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How to Achieve Financial Independence in 5 Years?

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In the digital age, many young Malaysians are eager to invest and grow their hard-earned money.

Through information, they have obtained on the internet and through their peers, they understand the importance of growing their wealth through investing and have a desire to achieve financial independence as early as possible.

There are also young adults who find it more comfortable to not invest until their financial situation becomes more stable or they have more money to invest.

For this category, they are looking to invest and will do so when they have the extra disposable income to set aside.

There are also others who have embraced the YOLO lifestyle, looking to live in the present and are accustomed to instant gratification.

They spend every ringgit they earn, and perhaps even more by borrowing through their credit card or personal loans and choosing to let tomorrow worry about itself.

Whichever category you may fit in, one key point to take home is that if you’re in your 20s, you have a big advantage over many others when it comes to investing.

Here are three reasons why your age can be your biggest advantage:

1. Time and Compounding Interest

There is a famous saying attributed to Albert Einstein where he called compound interest the “8th Wonder of the World.”

Whether Einstein said this or not, compound interest is the key that allows young investors to grow their wealth over time.

Compound interest requires only two things: the reinvestment of earnings and time.

  • Compound interest can be thought of as “interest on interest,” and will make a sum grow at a faster rate than the simple interest which is calculated only on the principal amount.
  • Interest can be compounded on any given frequency schedule from daily, to annually.
  • When calculating compound interest, the number of compounding periods makes a significant difference.

Assuming a 6% interest rate per annum, the table below shows the stark difference in the final amount based on how long an initial investment of RM10,000 is put to work:

Starting Age Compounding Period (Years) Final Amount at Age 60
20 40 RM 102,857
30 30 RM 57,434
40 20 RM 32,071

The longer money is put to work, the more wealth it can generate in the future for you.

Here’s another chart that demonstrates how much you would need to set aside every month at different ages, assuming you are looking to accumulate RM1 million for your retirement.

As shown below, if you start investing at an earlier age, it is much easier to hit your financial targets through the sheer power of compounding interest.

How to Accumulate RM1 million by the age of 60

2. The Ability To Take Risk

It goes without saying that higher-risk investments that are more volatile yield the highest return. Simply put, the higher the risk, the higher the return and the lower risk, the lower the return.

Younger investors are usually focused on growing their wealth and should invest in higher return investments.

This is because you have the time to recover if something were to go wrong, giving you the opportunity to make riskier moves. For example, when you are in your 20s, even if you suffer a loss today, you’ll be working for the next 25-40 years and have many years to earn an income. In short, you’ll likely recover from that investment loss.

Those who begin to invest late in life are often inherently more cautious with how they invest their money.

As one nears retirement, one usually starts allocating their investment portfolio to lower risk assets which correspondingly have lower returns. By starting late and having lower returns, one might fall short of their financial goals.

3. Learning by Doing

As a younger investor, you have the flexibility and time to study investing and learn from both successes and failures.

Since investing has a fairly lengthy learning curve, young adults are at an advantage because they have years to study the markets and refine their investing strategies.

You will make money, and lose money on some investments.

Examples of things one needs to learn can include opening a stock trading account, opening a mutual fund account, buying real estate, or even calculating investment returns – these are all best learnt through experience.

There are many other aspects when it comes to investing such as understanding how the market works, how the economic cycle affects your investment, or how mutual funds and Robo-advisor fees can affect your returns.

Gaining this experience at a younger age will give you the confidence and knowledge to invest and grow your wealth to achieve your financial goals in the long term.

Capitalise on your biggest advantage

There are many factors that one looks at when designing an investment portfolio. Ultimately, it should be designed to allow you to achieve your financial goals, be it short-term such as planning for a wedding, or long-term such as retirement.

It cannot be overstated how beneficial it is to start early. In today’s information age, it’s your responsibility as a young investor to educate yourself on investing and take action to capitalise on the key advantage you have, which is time.

Time cannot be bought and unlike investment losses, lost time cannot be recovered.

Every day you delay is an opportunity loss to capitalise on the power of compounding interest and the ability to take risks.

When one starts early, you get to learn from experience and make mistakes when they are less costly (ie. you have less money to lose) compared to when you get older.

Nicholas Wong is a licenced financial planner that specialises in advising professionals and millennials to achieve their financial goals. He can be contacted at nicholas.wong@ipp.com.my

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