Investing 101: The Concept Of Compounding
AAA
  1. Investing 101: Introduction
  2. Investing 101: What Is Investing?
  3. Investing 101: The Concept Of Compounding
  4. Investing 101: Knowing Yourself
  5. Investing 101: Preparing For Contradictions
  6. Investing 101: Types Of Investments
  7. Investing 101: Portfolios And Diversification
  8. Investing 101: Conclusion

Investing 101: The Concept Of Compounding


Albert Einstein called compound interest "the greatest mathematical discovery of all time". We think this is true partly because, unlike the trigonometry or calculus you studied back in high school, compounding can be applied to everyday life.

The wonder of compounding (sometimes called "compound interest") transforms your working money into a state-of-the-art, highly powerful income-generating tool. Compounding is the process of generating earnings on an asset's reinvested earnings. To work, it requires two things: the re-investment of earnings and time. The more time you give your investments, the more you are able to accelerate the income potential of your original investment, which takes the pressure off of you.

To demonstrate, let's look at an example:

If you invest $10,000 today at 6%, you will have $10,600 in one year ($10,000 x 1.06). Now let's say that rather than withdraw the $600 gained from interest, you keep it in there for another year. If you continue to earn the same rate of 6%, your investment will grow to $11,236.00 ($10,600 x 1.06) by the end of the second year.

Because you reinvested that $600, it works together with the original investment, earning you $636, which is $36 more than the previous year. This little bit extra may seem like peanuts now, but let's not forget that you didn't have to lift a finger to earn that $36. More importantly, this $36 also has the capacity to earn interest. After the next year, your investment will be worth $11,910.16 ($11,236 x 1.06). This time you earned $674.16, which is $74.16 more interest than the first year. This increase in the amount made each year is compounding in action: interest earning interest on interest and so on. This will continue as long as you keep reinvesting and earning interest.

Starting Early
Consider two individuals, we'll name them Pam and Sam. Both Pam and Sam are the same age. When Pam was 25 she invested $15,000 at an interest rate of 5.5%. For simplicity, let's assume the interest rate was compounded annually. By the time Pam reaches 50, she will have $57,200.89 ($15,000 x [1.055^25]) in her bank account.

Pam's friend, Sam, did not start investing until he reached age 35. At that time, he invested $15,000 at the same interest rate of 5.5% compounded annually. By the time Sam reaches age 50, he will have $33,487.15 ($15,000 x [1.055^15]) in his bank account.

What happened? Both Pam and Sam are 50 years old, but Pam has $23,713.74 ($57,200.89 - $33,487.15) more in her savings account than Sam, even though he invested the same amount of money! By giving her investment more time to grow, Pam earned a total of $42,200.89 in interest and Sam earned only $18,487.15.

Editor's Note: For now, we will have to ask you to trust that these calculations are correct. In this tutorial we concentrate on the results of compounding rather than the mathematics behind it. (If you'd like to learn more about how the numbers work, see Understanding The Time Value Of Money.)

Both Pam and Sam's earnings rates are demonstrated in the following chart:




You can see that both investments start to grow slowly and then accelerate, as reflected in the increase in the curves' steepness. Pam's line becomes steeper as she nears her 50s not simply because she has accumulated more interest, but because this accumulated interest is itself accruing more interest.



Pam's line gets even steeper (her rate of return increases) in another 10 years. At age 60 she would have nearly $100,000 in her bank account, while Sam would only have around $60,000, a $40,000 difference!


When you invest, always keep in mind that compounding amplifies the growth of your working money. Just like investing maximizes your earning potential, compounding maximizes the earning potential of your investments - but remember, because time and reinvesting make compounding work, you must keep your hands off the principal and earned interest.
Investing 101: Knowing Yourself

  1. Investing 101: Introduction
  2. Investing 101: What Is Investing?
  3. Investing 101: The Concept Of Compounding
  4. Investing 101: Knowing Yourself
  5. Investing 101: Preparing For Contradictions
  6. Investing 101: Types Of Investments
  7. Investing 101: Portfolios And Diversification
  8. Investing 101: Conclusion
RELATED TERMS
  1. Bid Wanted

    An announcement by an investor who holds a security that he or ...
  2. Multibank Holding Company

    A company that owns or controls two or more banks. Mutlibank ...
  3. Short Put

    A type of strategy regarding a put option, which is a contract ...
  4. Cash-And-Carry Trade

    A trading strategy in which an investor buys a long position ...
  5. Wingspread

    To maximize potential returns for certain levels of risk (while ...
  6. Volatility Smile

    A u-shaped pattern that develops when an option’s implied volatility ...
  1. What are the differences between divergence and convergence?

    Find out what technical analysts mean when they talk about a market experiencing divergence or convergence and how they affect ...
  2. What are the most common momentum oscillators used in options trading?

    Read about some of the most common technical momentum oscillators that options traders use, and learn why momentum is a critical ...
  3. How are Morning Star patterns interpreted by analysts and traders?

    Understand the elements of the morning star candlestick pattern and how this reversal signal is interpreted by traders and ...
  4. What are the best indicators to identify overbought and oversold stocks?

    Learn about the interpretation of the relative strength index and stochastics, two of the most popular indicators of overbought ...

You May Also Like

Related Tutorials
  1. Bonds & Fixed Income

    Investing For Safety and Income Tutorial

  2. Economics

    American Depositary Receipt Basics

  3. Investing Basics

    Stock Basics Tutorial

  4. Options & Futures

    Binary Options Tutorial

  5. The New York Stock Exchange
    Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Top ETFs And What They Track: A Tutorial

Trading Center