achieving your financial goals, one, in particular, is most likely to cost you a fortune in 2020.

The Asset Allocator: Dalbar's Investor Panic-Relief Tool (Podcast)

For a quarter of a century, Dalbar has highlighted the problem of poor investor performance, fueled by return-chasing and panic selling; now it is offering a practical solution it calls I-PRT (Investor Panic Relief Tool). This podcast (7:15) explains that Dalbar’s solution is not to prepare investors ahead of time with education that doesn’t work, but rather to prepare the advisor ahead of time with a tool that could tilt the scales of the “fight or flight” reaction toward “fight.”

Avoiding the Cost of Panic

Investors lose massive amounts due to panic selling in down markets. More can be done about this perennial problem. This article identifies one critical action that can be taken to stem panic-driven losses. That action is based on a full understanding of the timing, cause and prudent use of financial instruments that can avoid much of the loss.

Selling a Market Darling

Statistically, you and I are terrible investors...

This unfortunate reality is the takeaway of research done by Dalbar Inc., a company that studies investor behavior and their market returns.

What Dalbar has found is that the average investor woefully underperforms the broad market.

Your Funds: If complex solutions confuse you, stay put in scary markets

The most simplistic advice is often the best, and there’s little that is simpler or better than “Stay invested.” Countless studies have shown that investors have terrible timing, awful instincts and, accordingly, bad results. The landmark Quantitative Analysis of Investor Behavior from Dalbar Inc. has measured investment results compared to the stock market for a quarter-century, and it has repeatedly proved that investments do better than investors.

Money Life with Chuck Jaffe: Use the rate cuts to change your personal finances before it's too late (Podcast)

Lou Harvey from DALBAR Inc. discusses a strategy that should help investors stay put, literally, in the next market downturn.

The Asset Allocator: Dalbar's Louis Harvey On What Drives Investors To Lose Money (Podcast)

Investment consultancy Dalbar’s latest research suggests that it is a mistake for advisors to assume that investors have a static risk tolerance. To the contrary, it changes constantly – on the basis of both market conditions and the client’s constantly shifting personal status. In this podcast interview (14:07), Dalbar’s Louis Harvey suggests that advisors need to constantly assess and re-assess their clients' risk tolerance, and engage in behavioral coaching accompanying a tolerable asset allocation.

The Asset Allocator: Of Models And Marketing (Podcast)

This podcast (6:33) relates some examples of adulated investors who turned out to be in the main great marketers, and draws attention to a hard-to-market investment with which many investors have actually succeeded. The moral of the story is for advisors to focus firmly on keeping their clients invested for long-term success. Incidentally, a Dalbar study shows that a particularly hated model has been more helpful to investors than models that are more successfully marketed.

You’re making big financial mistakes – and it’s your brain’s fault

Since 1988, the stock market’s average return has been 10% per year. But stock fund investors have earned only 4.1% per year, according to Dalbar’s Quantitative Analysis of Investor Behavior.

Investors Are Usually Wrong. I’m One of Them.

Forget about getting everything right. Most people are so consistently wrong that merely avoiding major errors is enough to set you apart from the pack.

That is the message in the latest data from Dalbar, a Massachusetts research firm that has been studying the behavior of mutual fund investors for 25 years.

How to take advantage of all the uncertainty with the stock market

As the market soured in the final months of the year, investors pulled funds to mitigate losses, according to DALBAR's 2018 Investor Behavior Study, ...

Why Your Investment Return May Differ From the Fund Company's Returns

The habit can be costly. Research firm Dalbar publishes an annual study of investor behavior, which tracks cash flows in and out of stock funds. In 2018, the average investor trailed Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index by 5.0 percentage points. (The S&P 500 lost 4.4% in 2018, which means the average investor lost 9.4%.) “Judging by the cash flows we saw, investors sensed danger in the markets and decreased their exposure, but not nearly enough to prevent serious losses,” says Dalbar’s Cory Clark.

Investors Attempt To “Time” The Market And Lose Money

If you want to be an investor, don’t be an average one. It can very well be a ridiculous proposition. The individual investors on an average would make mistakes, just like they did last year and this is evident from the report that was published in the latest report of Dalbar, the financial research company.

Investors are losing thousands trying to 'time' the market

Dalbar also found that over a 30-year period it gets worse — the average investor loses almost 6 percent a year compared with the market's return.

The signal for avoiding market’s next painful downturn comes from within

...But after reading my column last week about the Dalbar Quantitative Analysis of Investor Behavior study showing just how lousy investor timing was in 2018, he wanted help to improve his timing...

WEALTH HEALTH: Investors failed the downturn test of 2018

The latest Quantitative Analysis of Investor Behavior study from Dalbar Inc. showed that average investors lagged the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index both in good times and bad during 2018, but investors got it the most wrong late in the year when the market got ugly.

Dalbar’s study, which has measured investment results compared to the market for a quarter-century now, has long shown that investments do better than investors. The problem is that investors typically buy into stocks and funds only after there has been a run of good performance and bail out when they suffer declines.

What Happens When You Miss the Best Days in the Stock Market?

...Investment research firm Dalbar publishes an annual survey of the average investor's performance versus the benchmark. Dalbar studied retail equity and fixed-income mutual fund flows (money in and out of the fund) each month from Dec. 31, 1997 to Dec. 31, 2017 to calculate the "average investor" return. The average investor performed below average when compared to buying and holding the S&P 500 index...

Wealth Matters: Stock market ‘guru’ same as ‘charlatan’

We are all influenced by our emotions, our hopes and fears. Such is being human. But these emotions do not always lead to the best decisions. When you add our attitudes about money to the mix, the results can be quite complicated.

Investors Bailed Out of Stock in 2018 and Got Double-Slammed

The average investor fled from the stock market and ended up losing twice what the S&P 500 did, Dalbar says.

They did it again. The average investor took money out of the stock market in 2018, a year that suffered from two painful corrections. And their investment performance was worse than the market’s, according to a survey by research firm Dalbar.

Opinion: Investors’ widely-held beliefs about ETFs and index funds may be wrong
Low-cost funds may be fixing the wrong problem, new data suggest

A new study has just shaken one of the biggest investment myths on Main Street.

An analysis of mutual fund stock trades over the past two decades has thrown into question the rationale that has sent everybody and her grandmother stampeding into low-cost index funds and exchange traded funds.

DALBAR: U.S. Investors Lost Twice As Much As The S&P 500 In 2018

A combination of volatile market conditions and bad timing caused the average U.S. investor to lose twice as much as the S&P 500 in 2018, according to a new study from DALBAR.

The research firm’s latest Quantitative Analysis of Investor Behavior (QAIB) found that investors were actually blown away by market turmoil last year, losing 9.42 percent over the course of 2018, compared with a 4.38 percent retreat by the S&P.

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