Between here and there, though, investors will have to cope with a market that is stretched in terms of valuation and companies that will have a harder time improving their bottom line by cutting costs.
"We believe S&P 500 trades close to fair value and the forward path will depend on profit growth rather than P/E expansion," Goldman said.
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The firm further explores the expectation that the market multiple can continue to expand.
To do so, Goldman said, would be to tempt history. The only times since 1976 that the S&P 500 has traded above 17 times earnings was during the tech bubble of the late 1990s and a four-month stint from 2003-04.
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"Other than those two episodes, the U.S. stock market has never traded at a P/E of 17 or above," Goldman said. Multiple expansion is further improbable, the note said, because it would have to defy rising inflation and bond yields, which usually don't accompany rising P/E levels.
—By CNBC's Jeff Cox. Follow him on Twitter