The Power of Compound Interest

Many South Africans are unfortunately ill-prepared for retirement, and it’s an unsettling prospect that so many citizens of this developing nation may not be able to support themselves in their golden years.

However, the beauty of compound interest means that if you start saving from an early age, investing in your future doesn’t have to be the heavy financial burden that many people fear (and thus postpone). The power of compound interest actually makes saving from an early age much cheaper and less stressful than if you were to put off saving until you’re older.

Albert Einstein referred to compound interest as “the greatest mathematical discovery of all time”, and he declared it to be “the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it … he who doesn’t … pays it”.

In a recent article published by CNBC Africa, the power of compound interest is explained with the following example.

“Based on a growth rate of 10% per annum, if one saves R1,000 a month, the capital amount after 20 years would be R759,300. If one saves R1,000 per month for 40 years, the value would be R6.3 million… The total contributions for the client who saved for 20 years was R240,000 and the contributions of the client who saved for 40 years was R480,000, yet the difference in their values at retirement was a massive R5.5 million.”

This is because compound interest is the interest calculated on the initial principal, compounded with accumulated interest. It is essentially the result of reinvesting interest so that interest is then earned on the principal sum and previously-accumulated interest combined. To put it simply, it can be thought of as ‘interest on interest on interest,’ and it will make a sum grow at a faster rate than simple interest, which is is calculated only on the principal amount.

The company that you work for may make monthly contributions to your retirement either in addition to your wage or through salary sacrifice. According to the article, if “you begin with your company retirement fund at age 25, then 19% of your salary should be sufficient should you continue with this for the next 40 years and not cash-in your funds on resignation or retrenchment, but rather preserve them. Should you start working later, then you would need to invest a higher percentage of your salary to compensate for your lack of compound growth in previous years.”

Time is of the essence when it comes to taking advantage of the effects of compound interest to build a healthy savings pot that will provide for you in your autumn years, as well as potentially allow you to support your children with their financial goals. The bottom line is that the longer you wait to start saving, the more money you will need to save to achieve the same financial goal. And this is particularly the case when it comes to retirement savings, as this could benefit from a 40-year saving term.

The power of compound interest lies not in saving vast amounts, but instead when you start saving. Don’t underestimate its power, and don’t hesitate to arrange a meeting to find out how much you need to save per month to reach your retirement goals. Calculations will be based specifically on your current age, desired retirement age, and future requirements, so don’t delay in making compound interest work for you.

Please note that all figures in this post are average examples and don’t represent an actual financial plan. Each plan is unique and needs to be tailored inside of a host of influencing factors.

Posted in Blog, financial-planning.