That means that someone who invested $ 10,000 in the S&P 500 at the beginning of the decade ended it with almost $ 36,000. In 2019 alone, investors achieved a total return of more than 31 percent.
Stock markets have contributed to a high level of economic satisfaction across the country, apart from a very low unemployment rate and modest but steady economic growth, as surveys show. People who have entered the market at the beginning of the decade, or who have only recently entered the market, will find that their retirement savings, college savings and other investments have increased measurably.
"If you owned stocks, bonds, real estate, and property, you benefited," said Michael Farr, president of Farr, Miller & Washington, a D.C. investment firm. "The prices of everything from parking lots to publicly traded stocks have risen dramatically."
However, the thriving decade has not only left many Americans behind – 52 percent of Americans own stocks, mostly through retirement accounts, according to the latest Federal Reserve data – it also fits a much more uneven economic picture.
Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the left center for budget and political priorities, admitted that people who owned stocks performed well. "But when you talk about stock markets, you're talking about the top half of the population," he said. "The bottom half of households have no stocks."
New Americans may have had to invest less due to new financial challenges such as exploding student debt and wage growth that was very disappointing until a few years ago.
"Unfortunately, the majority of investors do not have enough money in their retirement accounts to retire, even though they have just had a fantastic decade," said Daniel Wiener, Chairman of Adviser Investments.
In addition, Americans who sold in the 2007-2009 financial crisis or lost their homes through foreclosure would not have had the slightest chance of participating in the decade's boom. Pensioners who transferred money to fixed-rate accounts posted low returns as interest rates were at historic lows.
"People who retired and thought they would make a living from their fixed income have become Walmart patrons because their income is insufficient," said Tengler Wealth Management's Nancy Tengler.
Even those who have enjoyed the raging markets can look at the 5- and 10-year returns on their investment accounts and formulate unrealistic expectations about what the future might look like.
According to S&P, which started in the 1930s, the 1950s were the best decade when the market achieved an average total annual return of 19.21 percent. The worst was from 2000 to 2009 when the S&P fell 0.86 percent on average. The decade from 2010 to 2019 is the fourth best since the 1930s, as the data show.
The starting point for the boom of the past decade was the recovery from a massive financial crisis and the deepest recession since the Great Depression. What followed were extraordinary policy-making measures to boost the economy and markets.
This included trillion-dollar public spending approved by both parties and an unprecedented Fed campaign to boost economic growth and asset prices through low interest rates and other means.
This policy continued under the Trump administration, which implemented a massive tax cut. After raising key rates for several years, the Fed cut it again in 2019, which helped markets break records.
The emerging markets have shaped a new generation of millionaires supported by high-growth technology companies like Apple and Netflix.
The number of $ 1 million households without their primary residence rose to 11.8 million a year ago, according to Chicago-based market research firm Spectrem Group. This is an increase of 51 percent compared to 2009, with 2019 still to be expected.
"The decade was about the capitalists," said Joseph LaVorgna, chief economist of the American continent at Natixis. "People who have capital have done the best."
Technology stocks were the market history of the decade. Apple, Microsoft and Amazon were the first American companies to break the $ 1 trillion mark in total equity value. (Amazon Post owner and CEO Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post.)
The sector far outperformed any other category in the S&P 500, tripling its value to more than $ 6 trillion over the past 10 years, according to S&P data.
Real estate stocks, the decline of which triggered the financial crisis and subsequent recession, recovered from their February 2012 low when they lost 27.4 percent of their value, according to the S&P / CoreLogic Case Shiller national property index.
Home prices are now 14.9 percent above their pre-crisis high of July 2006.
"Low interest rates have made mortgages affordable for qualified buyers and, along with the strength of the economy, have helped property prices to recover," said S&P Dow Jones Indices' Craig Lazzara.
Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, represent the lion's share of the millionaires, many of whom have been able to benefit from the decades-long bull market.
Those who had money in stocks before the 2009 financial crisis and left these assets on the market have driven the wave from an earlier generation low.
The 56-year-old retired manager Fritz Gilbert lost a third of his savings in 2009, but continued to buy shares. Now he's counting in the millionaire cohort.
"I made up the third I lost and won another 50 percent," said Gilbert, who writes a retirement blog. "Those who haven't panicked and been patient have been rewarded in the past 10 years."
Subsequent generations, from Generation Y to millennia, may have to wait until they have survived a bust to take full advantage of the next market boom.
Laura van de Geijn has saved the maximum of her 401 (k) pension account in the past three years.
The 31-year-old manager of a real estate management company in Washington has noticed enough of the dynamism of the current bull market to triple her savings to around $ 70,000. She knows that a recession is likely to hit her stocks.
"This is a long game," said van de Geijn. "I look back on 30 years and have to keep putting this money into my 401 (k) and hope for the next boom decade."
The 126-month economic expansion that fueled profits is now the longest ever recorded. The bull market started in the middle of the 2009 crisis, which was caused by an overvalued, oversold real estate market that turned trillion-dollar mortgage-backed securities into toxic assets from banks and investors around the world.
"Who would have thought that after the S&P 500 had dropped almost 60 percent by early March 2009, the worst bear market since the Great Depression, the bull was still alive and kicked 10 years later?" Said Sam Stovall of CFRA- Research.
In recent years, the stock boom has been characterized by severe volatility bouts, compounded by President Trump's tweets. The president has named Fed chairman Jerome H. Powell as an enemy of the United States and has repeatedly threatened China, Mexico and Europe with tariffs. Investors also dodged several counterfeit bears, such as 2011 and 2018.
The US stock market fell 3 percent last August after a reliable predictor of impending recessions flashed for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis. However, healthy corporate earnings, key rate cuts by the US Federal Reserve and an unemployment rate of 3.5 percent have dispelled concerns about an emerging recession by 2020.
The question is how long the bull market can last. In December, the Vanguard Group published a research paper for 2020, which indicated that the coming years would be the beginning of the "new age of uncertainty".
Citing US trade policy and declining global growth, Vanguard said "the continuing high level of political uncertainty is slowing economic activity more than ever."
Even if the market continues to rise, some Americans skip it altogether.
Paul Timmins is a small business owner whose total investment on the stock exchange is $ 900 in an individual retirement account.
"I don't invest because I don't understand the stock market," said the 37-year-old Baltimore furniture maker. "It seems like you're playing in the wild west. I would rather go to Las Vegas and play than put money on the stock exchange. "
Timmins said his wealth was in the wood from which he made furniture and in four houses that he owned and rented. The houses throw away money and have appreciated over time.
"I understand real estate," he said. "I can see it, touch it, fix it."