Boglehead Contest

Boglehead Contest logo

The Boglehead Contest is an annual event that takes place on the Bogleheads forum where members take guesses to forecast the closing price of the S&P 500 Price Index at year end. Keep in mind that the Price Index is simply a measure of market price and does not take into account stock dividends or the reinvestment of dividends. Thus, the Price Index does not represent the total return for an investment in an S&P 500 index fund.

The contest also includes forecast predictions from “expert” Wall Street firms, and the comparison between the amateur and expert camps is considered a fun distraction looking at the potential follies of making predictions.

The rules of the contest are simple:

  1. Guess the closing price of the S&P 500 Price Index on December 31 of the year in question.
  2. Only one guess (no percentages) is allowed.
  3. Registration closes on midnight January 10 of the given year.
  4. In event of ties, the first guess wins.

Records of annual contest entries cover the period from 2003 to 2018, so an analysis of participant performance is possible. As of 2018, no individual winner of the contest has been able to repeat.

Boglehead Contest annual winners

Year Winner Guess S&P 500 Difference
2003 dalevvitt 1112.00 1111.91 0.09
2004 scanchain 1212.00 1211.23 0.77
2005 keithlommel 1248.16 1248.23 0.07
2006 Ken969 1419.24 1418.30 0.94
2007 schellase 1467.00 1468.36 1.36
2008 Betelgeuse 876.00 903.25 27.25
2009 mmg 1117.00 1115.10 1.90
2010 gordo 1258.00 1257.64 0.36
2011 Triple digit golfer 1257.61 1257.30 0.31
2012 TAINTED MEAT 1426.31 1426.20 0.11
2013 peppers 1854.20 1848.36 5.84
2014 FinacialDave 2057.36 2059.90 2.54
2015 VictoriaF 2048.00 2043.94 4.06
2016 Roverdog 2238.89 2238.83 0.06
2017 Bruce 2676.10 2673.61 2.49
2018

Average results

The table below provides the average guess by each group (bogleheads vs. experts). Over the 2003 – 2017 period, the bogleheads have, on average, come closer to guessing the S&P 500 closing value eight times; the experts seven times. The average point variance from the closing index value has also been rather close: the boglehead difference has averaged 148.48 points; the experts 154.27.

Boglehead Contest average guess

Year S&P 500 return Bogleheads avg. guess
Experts avg. guess
Bogleheads difference Experts difference
2002 879.82
2003 1111.91 942.81 1019.09 169.10 92.82
2004 1211.23 1200.75 1114.67 10.48 96.56
2005 1248.23 1265.25 1273.50 17.02 25.27
2006 1418.30 1305.97 1345.83 112.33 72.47
2007 1468.36 1488.84 1539.47 20.48 71.11
2008 903.25 1512.07 1647.39 608.82 744.14
2009 1115.10 1015.30 1045.42 99.80 69.68
2010 1257.64 1212.37 1223.00 45.27 34.64
2011 1257.30 1357.01 1336.67 99.71 79.37
2012 1426.20 1383.97 1367.71 42.23 58.49
2013 1848.36 1532.06 1525.91 316.30 322.45
2014 2059.90 1958.40 1949.14 101.50 110.76
2015 2043.94 2126.93 2219.53 82.99 175.59
2016 2238.83 2108.05 2192.50 130.78 46.33
2017 2673.61 2303.26 2359.18 370.35 314.43
2018 2832.49 2840.92
Average 148.48 154.27

The average guesses allow us to also calculate an implied return guess. The following table (the “winning” average is high-lighted in blue) provides this return forecast data. Note that over this period both bogleheads and experts have, on average, always forecast a bullish positive return.

Boglehead Contest implied S&P 500 Price Index returns

Year S&P 500 return Bogleheads return Experts return
2003 26.38% 7.16% 15.83%
2004 8.93% 7.99% 0.25%
2005 3.05% 4.46% 5.14%
2006 13.62% 4.63% 7.82%
2007 3.53% 4.97% 8.54%
2008 -38.49% 2.98% 12.19%
2009 23.45% 12.41% 15.74%
2010 12.78% 8.72% 9.68%
2011 -0.03% 7.90% 6.28%
2012 13.43% 10.07% 8.78%
2013 29.60% 7.42% 6.99%
2014 11.44% 5.95% 5.45%
2015 -0.77% 3.25% 7.75%
2016 9.54% 3.14% 7.27%
2017 19.42% 2.88% 5.38%
2018 5.94% 6.26%
Average 6.24% 8.08%

This bullish tendency is captured in these charts, which measure individual forecasts (click image to enlarge).

Additional information

Reference links

Contest announcements & results

Forum links to topics announcing each annual contest and the Contest main page link for reporting final results.

Contest posts

Financial Page articles regarding the Boglehead Contest.