Disclaimer. After nearly 40 years managing money for some of the largest life offices and investment managers in the world, I think I have something to offer. But I can't by law give you advice, and I do make mistakes. Remember: the unexpected sometimes happens. Oddly enough, the expected does too, but all too often it takes longer than you thought it would, or on the other hand happens more quickly than you expected. The Goddess of Markets punishes (eventually) greed, folly, laziness and arrogance. No matter how many years you've served Her. Take care. Be humble. And don't blame me.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Get Rich Slowly

Most ppl would like to get rich quickly: win the lotto, marry well, discover some fantastic thing which will make you enormously rich.  I wish you well.  Alas, most of us have to save up our capital over time.

Let's make some simple assumptions.  Let's assume that the total return (i.e., capital plus dividends/interest) is 8%.  Let's assume the inflation rate is 3% so the real return is 5%.  Assume the average wage is $60000 per annum (it's a bit higher than that in Australia) and that you can only save 10% of your pay.  That's quite a low percentage: in China, the average worker saves 40%, in Victorian Britain the savings rate was 25%.  Assume that you go on saving 10% of your pay, and that pay rises by the inflation rate but no faster (so no rise in real terms)

The chart shows how your capital grows.  By 20 years you'd have $330,000, by 24 years $500,000 and by 30 years nearly $900,000.  Just from 10% a year -- of course, that's assuming that all income and capital gains are reinvested.

As it happens, the very long term total return from both residential property and shares in Australia is around 12% per annum, and that includes the 1987 crash, the GFC, etc.  At 12%, 30 years would give you $1.8 million, and 25 years $1 million.  All from saving.

The Asian cultures know this, just as ours once did.  We now borrow heavily to fund our lifestyle.  They have high savings ratios.  Who do you think will be the richer over time?

And yes, I've ignored taxes.  But you can find low-tax and tax-free environments to park your savings as well as other tax minimisation strategies.  And anyway, even at 8% the cumulative effect of savings plus time is substantial, and the actual return (in Oz) has been 50% higher.

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