You've identified some financial goals and begun to look at potential investments. You're on the path to investment success! Putting some plans into motion is an essential step, but it's important to make sure you're investing with the right mindset. Harboring unrealistic expectations based on what other investors seem to be doing can throw off even the best laid financial plan. This article examines some popular misconceptions about investing, accompanied by suggestions for investing with the proper perspective. Using history as a guide: During the 1990s, it was hard to ignore the stories of overnight stock market millionaires. For a while it seemed that the stock market was a guaranteed way to get rich. Some investors even began to expect their investments to double in value in a matter of months. But as many of those investors learned in 2000, stock market declines are inevitable and can wipe out easily made gains. The Standard & Poor's (S&P) 500 index a useful representation for the U.S. stock market has averaged a 12% annual return since the 1920s. But 12% is a deceptive number because it's only an average. And, in fact, the history of the stock market is littered with dramatic boom and bust cycles. Some years, the S&P 500 may gain as much as 37.5%, as it did in 1981. Other years, like 2000, it may lose 9%. It is only when you average the indexes returns over many years that you arrive at a 12% return. The more extreme years have occasionally fueled investor perception that the market will always go up or that it will stay down forever. As a long-term investor who is focusing on a specific goal, you need to get too worked up about one year's performance. Instead, keep your eye on your chosen benchmark.