Last week, I saw a Tweet from someone lamenting that their relatives could have made a few million dollars if only they invested their money. Instead, they saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank for decades earning little interest. I don’t know all the details of it so I don’t want to get into the specific situation. Instead, I wanted to share that it inspired me to make this Thanksgiving reflection:
Adding that I'm thankful for my mother's financial influence to the list of things I forgot to be thankful for yesterday.
— LazyManAndMoney (@LazyManAndMoney) November 28, 2020
I realize that I’m in the minority… a tiny fraction of a minority of people who learned about saving, compound interest, and investing very early. I live at the intersection of Nerdy and Boring, so those topics interested me. I know I’m weird.
For everyone else, getting started investing is tough. It can be confusing. But before you can get started investing you need to save some money. That’s a huge obstacle for many with student loans, child care, expensive housing, health care costs, stagnant wages, etc. (I’m sure I missed a few in there.)
If you are anything like me or anyone else I know, life keeps you busy. It’s easy to put saving and investing to the bottom of the priority list. You can always find time to save and invest later, right? (Unfortunately, wasted time investing can be costly with to how compound interest works.)
I think it’s a mistake to put off saving and investing. Today, I wanted to present two powerful mental hacks that motivated me to keep saving and investing.
1. “Retire” Expenses for Life
We all have monthly expenses. Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t? Who wouldn’t want free Netflix, a free car, or a free home?
Well it’s all possible, but you have to start small. There’s a thing in personal finance called the Rule of 25. It’s the inverse of of the 4% Rule. The 4% Rule can get complicated, but it roughly says that if you have $1,000,000 invested you can spend $40,000 (4%) a year and retire. I cover some of the more complicated parts in the 4% Rule link above, but for now we’ll rely on it as if it were proven fact. The inverse of this means that if you have $40,000 in annual expenses, you should save 25x… or $1,000,000.
Your total expenses are made of many little ones – things like house, car, utilities, and even that streaming subscription.
Let’s take Amazon Prime as an example. Prime is so popular that I’m guessing most of you can relate. It’s $120 a year, which makes the math convenient for us. If you save and invest 25x or $3000, you can have Amazon Prime for life. It seems like a lot of money to save for that expense, but compound interest can really help you out. You don’t have to invest $3000 at once.
2. Track Your Net Worth by Percentage
You may see some bloggers posting about how their net worth jumped 2% for the month making them $40,000. That can happen when you have a $2 million dollar investing nest egg. I’ve got good news and bad news about that. The bad news is that $2 million nest eggs is not very normal. Fortunately, you already knew that bad news. The good news is that the story behind the nest egg is usually saving and investing over a number of years. That’s doable if you have the right mix of income, frugality, steady investment, and some market luck.
When you are starting out, the large numbers can seem either inspiring or scary. I could see people going in both directions. I see it as inspiring, but I’ve read comments from people that say, “I could never do that kind of thing.” Everyone’s situation is unique. I’ve read stories about a 9-year-old who is worth over a hundred million dollars from his YouTube success. I’ve also read stories about the low-income janitor who died with millions of savings. There’s a lot of room for financial success anywhere in between.
When you are starting out, try to focus on your monthly gain of net worth. Hopefully, you are saving some money and because your net worth is low, you can make big gains here. When you have $2 million dollars, it’s hard to grow your net worth by 10% (unless you are a 9-year-old millionaire YouTuber). You are at the mercy of the investment markets. When you are starting out, you might be able to grow your net worth by 20% simply by saving $2000. Saving $2000 may not be easy depending on your situation, but hopefully sneaking $40 away a week in a bank (or investing) account is something reasonable for you.
I hope that these tricks help you. The biggest thing is to get started and realize that it is okay to start small. Do you have money hacks that you use to movitate you?
I like looking at net worth gain as a percentage. When you’re starting out, you can make huge strides every year. It’s very motivational. Once you’re older and more established, then you can try to keep up with the stock market. :)