Take a look at real (inflation-adjusted) charts of the S&P 500, Dow 30, and Nasdaq Composite since 2000. We've updated this through the March 18, 2020 close

Here are two overlays — one with the nominal price, excluding dividends, and the other with the price adjusted for inflation based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Consumers (which is usually just referred to as the CPI).

Nominal Gains

Real Gains

The charts require little explanation. So far the 21st Century has not been especially kind to equity investors. Yes, markets do bounce back, but often in time frames that defy optimistic expectations.