Here's How Much Money You Could Have if You Invested $1,000 a Month for 20 Years

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Investing money in a brokerage account is a smart financial move, but many people don’t realize just how powerful investing is as a wealth-building tool. In fact, buying assets that provide you with reasonable returns is one of the keys to achieving financial independence for the vast majority of people.

To understand just why and how investing can be helpful, let’s take a look at what happens if you invest $1,000 a month for a period of 20 years.

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Here’s what a $1,000 monthly investment could do for you

Investing $1,000 a month for two decades is undoubtedly going to help your money to grow, but the specific amount you’ll end up with varies depending on the returns you earn.

For many people, it’s reasonable to expect a 10% average annual return. That’s what the S&P 500 (a financial index of around 500 of the largest U.S. companies) has consistently produced over time, so if you don’t know how to pick stocks and don’t want to try to figure it out, you can just put your money in a fund that mirrors its performance.

If you earn this 10% average annual return over a full two decades while putting in $1,000 per month during that entire time, you could end up with a nest egg of $687,306.72.

Now, you may be thinking that $1,000 a month for 20 years is a lot of money — and you’re right. But it’s nowhere near $687,306.72. In fact, the actual value of your contributions alone would be $240,000, so you could end up with about $447,307 more than the amount you put in.

The returns you earn, and compound growth, account for all that extra money. When you invest, you ideally earn a profit on that investment in most years. The gains you make can be reinvested.

So, for example, if you invested $1,200 the first year and made a $120 profit, you’d have $1,320 invested the next year. So you’d now be earning returns on $1,320 instead of $1,200. The returns you get keep growing your balance, so next year you ideally earn even more.

How to find $1,000 a month to invest

Investing $1,000 a month may seem like a big task, as it’s a total of $12,000 per year. But the average full-time worker earned $59,540 in the last quarter of 2022. So, investing $12,000 a year would mean putting away about 20% of your annual income if you earn around the average salary.

That’s a lot of money, but it’s not impossible — especially if you keep your fixed expenses low. You also have to remember that you can get tax breaks for your savings and your employer might match the contributions you are making. So you don’t necessarily have to invest that entire $1,000 a month all by yourself.

Say your employer offers a 401(k) and matches 50% of your contributions to it, up to 6% of your salary. You could earn an annual employer match of $3,572.40 if you earn the average annual salary, assuming you contributed at least that much to your 401(k). So, you would personally only have to contribute $8,427.60 per year to end up with $12,000 in your retirement account.

Now, let’s assume you’re in the 22% tax bracket, which is where you’d be as a single tax filer with the average income. If you invest $8,427.60 a year, you’d save $1,854.07 on your taxes. So your contributions would already decrease your actual take-home income by $6,573.53. That’s about 11% of your annual income which should be very doable. The table below shows what this would look like.

Your contribution $8,427.60
Employer match $3,572.40 (maximum match based on your salary)
Total contribution $12,000
Tax deduction $1,854.07 (22% of $8,427.60)
Actual cost of contribution after tax savings $6,573.53
Data source: Author’s calculations.

As you can see, if you invest only a little more than 10% of your income, you can be on track to a nest egg of well over half-a-million dollars. So, get started today. Sign up for your company’s 401(k) if you have access to one, and ask your employer to make automatic contributions for you from your paycheck. If you don’t have a 401(k), arrange to have money taken out of your checking account each month and sent to an IRA. You’ll have to contribute a little more without the employer match, but if you can even get close to a $12,000 annual contribution, you should be well on your way to a secure future.

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The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.Christy Bieber has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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