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How Money Works Educator - Bill Mitchell

Bill Mitchell

HowMoneyWorks Educator

November 23, 2021

The Scandal of the American Financial Education System

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COVID Scams Are Everywhere - Here’s How to Thwart Them

October 28, 2021

COVID Scams Are Everywhere - Here’s How to Thwart Them

As of August 2021, Americans had lost almost $30 billion to scam calls alone.¹ That’s up 200% from 2019.

The reason for the surge is simple—scammers are ruthlessly exploiting COVID-19 anxieties to steal your money.

You get a call. Caller ID confirms it’s a ‘legit’ organization. You answer. It’s a ‘charity’ raising money for the children of COVID-19 victims. For just $500, they’ll enter you into a raffle for an expenses paid outdoor adventure!

You’re a kind, empathetic person. What’s $500, after all? So you send them the wire transfer they very specifically requested.

And then… nothing. There was no raffle. There wasn’t even a charity. Just an old-fashioned huckster cashing in on a crisis, your ignorance, and your good nature.

But that doesn’t have to be you.

With the right knowledge, you can recognize scams from a mile away. You just have to know what to look for… and how to respond.

Here’s your complete guide to thwarting scam artists, fraudsters, charlatans, and hucksters!

Don’t trust, always verify. Is someone asking you for money? Do your homework first. It doesn’t matter how legitimate they seem.

If a phone number you don’t know calls you asking for money or information, Google search the number.

If an old friend DMs you asking for money, shoot them a call to check in.

If the prince of Zimbabwe emails you asking for $10,000, delete the email.

These simple steps can reveal to you the true identities of whoever is contacting you. It might be a legitimate business or a friend… or a scammer. Either way, do your research before you commit to helping anyone financially.

Watch for emotional manipulation. Scammers are masters of playing to your hopes and fears. They’ll dangle promises of wealth and opportunity in front of you in exchange for your information. They’ll also threaten you with utter disaster if you don’t give them what they want.

Legitimate businesses and organizations will rarely resort to these cheap tricks.

The state will not inform you that you won the powerball out of the blue.

The IRS will not threaten you with jail time over the phone.

If it seems too good—or too bad—to be true, it most likely is.

Never give information to unsolicited callers. If a cold caller starts asking for your debit card pin, your bank account information, or your social security number, say no.

Tell them you need more time to think things through.

Ask to meet in person.

If all else fails, hang up the phone.

Remember, your right to say no is your greatest line of defense. Exercise it with confidence. If someone asks for your information and you feel even a twinge of doubt, say no and don’t back down.

So the next time you get a suspicious DM or call, you know exactly what to do…

Verify their identity. Watch for emotional manipulation. Never give out your information.

Look at you! You’ve taken a step from being a sucker to being assertive. You’re not a victim anymore. You’re ready to build wealth without fear of scammers stealing what’s rightfully yours.

BONUS TIP: Credit cards offer top level fraud protection. If anyone asks for a wire transfer, sends you a check to sign, or wants cash, be on your guard!

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¹ “Americans Have Already Lost $30 Billion to Scam Calls in 2021,” Jason Cohen, PCMag, Aug 6, 2021, https://www.pcmag.com/news/americans-have-already-lost-30-billion-to-scam-calls-in-2021

Face it. You’re a Sucker

September 30, 2021

Face it. You’re a Sucker

Most people don’t know how money works.

In 2018, a global survey asked over 100,000 people in 15 different countries 3 simple questions about interest, inflation, and risk diversification. 70% failed to answer all three basic questions correctly.1

The cumulative effect of that lack of knowledge can result in some sketchy decision making. So are you wondering how you’d do? See if you know the answers to the following questions…

• How much interest will you pay over the life of your car loan? • What about over the life of your mortgage? • How much life insurance do you need to protect your family financially? • How much do you need to save for retirement? • Are you on track with that? • If you’re not on track, at what age will your money run out? • How much will Social Security pay you each month? • How much monthly income will your 401(k) provide? • How old will you be when it runs out?

If you can’t answer questions like these, ask yourself if you’re like so many others who assume there will always be enough and hope everything will turn out OK.

How is that possible?

A lifetime of wild guesses and blissful ignorance explains why so many people facing retirement panic when they see how little they’ll be forced to live on for the rest of their days. Is this true for you? If so, you could find yourself saying “Wow! I thought it’d be a whole lot more.”

It’s time to face it. You’re a sucker.

Does that offend you? Good, it should. Let it be a wake-up call. When you don’t know how money works, you can be taken advantage of time and time again.

You’re a sucker. Own it and you’ve taken the first step toward not being one.

Being financially illiterate sucks. But knowing how money works will help you transition from sucker to student and from student to master. The whole point is never to be fooled again.

Not by banks.

Not by credit card companies.

Not by online offers.

Not by employers.

Not by family or friends.

Not even by the number one person in your life responsible for making money—YOU!

But how do you transition from sucker to student? Well, every student needs a teacher. YouTube videos and online tutorials are great if you need a quick fix around the home. But unless you’re REALLY handy, would you try to tackle a major plumbing job in your house based on a video you watched online? Of course not. It’s too involved and too important. You need someone with experience who does that sort of thing for a living—in other words, you need a plumber. In the long run, your personal finances are even more important than a busted pipe in your home. That’s why it’s critical to work with a licensed and qualified financial professional, who can help you repair your finances and keep them flowing smoothly.

Also, consider shadowing a money mentor. Who do you know that’s financially successful? Become their friend so you can discover what they did (and do) right. Observe their daily habits and how they make decisions. What time do they wake up? How do they use credit cards, if at all? Where do they put their money? Do they make financial decisions with their partner or separately? What you could learn from a financially-savvy friend could pay dividends down the road.

And if you need a beginner’s guide, consider the HowMoneyWorks: Stop Being a Sucker book. It’s a super-readable crash course on the basics of financial literacy that you can read in an hour but think about for a week. Just ask me how you can get a copy!

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¹ “The New Social Contract: a Blueprint For Retirement in the 21st Century —The Aegon Retirement Readiness Survey 2018,” Aegon—Center for Longevity and Retirement, May 2018, https://www.aegon.com/contentassets/6724d008b6e14fa1a4cedb41811f748a/retirement-readiness-survey-2018.pdf

“FL 101” - Financial Literacy For College Freshmen

“FL 101” - Financial Literacy For College Freshmen

College can be a lot of things. Fun. Scary. Exciting. Confusing.

But one thing is for certain—it’s that time of life when students finally break away from their parents and start making their own decisions—like how to spend their money.

And it turns out they have no clue what they’re doing in that department—statistically speaking.

Only 35% of students entering university have received any previous financial education.¹ Is not knowing how money works the major reason why freshmen blindly contribute to the $1.5 trillion of total student loan debt that exists?² Of course it is. But taking on giant loans without understanding the full magnitude of their decision isn’t the only financial mine lying in wait for undergrads. According to Sallie Mae, in 2019 the average college student had $1,183 in credit card debt—a 31% increase from 2016!³

Massive student loans and thousands in credit card debt don’t position students well for post college success, prompting many of them to take a job they don’t care about, in a field they don’t want, for a boss they don’t like. The obligation to make debt payments, which the student once thought was far in the future, now robs them of their freedom to explore, grow, and develop.

If only they had been given a true financial education in high school—or even before, they would have learned the following financial literacy basics for college freshmen…

1. Manage your debt. Student loans help millions of students fund an education that, on average, is worth about $2.8 million over the course of their lives.⁴ But it’s important to highlight that debt is nothing to take on lightly. Many students are unaware of the heavy burden they’re acquiring in the form of student loans and credit card balances.

The company Student Loan Planner reports that roughly 90% of borrowers experience significant anxiety due to their loan burden.⁵ Couple that with a 2015 survey by Equifax that revealed 55.7% of students listed ‘student loan debt’ as their top reason for not being able to afford their first home.⁶

Along with student loan debt, the average college student holds a credit card balance of $1,183. Credit cards for students are often justified as a necessary lifeline to cover living expenses. In reality, they’re often used for frivolous, impulse purchases that contribute to 49% of students being saddled with permanent credit card debt in addition to their student loans.¹

If you can’t avoid using student loans and credit cards to afford your education and living expenses, follow these guidelines to help remove debt swiftly after graduation. With your psychological and financial future at stake, the key is to reduce your debt before an onslaught of new expenses (i.e., your mortgage, children, car payments) make it even harder to pay off.

First, get a part-time job or side-hustle if you haven’t already. Second, identify your credit card with the lowest balance. Third, put as much of your income towards eliminating that debt as you can. Once that’s done, move on to the next lowest card. Repeat until your credit card debt is a hazy memory.

2. Identify a money mentor. There are two ways to gain wisdom. You can either make mistakes or learn from someone else’s. Finances are no different. Never again will you have such a perfect opportunity to find a money mentor than when you’re attending university. It’s like a learning shortcut where you get access to a whole lifetime of experience without a lifetime of making mistakes. You just have to keep an open mind and be willing to establish a real relationship with someone with financial know-how.

Your money mentor could be a parent, a grandparent, an uncle or aunt, the parent of a friend, a professor, or even a responsible upperclassman. Once you’ve identified your mentor, ask hard questions about how to spend and manage money. Pick your mentor’s brain for how they built their wealth, mistakes they made along the way, and advice for specific challenges you face. Show them your budget and have them hold you accountable for your spending decisions. Be willing to put in the work of being open, scheduling and spending time with your mentor, and implementing their advice. The connections and networks you build today will serve you long after you graduate!

3. Start building wealth NOW. Look at your bank account. Then look at your income. They might not seem like much, but they’re the humble beginnings of your future wealth—if you play your cards right! Your money has more growth potential right now than it ever will again. Allow me to demonstrate.

Let’s assume you’re 20 and want to retire at 67 with a million dollars. You find an account with a 9% annual interest rate, compounded monthly. It would only take saving $113 per month to crush that goal. What’s more, you wouldn’t have to increase your saving as you get older to retire as a millionaire. Want to retire with more? Increase it. If you start saving $226 each month now—without ever increasing the amount—you’d have $2 million. If you’ve got the flow, and you want $4 million at retirement—make it $452 each month. Starting young is the most affordable way to build wealth with compound interest.

What if you didn’t start young? What if you decided to wait until you’re 35 to start saving? Those 15 years of procrastination means you’ll have to stash away $451 monthly just to reach your million dollar retirement goal. $452 monthly now for $4 million or $451 monthly starting at 35 for $1 million. You don’t need the wealth of a king or queen to enjoy the freedoms of royalty in retirement—if you start building wealth NOW. It’s your decision whether time robs you or robes you. Even if you start saving with less than these amounts, start the habit now to set aside a regular sum of money for your future.

4. Use a budgeting app. Budgeting is important. It can also be a huge pain if you don’t know what you’re doing. Punching in numbers, setting up spreadsheet formulas, and stressing if that pizza delivery tip counts towards groceries can make tracking your expenses such an aggravating process that you don’t even bother. Fortunately, there are some excellent apps and websites out there that can take the hassle out of money management. Mint and Pocketguard, for example, are free budgeting apps that sync to your bank account and credit cards to allow for real time updates to your spending and saving goals. And it’s all conveniently located on your phone, just a few taps away. Scrap the spreadsheet, do a little research, and download a headache-reducing app ASAP.

A financial education isn’t like a sociology or history class. Those last for a few months, you learn tons of facts, you pass a test, and you move on with your life. Learning how money works is a lifelong process that will impact almost all of your daily decisions and future experiences. Few other skills will open your eyes to the exciting possibilities that life can offer. So hit the books (the How Money Works, Stop Being a Sucker book, to be precise) and start being a student of personal finance TODAY.

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¹ “2019 Money Matters On Campus,” Daniel Zapp, EVERFI, https://everfi.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/MoneyMatters-2019.pdf

² “Student Loan Debt Statistics In 2019: A $1.5 Trillion Crisis,” Zack Friedman, Forbes, Feb 25, 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2019/02/25/student-loan-debt-statistics-2019/#50430199133f

³ “Majoring in Money 2019,” Sallie Mae and Ipsos, https://www.salliemae.com/about/leading-research/majoring-in-money/

⁴ “The College Payoff: Education, Occupation, And Lifetime Earnings,” Georgetown University Center On Education And The Workforce, https://cew.georgetown.edu/cew-reports/the-college-payoff/

⁵ “Mental Health Survey: 1 in 15 High Student Debt Borrowers Considered Suicide,” Melanie Lockert, Student Loan Planner, Sept 4, 2019, https://www.studentloanplanner.com/mental-health-awareness-survey/

⁶ “Millennials, Mortgages and Student Debt,” Rosie Biundo, Equifax, July 14, 2015, https://insight.equifax.com/millennials-mortgages-and-student-debt/

Two Strategies To Destroy Debt

Two Strategies To Destroy Debt

Lugging around, on average, $38,000 of personal debt is exhausting.¹

It can deplete the power of your personal income until you barely have enough left to cover the monthly bills. You know it’s not a matter of IF you should eliminate debt. It’s a matter of HOW.

You have two basic debt destroying strategies at your disposal, each with different strengths and weaknesses. They’re called the Debt Avalanche and the Debt Snowball.

The Debt Avalanche. The Debt Avalanche starts with a bang. Identify the debt with the highest interest rate and immediately begin to pay it down. Make the minimum payments on all your other loans, but direct everything you can at eliminating the largest financial threat you’re facing. Once it’s paid off, take that extra money you’ve freed up and move on to the next highest interest rate debt. You’ll kickstart an unstoppable force of tumbling debt that will carry you all the way down to your smallest payment—and then zero debt.

Technically speaking, the debt avalanche is the most effective way to become debt-free. The math speaks for itself; paying off that high interest loan should free up a significant chunk of cash that can then be used to even more rapidly wipe out the next debt. The smaller rates won’t stand a chance against your newly freed up cash flow and will be swept away in your debt-removal path.

The Debt Snowball. But following the math isn’t always the best strategy. High interest debts can appear overwhelming and it’s easy to get discouraged if you don’t quickly see a dent. All the number-crunching in the world won’t help if you abandon your debt management strategy before you make any significant progress! That’s why the debt snowball leverages the power of psychology. Find your smallest debt on the list (regardless of the interest rate) and pay it down as quickly as possible. You’ll feel good about your accomplishment, as you get the ball rolling. Use whatever cash you freed up from eliminating the smallest debt to go towards the next smallest. Start working your way up until you’re ready to confront your largest loan. By that time you can use the free cash at your disposal to dispatch the final debt boss as quickly as possible!

The debt snowball uses your brain’s wiring to respond to rapid rewards. Crushing a goal feels good! Knocking out that first loan, as little as it may be, motivates you to move on. Is the Debt Snowball a slower process than the Debt Avalanche? Maybe. But it might be a more successful, manageable strategy if you’re intimidated by the largest debt that towers over your personal finances.

It’s always wise to seek guidance from a licensed and qualified financial professional when drawing out your debt reduction battle plans. They’ll help you prepare an emergency fund, identify the best strategy for you, and refine your budget to free up as much cash as possible!

Then suit up with your mittens, coat, and beanie—it’s time to trigger an avalanche or get the snowball rolling!

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¹ “Planning And Progress Study 2018,” Northwestern Mutual, https://news.northwesternmutual.com/planning-and-progress-2018

The Credit Score Playbook

July 12, 2021

The Credit Score Playbook

If you read the last blog article, you now know how to find your credit report and credit score.

But what’s your game plan if you don’t like what you see? A low credit score can make getting and/or paying for a mortgage or car loan much more difficult since lenders are more likely to charge you higher interest rates.¹ Insurers, employers, and even landlords sometimes factor your score into their decision-making process.¹ There are few parts of your life that will be unaffected!

Boosting your score is a key step in helping to achieve financial independence and pursuing your dreams. You basically have two plays at your disposal to start putting credit score points on the board. Read on to see what they are!

Defend your score. Let’s say you get your credit report back and notice something’s wrong. Maybe your credit card company incorrectly reported a late payment or there’s negative information that’s now expired and can come off the report. Errors on your report can sabotage your credit score, so it’s important that you rally to defend your creditworthiness!

First step is you’ll need to write a letter to the credit reporting agency that’s in error. State your name and address and exactly what you’re disputing. Hunt down documents that will support your case and include those as well. The Federal Trade Commission has a sample dispute letter you can access on their website.²

If the credit agency agrees with your dispute, they’ll adjust your credit report accordingly and send you a new copy. You can also request that they send the revised report to companies that viewed the flawed version. If the credit agency denies your claim, you can take the dispute to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.³

Attack your score. You might see your score and realize that it’s on the low end. You’ve been late on payments, you always max your credit cards, and it shows. So what can you do? How do you go on the offensive and start lifting your number?

Your first volley is to start paying your bills on time. See if there are ways of automating your payments to make them as hassle free as possible. Second, make sure that you don’t max out your credit cards. Borrowing as much as possible at every opportunity can wreak havoc on your score. That doesn’t mean you should necessarily close all of your credit cards (that can negatively impact your score as well). But come up with a plan to limit your temptation to use plastic and start paying with cash as much as possible. Finally, avoid opening up new lines of credit, especially all at one time. Credit reporting agencies will look at how many creditors have inquired about your records to get an idea of how much debt you might accumulate.

Taking your credit score from a landslide win for lenders to a win for your bank account takes time and work. Remember that you have resources. The Federal Trade Commission has pages of consumer information on credit reporting and scoring that are 100% free and just a click away.⁴ And having a financial advisor in your corner can help boost your chances of turning around your credit score!

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¹ “The Side Effects of Bad Credit,” Latoya Irby, The Balance, Apr 2020, https://www.thebalance.com/side-effects-of-bad-credit-960383

² “Sample Letter for Disputing Errors on Your Credit Report,” Federal Trade Commision, Aug 2013, https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0384-sample-letter-disputing-errors-your-credit-report

³ “What can I do if I disagree with the results of a credit report dispute?,” Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Feb 2020, https://www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/what-can-i-do-if-i-disagree-with-the-results-of-a-credit-report-dispute-en-1327/

⁴ The Federal Trade Commission, https://www.ftc.gov/

The Wealthy Love Suckers—And It Should Make You Very, Very Angry

June 7, 2021

The Wealthy Love Suckers—And It Should Make You Very, Very Angry

Do the wealthy know ways to make money that are unknown to everyone else? You better believe it!

John D. Rockefeller, one of early America’s richest tycoons, once said, “I have ways of making money that you know nothing of.” How does that make you feel? Shouldn’t everyone know the best ways to make money and create a prosperous future?

But the fact remains. There are wealth-building principles that are common knowledge to the wealthy but are largely unknown by the majority of the population.

So why is the average citizen in the dark?

How money works is simply not taught in schools. Only 21 states in the U.S. teach at least one high school class in financial education. ¹ Interestingly, all 50 states teach a class on sex ed. So the one thing you can learn on your own, they teach. And the one thing you’ll never learn on your own, they don’t. Go figure.

Actually, it does figure.

Think about it. If the financial industry were to educate consumers about money savviness, people might stop socking away so much of it in low-interest savings accounts that earn less than a 1% rate of return. And before you leave the branch do they offer you a brochure on financial concepts to help you get out of debt, avoid money missteps, and start saving like the wealthy?

Pfff—yeah right!

No. It’s like, if you’re dumb enough to open a low-interest savings account and take the free lollipop (it’s like their sucker litmus test), then they’ll try to sell you a car loan at 6% interest. ²

What a deal. You earn less than 1%—they earn 6%. It’s like a lose-lose for you, but you still thank them on the way out.

But they don’t stop there.

With your new car loan monthly payment, you might run low on cash from time-to-time. But thanks to partnerships with credit card companies, the bank can also offer you a shiny new charge card—but “just for emergencies.”

Do they make it clear how much they charge for late fees before they sell you on the benefits and points you can earn? No, that’s what the back of the brochure is for—as far away from the exciting offer as legally allowed. And you can bet it’s the same customer who opened the savings account and took the car loan who never flips the brochure over. They can always count on a customer with a sucker in their mouth to help drive their profits from late fees.

Hard to fathom there are that many suckers? It’s true…

With an overall outstanding balance of $6,354, the average American has 3.1 credit cards. Americans—a population of 328 million people—have over 1.5 billion credit cards and a credit card debt of $815 billion. 67% of all Americans have a credit card. ³

The financial industry thrives on customers who are stuck in the “Sucker Cycle” of foolish spending. While consumers are binging on Netflix, shipping on Amazon, and ordering from DoorDash, institutions are quietly leveraging the power of compound interest to make their customers’ money work for themselves. While consumers live paycheck-to-paycheck, financial institutions and shrewd businesses build profits sucker-to-sucker.

For most people, earning (and spending) a paycheck is the extent of their experience. But the wealthy know the real deal. To become financially independent, you must know the concepts and strategies to save, protect, and grow your money.

Did this article make you mad? Hopefully, it did.

So what do you do about it? You stop taking the sucker and you stop being the sucker. You learn how to take control of spending, protecting, saving, and investing your money. How? You do it by reading the book, “HowMoneyWorks, Stop Being a Sucker.” It will only take about an hour.

Don’t have a copy? Contact me and I’ll help you get one.

Use that anger to fuel action. Read the book. Then reach out to me and say, “Now that I know the ways of making money Rockefeller spoke of, I’m ready to chart my own course to financial independence.” We have a clear action plan for you to follow called “The 7 Money Milestones.” I’ll help you check off each one.

Let’s do it together.

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¹ National Financial Educators Council, “Financial Literacy Statistics,” [https://financialeducatorscouncil.org/financial-literacy-statistics/]

² Claudia Assis, “New-car loans hit highest interest rates in a decade,” MarketWatch, April 2, 2019, [https://marketwatch.com/story/new-car-loans-hit-highest-interest-rates-in-a-decade-2019-04-02]

³ Joe Resendiz, “Credit Card Usage and Ownership Statistics (2019 Report),” ValuePenguin, [https://www.valuepenguin.com/credit-cards/statistics/usage-and-ownership]

The Rule of 72 Explained

April 26, 2021

The Rule of 72 Explained

In our book HowMoneyWorks: Stop Being a Sucker, we introduce the Rule of 72, a mental math shortcut for estimating the effect of any growth rate—from quick financial calculations to population estimates.

This formula is especially useful for financial estimates and understanding the nature of compound interest. Rates of return may not be the easiest subject for consumers since it isn’t taught in schools, but this simple rule can help show the significance of a percentage point here or time horizon there.

Here’s the formula: 72 ÷ Interest Rate = Years to Double. If you know the interest rate (or rate of appreciation) or the time in years, dividing 72 by that number will give you a good approximation of the unknown number.

When will your money double?* 72 ÷ 1% = 72 years to double 72 ÷ 3% = 24 years to double 72 ÷ 6% = 12 years to double 72 ÷ 9% = 8 years to double 72 ÷ 12% = 6 years to double

Here’s an example: If you’re receiving a 9% rate of return, just divide 72 by 9. The result is 8. That means your money will double in approximately 8 years. Maybe that’s not fast enough for you and you prefer your money to double every 5 years. Then simply divide 72 by 5. The result is 14.4. Now you know you need a 14.4% return to achieve your goal.

This rule, long known to accountants and bankers, provides a close idea of the time needed for capital to double.

If you think that a difference of 1% or 2% is insignificant—think again! You seriously underestimate the power of compound interest. If one account appreciates at 9% and another at 12%, the Rule of 72 tells you that the first will take 8 years to double while the second will need only six years. This formula is also useful for understanding the nature of compound interest.

Examples:*

  • At 6% interest, your money takes 72 ÷ 6 = 12 years to double.
  • To double your money in 10 years, you need an interest rate of 72 ÷ 10, or 7.2%.
  • If inflation grows at 3% a year, the prices of things will double in 72 ÷ 3, or 24, years. If inflation slips to 2%, it will double in 36 years. If inflation increases to 4%, prices double in 18 years.
  • If college tuition increases at 5% per year (which is faster than inflation), tuition costs will double in 72 ÷ 5, or about 14.4, years.
  • If you pay 17% interest on your credit cards, the amount you owe will double in only 72 ÷ 17, or 4.2, years!

The Rule of 72 shows that a “small” 1% change can make a big difference over time. That small difference could mean buying the house you want, sending your kids to the college they choose, retiring when you wish, leaving your children the legacy they deserve, or settling for… something less. Doing the math with the Rule of 72 can give you critical insight to hit your goals down the road by shifting your strategy accordingly.

By the way, the Rule of 72 applies to any type of percentage, including something like population. Can you see why a population growth rate of 2% vs. 3% could be a huge problem for planning? Instead of needing to double your capacity in 36 years, you only have 24. Twelve years were shaved off your schedule with one percentage point faster growth.

The Rule of 72 was originally discovered by Italian mathematician Bartolomeo de Pacioli (1446-1517). Referring to compound interest, Professor Albert Einstein (1879-1955) is quoted as saying: “It’s the greatest mathematical discovery of all time.” He called it the 8th Wonder of the World—it works for you or against you. Make sure you put this shortcut to work the next time you consider an interest rate. When you save, it works for you. When you borrow, it works against you!

— Tom Mathews

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  • The Rule of 72 is a mathematical concept that approximates the number of years it will take to double the principal at a constant rate of return compounded over time. All figures are for illustrative purposes only, and do not reflect the performance risks, fees, expenses or taxes associated with an actual investment. If these costs were reflected, the amounts shown would be lower and the time to double would be longer. The rate of return of investments fluctuates over time and, as a result, the actual time it will take an investment to double in value cannot be predicted with any certainty. Investing entails risk, including possible loss of principal. Results are rounded for illustrative purposes. Actual results in each case are slightly higher or lower.

3 Practical Ways to Put the Rule of 72 to Work

3 Practical Ways to Put the Rule of 72 to Work

The Rule of 72 is useful for all kinds of financial estimates and understanding the nature of compound interest.

Here are a few examples of how the Rule of 72 can be utilized in the real world to get an estimate about how money will compound in various situations.

Example 1 - Estimating the Growth of an Inheritance. <br> You inherit $100,000 at the age of 29. What interest rate must you earn for it to become $1 million by the time you turn 65? You’ve got 36 years for your money to grow to $1 million, so it will take 3.25 doubles to grow $100,000 to $1 million dollars. Dividing 36 years by 3.25 doubles equals 11. Your money must double every 11 years. Knowing that, now you can run the formula to find your interest rate: 72 ÷ 11 = 6.54. <p> There you go. You need a financial vehicle that can offer no less than a 6.5% rate of return to hit your goal.

Example 2 - Estimating the Growth of an Economy. <br> Let’s say you want to approximate the growth rate of your country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). If your GDP is growing at 3% a year you can use the Rule of 72 formula: 72 ÷ 3 = 24. Therefore, in approximately 24 years, your nation’s GDP will double. Unless of course it changes. Were it to slip to 2% growth, how many years would the economy take to double? 72 ÷ 2 = 36 years. Should growth increase to 4%, GDP doubles in only 18 years (72 ÷ 4 = 18).

Example 3 - Estimating Inflation, Tuition, & Interest. <br> If the inflation rate moves from 2% to 3%, the time it will take for your money to lose half its value decreases from 36 to 24 years. If college tuition increase at 5% per year, costs will double in 14.4 years (72 ÷ 5 = 14.4). If you pay 15% interest on your credit cards, the amount you owe will double in only 4.8 years (72 ÷ 15 = 4.8)!


– Tom Mathews & Andy Horner


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Is Your Cash Flowing?

February 12, 2021

Is Your Cash Flowing?

How much cash do you have left at the end of the month after you’ve covered the essentials AND treated yourself? (I’m guessing not much.)

Wish your paycheck went a little further? You’re not alone—not by a long shot. Most Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck and saving little to nothing. So how do you increase your cash flow so you can stop living in the Sucker Cycle and start saving and investing more?

In the book, HowMoneyWorks, Stop Being a Sucker, we attack this challenge head on in Milestone 5 of the 7 Money Milestones.

Here are a few tips to get your cash flowing towards your future…

Redirect your cash flow <br> There are a million little things that siphon away your paycheck. Credit card debt, monthly subscriptions, and your fast food habit all chip away at your income. This “death by a thousand cuts” is a foolish spending cycle that prevents you—and countless other suckers—from creating an emergency fund, protecting your income, and building wealth for the future.

That’s why it’s so important to make and maintain a budget. It’s like a map of where your cash is going. Once you have that knowledge, you can figure out where you need to dial down your spending and start redirecting your cash. Don’t get too detailed. You don’t need to get overwhelmed by spreadsheets. Try creating a one-page list of expenses, freeing up as much cash as possible. Take your budget to your financial professional and discuss how best to use this available cash.

Open up new income streams <br> Budgeting and cutting back on spending might not be enough. Life throws plenty of unexpected (and expensive) problems at us that might not have a budgeting solution. You may need to look for new income streams to maintain the lifestyle you want while also saving for the future.

You’d be surprised by how many possibilities there are to create additional income streams—many of which offer the chance to make money from home. Maybe now is the time to discover that your favorite hobby or area of interest is actually a way to earn some cash. That could look like a side hustle or weekend gig, but you might find that your skills and ideas are full-time business opportunities just waiting to happen! Research which of your ideas and skills are in demand, figure out how much time and effort it will take to get started, and decide how much time you’re willing to commit. (It could be easier than you think!)

Increasing your cash flow can open up a whole new world of opportunities. That extra money you have from cutting back on takeout and streaming services could be how you fuel the power of compound interest and finally start saving for retirement. That several hundred dollars you bring in from teaching guitar lessons each month could be how you pay off your credit cards and free up even more cash. There’s no doubt your options can really open up once your cash starts flowing!

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3 Painful Consequences of Minimum Payments

January 19, 2021

3 Painful Consequences of Minimum Payments

Do you send in more than the minimum payments on your credit cards each month? (The correct answer is ‘yes.’)

If you are making more than the minimum payments now—you’re thinking like the wealthy!

A minimum payment is the lowest amount you can pay on your credit card bill without suffering a late payment penalty. We all know making minimum payments may be necessary for a short period if you’re freeing up cash flow to pay down a bigger, more urgent bill. However, paying just the minimum for the long haul can lead to long-term negative consequences.

Just like any time you have to deal with challenges in life, considering long-term consequences is vital to success. It can wake you up from thinking and acting like a sucker with your money. It can give you the laser focus needed to pay off debts so you can start building wealth. What’s at stake? You know, just your future.

So what are those looming, long-term consequences of making only the minimum payments on your credit cards?

Consequence #1: You end up paying mostly interest forever. OK, maybe not forever, but it will feel like it. By making only the minimum payments over a long period of time, you’re basically giving the credit card company free money—your money. You’re not even paying down the principal for the item you originally purchased with your credit card. You’re basically paying a subscription to the credit card company for holding your debt—a monthly service for which you get nothing.

Here’s an all-too-common example:

Let’s say that an unexpected expense tightens your budget. As it stands, you owe $10,000 in credit card debt at a 20% interest rate with a minimum payment of 2%. In order to cover the basics like housing, food, and medicine, you drop your credit card payments to the minimum amount of $200 monthly.

In this scenario, it will likely take more than 30 years and interest payments of over $35,000 to fully eliminate your credit card debt. The credit card company becomes richer, and your financial future is squandered.
 Consequence #2: You can hurt your credit score. When you hold high debt on a credit card for a long period, even if you’re making minimum payments on time, your credit utilization ratio (or the percentage of available credit you’re using) can rise. If it remains above 30% of your credit card limit for long, your credit can take a substantial hit¹—hurting your ability to borrow for a car, education, or home mortgage—and hinder qualifying for lower interest rates on those loans. This all equals financial limitations for your future—less cash flow, higher interest payments, less money to save for the future.

Consequence #3: You never start saving. Today, the responsibility to save and build wealth falls on the consumer—that’s you! Your 401(k) and Social Security check may fall dramatically short of providing the income you need for the lifestyle you want during retirement. The earlier you start saving, the better chance you have of closing the gap on the money you need for the future. Paying minimum payments on your credit cards is a dangerous habit that can prevent you from saving enough.

You don’t have to fall victim to these consequences. You can create a strategy to knock out your credit card debt by paying more than the minimums. How much more? As much as possible—until your credit card debt is gone. That big sigh of relief and your new ability to save will be well worth it!

An important caveat: Paying the minimum on a credit card while you build an emergency fund or pay down another debt can be advantageous, as long as you’re working with a licensed and qualified financial professional to reduce debt methodically.

Learn more about reducing debt in the book, HowMoneyWorks: Stop Being a Sucker. Email, text, or call me to discover how you can get a copy ASAP!

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¹ “What is a Credit Utilization Rate?,” Experian, https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/credit-education/score-basics/credit-utilization-rate/#:~:text=Credit%20scoring%20models%20often%20consider,the%20scoring%20model%20being%20used.

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