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I'm already a huge fan of the index investing philosophy and have put my money where my mouth is so to speak.

But when discussing it with some other people they brought up some old arguements that I confess I can't really convincingly answer.

Specifically the case studies of Japan in the nineties and the pronlonged recovery of the US indices after the great depression.

How can an index investor be successful in these adverse scenarios?

And to say it won't happen here or can't happen again isn't the type of answer I need.

I need real strategy.
Indexing is not limited to equity markets. You can invest in bond markets, REITs etc. passively.

So, what you are asking is whether stock investing will be successful under all conditions. The answer is clearly no. When investing in stocks you run the risk that future returns will be short of what you expected.

Long periods of poor stock returns are not unprecedented. They've happened before and could happen again. However, there is risk in every investment... even cash and bonds. Bonds can have a long stretch of poor returns and cash can be devastated by periods of inflation. The key then, is to be well diversified and have a backup plan.
 
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