Inside: What would have happened if you started investing yesterday? I decided to find out. The results make me want to a) kick myself, and b) invest more now.
Investing used to be terrifying to me.
There’s an entire industry built on investing. They even have an entire street of walls somewhere in New York that somehow helps investors (do they pray to it for divinations?).
How could a poor little peon like me hope to chip away at all them big riches? I sure couldn’t go to New York on a whim to pray on this magical street of walls.
Alas; I’ve since learned that investing is not so bad (and it’s Wall Street; I’m still not really sure WTF happens there). I started investing a little over two years ago with Betterment, and to my surprise, my hair did not burst into flames when I made my first deposit.
Instead, I’m only left wondering one thing: Why the hell didn’t anyone tell me about this sooner?!
If you too need a swift kick in the ass about why you should start investing, try these statistics on for size. In each case, I’m using this investment calculator with a 7% average annual rate of return.
- 1 Investing $100 Since My First Paycheck
- 2 Investing My Student Loan Payment Instead
- 3 Investing The Cash From My High School Graduation Party
- 4 Investing The Cash From All Our Home Repairs
- 5 Getting A Higher-Paying Job
- 6 Getting A Cheaper Phone Plan
- 7 Investing My Health Insurance Premium Instead
- 8 Maxing Out My IRA and 401k Every Year After College Graduation
- 9 Conclusion
Investing $100 Since My First Paycheck
I got my first job at age 15. I watered and took care of plants in a nursery. It was a great first job. Here’s how much I would have now, as a 30-year-old, if I’d invested just $100 per month starting then:
Total Amount: $30,154
What I Put In: $18,300
What I Earned: $11,854
Percent Return: 65%
Investing My Student Loan Payment Instead
You know what sucks worse than the biggest, baddest momma mosquito in northern Alaska? Student loan payments.
I am currently paying off $60,535.54 at a rate of $390.83 per month while on a ten-year repayment plan. Here’s how much I would have after ten years if I was able to invest my monthly student loan payment instead:
Total Amount: $64,798.59
What I Put In: $46,899.60
What I Earned: $17,898.99
Percent Return: 38%
Investing The Cash From My High School Graduation Party
Graduating high school was a glorious day. Mostly because it meant I could officially book it out of where I grew up—which I promptly did two weeks later, fresh with the cash I got from friends and relatives at my high school graduation party.
I used that $800 to drive across the continent from Michigan to Alaska, where I spent the next ten years of my life. Here’s what I would have in retirement (at a traditional age of 65) if I would have invested that cash instead in a one-time lump payment:
Total Amount: $19,236.57
What I Put In: $800
What I Earned: $18,436.57
Percent Return: 2,305%
Investing The Cash From All Our Home Repairs
We bought the House From Hell five years ago. Don’t believe me? Read this. We spent about $30,000 in home repairs on this putrid turd nugget of the American Dream before finally giving it up. Here’s what that cash could have done for us by age 65:
Total Amount: $320,297.44
What I Put In: $30,000
What I Earned: $290,297.44
Percent Return: 968%
Getting A Higher-Paying Job
Wildlife biologists (especially new ones starting out in technician positions) are woefully underpaid. Now that I’m a freelance writer, though, I have more room to stretch my legs and earn whatever income I want. Hell, even Holly Porter Johnson earns $225,000 per year as a freelance writer!
Related: Earn More Writing course from Holly Porter Johnson
I just took her course. Let’s say I get a fire lit under my ass, and I actually do make $100,000 this year. Discounting taxes and our normal spending, we’d be able to invest an extra $22,750 every year. Here’s how much we would have in just ten years:
Total Amount: $314,323.64
What I Put In: $227,500
What I Earned: $86,823.64
Percent Return: 38%
Getting A Cheaper Phone Plan
We still use an expensive AT&T phone plan. Hisssssss. I can hear all of you frugalites recoiling in horror right now.
I know it’s expensive. I’ve tried to talk Zach into getting a cheaper plan. But he’s just too nervous about losing call quality and his precious YouTube videos on the go, and so our expensive plan remains.
But, if I were able to convince him to switch to a cheaper Cricket phone plan, we could save $18 per month on our cell phone bill. Here’s how much we would have by age 65 if we invested that difference:
Total Amount: $29,859.17
What I Put In: $7,560
What I Earned: $22,299.17
Percent Return: 295%
Investing My Health Insurance Premium Instead
Insurance in the U.S. is terrible. I hate it mostly because I damn near never use it, but it still costs me thousands of dollars per year. But, I still buy it, like the good little catastrophe-planner and citizen I am, in order to keep the costs down for everyone else (you’re welcome, older, sick people).
If I had my health care provided for free, though, here’s what my monthly $294.83 premium would do if invested until traditional retirement age:
Total Amount: $489,076.55
What I Put In: $123,828.60
What I Earned: $365,247.95
Percent Return: 295%
Maxing Out My IRA and 401k Every Year After College Graduation
Once upon a time people went to college, graduated, got good jobs, and immediately started maxing out their retirement accounts.
These are not those times.
But if they were, that’d be pretty fucking awesome. You can contribute up to $5,500 per year in IRAs and $18,000 in 401ks. The math gets a bit wonky because you can make additional contributions when you’re older, and the contribution limits have (and will continue) to change over time, so let’s just stick with these simple numbers. If I were to max out these accounts every year from age 28 (when I graduated) until I retired at age 65, here’s what I would have:
Total Amount: $3,767,922.53
What I Put In: $869,500
What I Earned: $2,898,422.53
Percent Return: 333%
My uncle runs a forestry management company in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (yaaa, he’s one of dem yoopers, eh?). His advice to me once was, “the best time to plant a tree was yesterday. The second-best time is today.”
If you didn’t have all your ducks in a row as an overly-pretentious five-year-old (or had parents who taught you that the stock market was some kind of grocery store), don’t worry. You can still claim your share of money. But you have to start today.
Even if all you can afford is $5 per month, go for it. Hell, we’re only putting in $50 per month into our IRAs (*gaaassssspp* Calm down! I can hear you guys!). Putting in such a small amount has gotten us into the habit of investing, where we didn’t have it before. This—and calculations like the ones above—only serve to light a fire under our asses to start saving up even more when we can afford it.
And you better believe I’ll be shoveling cash in my investment accounts faster than the Michael Phelps in a speedo when we’ve paid off all our debt.
What gets you motivated to invest? Try out a calculation yourself using the same calculator and let me know what your numbers look like in the comments section below!