I have this little calculator built into my cellular phone. Sometimes, when I’m bored, I’ll pull out the cell and goof around with the calculator. So, the other night I had the following thought, “How much money have I made during my lifetime.” Here are the details. I’m almost 32, and I’ve worked since I was about 14. The breakdown:

 Year Salary 1990 3000 1991 3500 1992 7000 1993 9000 1994 9000 1995 10000 1996 20000 1997 20000 1998 22000 1999 25000 2000 30000 2001 32000 2002 34000 2003 35000 2004 38000 2005 40000 2006 42000

These are rather rough estimates (but pretty close). I got my first “real” job in 1996. So, how much money have I made, in salary, over the past 17 years? \$379,500. Now, for some folks, that’s not much money, and for others, it’s a lot of money. Whatever you think about the amount (which I consider to be pretty sizable for a dude with no college education who works in a a small, rural town in Georgia) you have to admit that it is a pretty decent chunk of change. This got me to thinking a little bit further. What IF, instead of spending all of my money (as I did every year until the past two) I had actually SAVED 10 percent of my salary, at say 8 percent interest, per year. Let’s run the numbers:

 Ten Percent End Of Year 300.00 324.00 350.00 727.92 700.00 1542.15 900.00 2637.53 900.00 3820.53 1000.00 5206.17 2000.00 7782.66 2000.00 10565.28 2200.00 13786.50 2500.00 17589.42 3000.00 22236.57 3200.00 27471.50 3400.00 33341.22 3500.00 39788.52 3800.00 47075.60 4000.00 55161.64 4200.00 64110.58

At the end of the 17 year period, I would have had 64,410.58 in my retirement account. Not bad. Instead, I have about 20K. Now, for the sobering reality. Ready? If I NEVER put another dollar into retirement, but left that 64K to grow at 8 percent, how much money would I have in, say, 30 years when I’m ready to retire?

Over \$640,000.

Yep, that’s right. If I had saved just 10 percent of my income for the past 17 years, in 30 years I would have over \$640,000 dollars, without ever saving another dime. But, what if I waited just 5 more years to retire, when I will be 67?

Over \$940,000.

Wow! Now, as you can see, I have “low-balled” my estimates. I assumed a VERY modest amount of savings, and a very, very modest rate of return, and I STILL would have almost 1 MILLION dollars in my retirement account. Do you SEE how important time is? If you are a young person and you are reading this, please realize the EXTREME importance of starting NOW. I’m already playing catch-up, and I’m debt free with 20K in the bank. You have to get started. NOW!