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The real top-performing stocks of 2013

Own Netflix (NFLX) stock? It's the top performer in the Standard & Poor's 500 this year, so you must be feeling pretty smart if you do. But if you are an individual investor, it's unlikely you do own it. And, even if you did, are you up as much as the 2013 return? Probably not.

Those are two of the key findings of number crunchers at financial web site SigFig, which tracks online portfolios totaling about $100 billion in assets. CBS MoneyWatch asked SigFig to compare how users' real returns this year stack up against the top stocks in the S&P 500 (see lists below).

Netflix is a telling example. The stock, now trading at $367 a share, is up 298 percent since Jan. 2. But the average unrealized 2013 return for SigFig users who owned the stock this year was just 22 percent (that's through Dec. 17, when SigFig ran the data). 

Individual investors had weaker returns simply because most of them bought the stock after it had already risen, said Mike Sha, chief executive and co-founder of SigFig. "The big story isn't how these stocks have done year-to-date -- what matters is how people really have done in real life owning these securities."

It turns out that none of the top 10 performing stock in the S&P are included among SigFig's list of 15 most widely-held stocks. 

Also, when a SigFig user did own a top performer in the S&P 500, they rarely experienced the same gains as the year-to-date return of the stock. Best Buy (BBY) is another example. It is up 237 percent year-to-date. But SigFig users only experienced a gain of 23 percent.

Facebook is the top-performing stock this year out of SigFig's list of the 15 most widely-held stocks. Users averaged a 53 percent gain. But the stock has more than doubled year-to-date.

The bottom line for individual investors? Just because you (or a mutual fund you own) bought one of 2013's top-performing stocks doesn't mean you received all the gains that a lofty year-to-date return imply. 

Here are the S&P 500's best-performing stocks (through Dec. 12) as ranked by 2013 returns versus the average unrealized returns for SigFig users:

  1. Netflix: 303% vs. 22%
  2. Micron Technology: 256% vs. 32%
  3. Best Buy: 245% vs. 23%
  4. Delta Air Lines: 139% vs. 29%
  5. Pitney Bowes: 115% vs. 37%
  6. Celgene: 111% vs. 31%
  7. E-Trade Financial: 106% vs. 21%
  8. Boston Scientific: 100% vs. 6%
  9. Constellation Brands: 98% vs. 10%
  10. Genworth Financial: 98% vs. 32%

Following are the 15 most widely-held stocks among SigFig users and their average unrealized 2013 returns (through Dec. 17):

  1. Apple: 13% 
  2. Facebook: 53%
  3. Ford: 14%
  4. Microsoft: 28%
  5. Intel: 7%
  6. General Electric: 29%
  7. Tesla: 22%
  8. AT&T: 4%
  9. Bank of America: 28%
  10. Google: 33%
  11. Cisco: 0%
  12. Coca-Cola: -13%
  13. Johnson & Johnson: 23%
  14. Berkshire Hathaway: 23%
  15. 3D Systems:47%