Money

Money expert says this simple chart from 1994 changed his life

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Sometimes the simplest things can have the biggest impact.

For The New York Times' columnist and author Ron Lieber, a simple compound interest chart published in 1994 by USAA changed his life:

The chart shows how much money you'll accumulate over time if you invest $250 a month starting at different ages. It assumes an eight percent average annual investment return.

If you start at age:

25: You'll accumulate $878,570 by age 65

35: You'll accumulate $375,073 by age 65

45: You'll accumulate $148,236 by age 65

As the numbers show, starting early is advantageous, thanks to a phenomenon known as compound interest. Compounding makes a sum grow at a faster rate than simple interest, because in addition to earning returns on the money you invest, you also earn returns on those returns over time.

It can get you pretty far. In fact, ultimately, compound interest can make you a millionaire, as this chart from personal finance site NerdWallet reveals:

Inspired to put your money to work? The simplest starting point is to invest in your employer's 401(k) plan, a tax-advantaged retirement savings account. Next, consider alternate retirement savings accounts, such as a Roth IRA, traditional IRA and/or a health savings account.

You can also research low-cost index funds, which Warren Buffett recommends, and online investment platforms known as robo-advisers.

And remember, when you start saving outweighs how much you save.

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