I have been asked this question on several different occasions that have caused me to reflect back in time. This could be answered in each aspect of life, but this writing will pertain to the financial realm.
There were many decisions made that could have been more cautiously considered. I made purchases out of emotional decisions and not out of necessity; I was left wishing I considered the future ramifications and the real price of those purchases.
I remember years ago I wanted to purchase a puppy that was $500. I had recently started my career as a financial adviser, so I calculated the future benefit of investing the money versus spending that money today to purchase the irresistible pup. (Now don’t get upset with me yet, as you may be thinking that I’m going to cut Fido out of the monthly budget.)
This may not seem like a critical decision, but let’s take it a little deeper. If the $500 dollars were invested at 5% interest for 30 years, it would grow to $2,233.87. The annual cost of maintaining the puppy is estimated at $500 per year in addition to the purchase price (including veterinary bills, food, puppy sitters, etc.). If that were also added to the initial investment and compounded over 30 years, it equals $37,041.37. If you look at it like that, that’s an expensive decision! I am also aware that the dog may not live 30 years, so we replaced a couple of puppies along the way, adding to the total cost. I think you are seeing my point financially, maybe? Okay, let’s get off the puppy topic; I’m not going to win this one! Good try anyway.
Being frugal is the cornerstone of wealth-building.
Learning to save money at a young age is probably the most significant habit to learn if your goals are to build wealth and become financially independent. It is simply the key to future wealth. A dollar saved is better than a dollar earned. A dollar earned after taxes is only worth $0.65 and that is what you will have to accomplish all your financial goals with. OUCH! It isn’t easy to save money but it’s a necessity when life happens.
Here is another great example of the time value of money and the importance of getting started early in life.
A set of triplet brothers decided to take 3 different routes to arrive at their retirement goals. At 23, the first brother started investing $5,000 annually into an IRA (Individual Retirement Account) but he stopped after 10 years at the age of 33. He saved $5,000 per year for 10 years and made no further contributions to his IRA. At age 65, his IRA would be worth $1,682,499.12 with only $50,000 contributed over 10 years (using a 10% investment growth assumption). The key is that he invested from 23 to 33 years old.
The second brother started his deposits into his IRA at age 33. He also started with the $5,000 annual investment in the IRA growing at a 10% growth rate until he reached age 65. The balance of the second brother’s IRA accumulates to $1,005,688.84. His investment into the IRA was $160,000.00 over 32 years.
Brother number 3 went all in from the beginning. He started investing at age 23 and never stopped until he reached age 65. He made the same $5,000 annual investment and achieved a growth rate of 10% annually compound. At age 65, his IRA was the highest value between the 3 brothers. See summary below:
Brother #1 - invested $50,000 over 10 years and stopped (time frame of age 23 – 33)
IRA grew to $1.682,499.12 (10% growth rate) at age 65
Brother #2 - invested $160,000.00 over 32 years (time frame of age 33 – 65)
IRA grew to $1,005,688.84 (10% growth rate) at age 65
Brother #3 - invested $210,000.00 over 42 years (time frame of age 23 – 65)
IRA grew to $2,688,184.96 (10% growth rate) at age 65
The moral to the story is to start saving as early as possible and NEVER quit! If you accomplished what Brother #3 did, you would be considered in the top 5% of all the wealth in the USA. That is accomplished by saving $5,000 per year (or $416.67 per month) from college exit to age 65. You may not be able to start with that much right away. The golden rule is save 20% of every paycheck you receive. Pay yourself before paying debt or obligations.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot…the advice I would give to my younger self:
- Keep life simple.
- Save until it hurts.
- It cost nothing to dream and everything not to.
- Make more good decisions than bad.
- Attitude is everything!
A friend once told me they “could not afford to save” and my reply was “you cannot afford not to save”.
Start saving today and somewhere along the way, you might be thankful that you read this small piece of advice. Here’s to getting started no matter where you are on the journey!
The hypothetical examples above are not representative of any specific situation. Your results will vary. The hypothetical rates of return used do not reflect the deduction of fees and charges inherent to investing. Investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.