There are perks to being a personal finance blogger. I get positive feedback from readers. I was invited to help ring the NYSE bell on Wall Street. And you get sent free things to review occasionally.
That’s where Wealth by Virtue by Chad Gordon came from – it showed up on my doorstep one day.
Because I have two college-age kids at the beginning of their saving journey, I was immediately struck by his “Time Value of Money” section.
The main takeaways:
1. Start Early
Gordon gives the example of “Mary and Terry.” Mary saves $100 per month starting when they both turn 21 and earns a 10% return. Terry saves nothing in her 20s. Nine years later on their 30th birthday, Mary stops saving entirely, while Terry starts saving $100 per month with the same 10% return. When they turn 80, even though Mary hasn’t invested a penny for 50 years while Terry has been socking away $100/month the whole time, Mary STILL HAS MORE MONEY. She has $332k more than Terry. When they both turn 100, Mary has increased the difference – she is now $1M richer!
It’s hard to fathom, but that’s the time value of money. The miracle of compound interest is the reason why super billionaire Warren Buffett made 99.7% of his money after the age of 52.
What to do as a result of knowing this? Start investing now, no matter how old you are. Twenty-one is best, but 30 is better than 40 is better than 50. The easiest way to get started is to ask your employer to set aside 401k/403b funds before they hit your paycheck. If your employer doesn’t offer a retirement benefit, do it yourself.
2. Your Rate of Return Matters – a Lot
Many years of investment isn’t sufficient by itself. The rate of return also really matters.
Gordon tells the story of Benjamin Franklin, who left $9,100 to Philadelphia and Boston in 1790 when he died. Unfortunately, he also specified a conservative investment vehicle which only yielded 5%, or about 2% after accounting for inflation. By 1990, with some withdrawals along the way, the funds were worth $6.5M. If the money had been invested in the general stock market, the two cities would have each had over $12B. That’s B for billion.
He notes that a 1% difference in investment returns doesn’t sound like much, but over a lifetime, it’s huge. He gives the example of two people at 20 years of age with $100,000, one of whom earns 10% and one 9%. By the time they reach 80, the 10% earner will have $12.8M more than the 9% earner. By 100 years, the difference is $106.2M:
What to do as a result of knowing this? Pour your savings into good-yielding, low-cost investments that are relatively safe, like exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or index funds. ETFs are baskets of stocks or other securities (good yielding and relatively safe) that aren’t actively managed (low cost).
Other Thoughts on Wealth by Virtue
For a book that came free to me, it’s surprisingly well-made. It’s a hardcover, with heavy stock pages and quality printing. A great coffee table book if nothing else. But once I started to dig into it, I was equally impressed with the content.
The only head-scratcher? The title and cover art. The bull and bear kumbaya-ing together is a beautiful – and nonsensical – image. ‘Virtue’ typically includes a moral dimension, but the only virtue Gordon calls for is some judiciousness and discipline.
Oh, and he’s oddly optimistic about progress in extending human life: “Research is currently confirming that aging itself is not an inevitable part of being a human, but is a curable disease that will likely someday be reversed.”
Bwahahahahahaha. But the message is solid – you’ll probably live longer than you think and should plan accordingly.
That said, this book is well worth the $32 (Amazon) investment. You’ll save (or earn) that much additional money in a short period due to what you learn, and it’s nice enough (and the info timeless enough) to file it in your personal library, and even pass it to the next generation.
Gordon organizes all areas of personal finance planning into six areas:
- Two “What Could Happen” areas – insurance & legal planning
- Two “What Should Happen” areas – real estate & investments
- Two “What Is” areas – banking & taxes
He explains them in enough detail to make sense but intelligently enough that you don’t feel talked down to. And he does all this with enough charts and graphs to support every point, enough real-life stories to keep you interested, and enough wit to keep you chuckling every page or two.
If you live local, let me know if you want to check it out of my personal lending library. 🙂