Monday, August 7, 2017

97. It steals your future.

Billionaire Warren Buffet attributes his wealth to “a combination of living in America, some lucky genes, and compound interest.” With savings and time, anyone can benefit from compound interest. Its effects are extraordinary. As investor JL Collins explains, “you’ll wind up rich” and “not just in money” if you simply spend less than you earn, invest the surplus, and avoid debt. Of course, money that you save when you are young has more time to grow than money that you save later. That is why it is so important to start saving money as soon as possible. Life is expensive. You may not be thinking about saving for retirement right now, but you should be, because retirement pensions have largely disappeared, and you will probably depend on your savings someday. Unfortunately, graduate students are much more likely to go into debt than to save money. This brings us back to Reason 1.

There is an adage: “He who understands compound interest will earn it; he who does not will pay it.” If you borrow money in the form of a student loan, you are obligated to pay back every penny that you borrowed plus interest. As a graduate student, even if you manage to stay out of debt, you are still not earning a proper salary at a time in your life when saving money could do you tremendous good. Worse, you are entering a profession for which there is a long period of apprenticeship (see Reason 4), in which jobs are scarce (see Reason 8), and in which highly trained people do extremely low-paying work (see Reason 14). Your wise friends outside of academe will have built up a nest egg before your academic career has even started (see Reason 63). Moreover, Social Security benefits are based on an average of 35 years of personal earnings, so a long spell in graduate school can eat into your future Social Security income. There is a perception that graduate school leads to a better life, but working, saving, and building wealth while you are young is a much more reliable route to success. Just remember to spend less than you earn.