Investing at an early age was one of the best things that happened to me. It propelled my understanding of money, but it also helped me gain an interest in money. Not just any kind of interest. Compound interest. Much like a flower, money requires time in order to blossom. Of all the things money can buy, it can’t buy time. That is why investing early is so important.
To illustrate the difference between investing early and investing late, let’s read a little story about Investor A and Investor Z.
The Early Investor A
Investor A sets aside $1,200 / year (or $100 / month), beginning at age 22. Since the money is intended for retirement several decades later, Investor A takes an aggressive stance and invests in the stock market, yielding 7% interest per year. Thirty years later, at age 52, Investor A chooses to stop saving any more money, but keeps the investments for another 10 years until age 62. After 40 years (saving for 30 of those years), how much has Investor A accumulated?
Cash In: $36,000
Cash Out: Approximately $223k
The Late Investor Z
Investor Z waits until age 32, or 10 years after Investor A, to start saving. At the same investment rate of $1,200 / year with a 7% market return, Investor Z continues all the way until age 62. Thirty years later, how much has Investor Z accumulated?
Cash In: $36,000
Cash Out: Approximately $113k
Doing The Math
Based on this story, foregoing 10 years of market gains costs Investor Z about $100,000. What if instead Investor Z chooses to save more money due to a late start? To reach $223k in thirty years would require saving $2,360 / year (or $197 / month). That means more cash in: $70,800 ($2,360 x 30 years), instead of $36,000 ($1,200 x 30 years). And to think, time alone could have made that!
While this story demonstrates the value of getting an early start on investing, late bloomers should not be discouraged. If anything, this is a lesson to start investing as soon as possible. The more time goes by, the more you miss out on growing your money. Keep in mind that investments go up and down, so having more time to smooth out the dips also helps. Overall, working with a long time horizon certainly benefits you more than investing over a short time horizon. How would you like to see your money double, triple, or more without adding more money? The key is to start NOW!
Homework: Do the math. Find an online calculator or use one from your financial institution to determine how much you can accumulate if you start investing now. What would it look like if you wait 10 years to start? How much more would you need to save to get the same end result?