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Total return accounts for the compounded effect of reinvested dividends, interests, and other distributions over a period of time. This can be as much as 50% of the total gain especially for high-yielding instruments like dividend stocks, bonds, and REITs that have been held for long durations.

Because of this, we prefer to use total-return data in our historical tests if it's available. Unlike nominal or cash prices, total-return prices have been adjusted to make it appear that all the interests, dividends, and other distributions are automatically “reinvested.” What's typically quoted on financial newspaper and websites are the nominal or cash prices, and not the total-return.