It’s Not How Much You Make, It’s How Much You Save

Many people in different businesses and within government across America do not like discussing or promoting personal savings rates but the simple fact is the path to financial security and wealth creation is navigated most effectively using a few very basic key principles.

These tools are not often discussed by those who would much prefer you spend, spend, spend so our economy can grow but that all too American style of living has simply led us down the ‘nonsense on cents‘ path of increased debt and often running in place if not worse than that in terms of building wealth. What are the keys for generating real wealth creation?

Many who regularly read this blog will be very familiar with these principles but I hope you might share this commentary with your younger friends and colleagues. Let’s navigate as John Hussman of the Hussman Funds lays out the Two Essential Elements of Wealth Accumulation,

Wealth is not acquired through addition. It is acquired through multiplication.

Very few fortunes have been made by adding up paychecks and overtime. Nor are they made through a huge one-time killing in the markets. Unfortunately, this is the path that many investors try to follow in achieving financial security.

According to statistical studies, two factors are most important in achieving wealth:

1. The number of years that an individual has been consistently saving and investing

2. The proportion of funds, on average, allocated to higher return investments

Simply stated, if your goal is to accumulate a significant amount of wealth during your lifetime, you must first save something, and then exercise some amount of control over one of two factors: the time horizon over which you compound your wealth and your long-term rate of return.

There are a preponderance of people willing to offer insights and wisdom on the second point highlighted by Hussman. Let’s focus on what I believe is the far more important key building block, that being the first.

The best way to increase the time horizon over which you compound wealth is simply to start saving and investing as early and consistently as possible.

Consider an investor earning a 10% long term rate of return. If the investor saves $2000 annually in a tax-deferred account (such as an IRA) for 10 years, and adds nothing for the next 20 years, the value of the portfolio at the end of 30 years will be $198,575. Although the investor committed a total of only $20,000, the account will have grown nearly tenfold.

Now consider an investor who fails to start early. Suppose that the investor saves nothing during the first 10 years, and then attempts to make up for lost time by investing $2000 annually for each of the next 20 years. At the end of 30 years, the value of this portfolio will be just $114,550.

The investor has committed a total of $40,000, twice as much as the first investor, but because the funds were not given as much time to compound, the investor retires with just over half as much wealth as the early bird. The higher the compound annual rate of return, or the greater the number of years to retirement, the more dramatic the effect that an early start will have on the ending wealth.

In regard to savings, Hussman provides equally sage advice in writing,

The key rule of saving is this. Don’t let your savings adjust to your spending needs. Let your spending adjust to your savings needs.

It will help tremendously if you budget a certain amount of saving monthly, and make your investments first, as if you were paying a telephone bill. If you wait until all the bills are paid and all the spending is done, the result may be that you have nothing meaningful left to invest.

Make your monthly investments when you pay your other bills, and treat them as if they had a substantial late-payment penalty. The penalty for starting a savings program late really is enormous.

Financial security does not require extraordinary income or investment “home runs.” It requires, first and foremost, that you start saving and investing early, and add to your investments consistently.

These key principles and the discipline required to implement them may be increasingly challenging in light of the lack of growth in personal incomes currently but that fact makes them all that more important.

About Larry Doyle 522 Articles

Larry Doyle embarked on his Wall Street career in 1983 as a mortgage-backed securities trader for The First Boston Corporation. He was involved in the growth and development of the secondary mortgage market from its near infancy.

After close to 7 years at First Boston, Larry joined Bear Stearns in early 1990 as a mortgage trader. In 1993, Larry was named a Senior Managing Director at the firm. He left Bear to join Union Bank of Switzerland in late 1996 as Head of Mortgage Trading.

In 1998, after 15 years of trading and precipitated by Swiss Bank’s takeover of UBS, Larry moved from trading to sales as a senior salesperson at Bank of America. His move into sales led him to the role as National Sales Manager for Securitized Products at JP Morgan Chase in 2000. He was integrally involved in developing the department, hiring 40 salespeople, and generating $300 million in sales revenue. He left JP Morgan in 2006.

Throughout his career, Larry eagerly engaged clients and colleagues. He has mentored dozens of junior colleagues, recruited at a number of colleges and universities, and interviewed hundreds. He has also had extensive public speaking experience. Additionally, Larry served as Chair of the Mortgage Trading Committee for the Public Securities Association (PSA) in the mid-90s.

Larry graduated Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa in 1983 from the College of the Holy Cross.

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