My wife asked me this question yesterday and this got me going... how does someone make a safe 10% a year?
The simple answer is that they can't. In 2008, most people lost about half their savings due to stock market volatility. In 2009, they gained it right back. So year after year, no one can consistently make 10% in the stock market, but if you have a 20-30 year time frame with a consistent savings plan, diversify your investments, you can expect good returns.
If you put all your money in a house ten years ago, you would probably have lost money, but if you bought a house 20 years ago, the market now is much higher due to inflation, appreciation, etc. If you bought Microsoft, Google, Dell or whatever stock 10 years ago, you would have quite a run up and then a big drop and then another run up.
So what is your plan? Proverbs say gather little by little. You can't predict the stock market day after day, but in the long run, there is almost guarantee there will be up years and down years. So if you have a 20-30 year time frame for savings and investment, you can expect fairly decent returns. Will it be 10%? Probably not, but some years you will get 100% returns and other years 50% declines. Will I be scared, probably, but as the ant gathers little by little, he will survive the famine seasons. But if you look at the Dow charts from 1970-2010 you'll see that in the long run, some companies will be profitable and others won't.
Will you join me in saving now?