By: Tedra Osell January 14, 2020
If you’re a recent graduate, investing might feel like something to think about later. Once you’re making money, it’s tempting to spend it – especially if you’ve been living on a tight budget during your student years.
But the real key to financial freedom is building wealth. A night on the town or a new wardrobe may seem like a reasonable priority now, but there are bigger financial priorities ahead in life for you – and you may be able to more easily achieve those objectives if you have the foresight and discipline to set aside some of your new salary to start investing now.
Why you should invest
Do you want to buy a new car, a house, a boat? See the world? Have kids and send them through college?
Maybe retiring early is your goal. As you embark on a career, it may feel like retirement is the last thing you need to worry about. It can be hard to visualize retirement when you’re in your 20s. But it’s better to start somewhere than nowhere at all. So, how do you start?
It all begins with saving and investing. The sooner you start, the sooner these goals can become realities.
For instance, if you would like to buy a house, building your savings through a periodic investment plan may help you reach your goals more quickly. Investments like stocks, bonds and mutual funds offer the potential for helping your nest egg grow faster than simple savings. It’s important to note that those investments do carry the risk of loss of principal: there’s no guarantee that your investments will grow, and you can lose money investing in the stock market. A thoughtful investment plan can balance risk by spreading it out: putting some in savings and some in mutual funds, for instance.
Here are seven timeless insights to help you get your investment program on track:
1. Don’t be in a rush to get your own place. If you’re still living at home, this may be an excellent time to get a head start on your investment plan. If home isn’t an option, sharing expenses with a roommate saves money over living on your own – and you can start investing modestly with some of the money you’re saving.
2. Look for work that offers career advancement – and a competitive salary. It may be tempting to take a job as a ski instructor in Vail, but will the cost of living there eat up all the money you earn? Will teaching aerobics at your health club give you a path for advancement with regular salary increases? If you focus on building wealth with a steady job in a field that offers a path for advancement, you may be able to afford ski vacations in a few years as your salary increases. If you build wealth through investing, you may someday find yourself in a position to buy a vacation home.
3. Mutual funds make diversifying easy. Investing in mutual funds is one of the easiest ways for many people to invest. By bundling many stocks or bonds into one collected fund, they give individual investors the opportunity to diversify. One benefit of diversifying through mutual funds is that the overall risk of a bundle of investments is often lower than the risk of a single investment: if one company’s stock has problems, there are others in the portfolio that may cushion the blow.
While diversification can help reduce market risk, it does not eliminate it. Diversification does not assure a profit or protect against loss in a declining market.
As you grow your portfolio, you can diversify further by investing in different kinds of funds. There are funds that invest primarily in large capitalization growth stocks, funds made up entirely of small companies, funds focused on sustainability, funds that invest in specific countries or regions, funds that invest in a balanced mix of stocks and lower-risk bonds, and so on.
Thrivent Mutual Funds offers more than 20 mutual funds that give investors the opportunity to participate in the stock or bond markets with the convenience of broad diversification and professional management. (See: Asset Allocation Funds Can Help Tame Volatility)
4. If your job offers a 401(k), it may be the easiest retirement savings plan available. Money that gets taken out of your paycheck before you even see it – automatically invested in a 401(k) plan – is money you won’t miss and can’t spend. And many employers will match your contribution fully or in part, which can exponentially increase your eventual payout. What’s more, with most 401(k) plans, you don’t pay taxes on your contributions until you withdraw the money during retirement.
If you work for yourself or own your own small business, there are other ways to start building your nest egg with a tax-deferred retirement plan, including a “Simplified Employee Pension Plan” (SEP) that may allow you to contribute thousands of dollars each year to a tax-deferred account. (See: If You’re Self-Employed You Can Still Benefit from a Tax-Differed Retirement Plan)
5. IRAs are also tax-deferred. Whether or not a 401(k) is available to you, you should consider opening an individual retirement account, or IRA. There are two main types: a traditional IRA, which lets you avoid taxes now, though you’ll pay taxes on it when you withdraw the money in retirement, and a Roth IRA.
When comparing traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs, taxes are a key difference between. Traditional IRAs offer a potentially tax-deductible way to contribute to your retirement, in which your contributions and earnings aren’t taxed until they’re withdrawn. In contrast to a traditional IRA, a Roth IRA is an individual retirement account in which your contributions are made with money you’ve already paid taxes on, allowing “qualified withdrawals” of earnings that are tax- and penalty-free. (See: Traditional IRA versus Roth IRA: Which is Right for You?)
6. Start small, but START. You don’t necessarily have to start by investing a large amount. Thrivent Mutual Funds allows you to set up an automatic monthly contribution of $50 a month.i (See: IRA contribution rules and limits) The plan is available whether you are opening an IRA account or a standard retail brokerage account. Through time and the power of compounding, your $50-a-month investment may contribute significantly to your retirement fund – or your other important financial goals.
7. Consider investing even if you’re still paying off student loans. Money might be tight, but the habit of investing is worth cultivating, and the value of time can be a powerful force. There may be a significant difference in your long-term returns by starting now rather than putting it off a few more years. (See: How Much Are You Missing Out on Every Day You Don’t Invest?)
The table below compares the growth of two hypothetical investment timelines – one in which the investor starts contributing $100 a month now and stops contributing in 10 years (a total of $12,000), and the other one in which the investor starts investing $100 a month beginning in 10 years and continues for the next four decades (a total of $48,000).
As the table illustrates, over a 50-year period with an average annual return of 7%, you could earn more over the next 50 years by investing $100 a month for the next 10 years – and never investing again – than you could if you start 10 years from now and invest $100 a month over the next 40 years. In other words, by investing $12,000 over the next 10 years, you would end up with a bigger nest egg than you would if you start in 10 years and invested a total of $48,000 over the following 40 years. Please keep in mind, the results shown are strictly hypothetical and do not represent a specific investment, and there’s no guarantee that your investment portfolio will match the returns illustrated here; in fact, you can lose money investing in the markets.
The key, however, is the power of time. Simply by starting 10 years earlier, a smaller investment has more time to grow.
The Value of Time
Comparative long-term returns based on 7% average annual return with monthly compounding
|Timeframe||If you start investing now||Your portfolio: Account value||If you start investing in 10 years||Account value of second portfolio|
One final note: Don’t put off investing because you think you need to be a stock market expert. Setting up a 401(k), a mutual fund account or an IRA doesn’t have to be complicated, and one of the key benefits of mutual funds is that you don’t need to manage your own portfolio.
You can pick from a variety of mutual funds through Thrivent Mutual Funds. If you’re intimidated or inclined to procrastinate, consider talking with a financial advisor. Read more about choosing a financial advisor here: Getting Help Investing Is a Sign of Strength, Not Weakness.
Start investing with an amount you can afford and an approach that helps you feel comfortable. But do start: the longer you wait, the less time your money has to work for you.
i New accounts with a minimum investment amount of $50 are offered through the Thrivent Mutual Funds “automatic investment plan.” Otherwise, the minimum initial investment requirement is $2,000, with a minimum subsequent investment requirement of $50 for non-retirement accounts. For IRA or tax-deferred accounts, the minimum initial investment requirement is $1,000 and the minimum subsequent investment requirement is $50.
The concepts presented are intended for educational purposes only. This information should not be considered investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy, or product. At Thrivent Mutual Funds, we recommend you consult your tax advisor to make sure you’re getting the most out of your investments. Thrivent Mutual Funds and their representatives cannot provide legal or tax advice.
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