Squeezing More Return Out of Your Retirement Account

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Following the earlier post on Asset Aggregation, we’re continuing to run guest posts which were featured on other sites. This time around, we’re re-posting an article which appeared on Sweating The Big Stuff. Daniel has gone through a lot of great changes, so make sure to check out his other articles.


If you’ve been keeping up with Sweating the Big Stuff, you’ll know Daniel’s been hard at work funding his Roth IRA. He’s done a great job of adjusting his lifestyle to accommodate his aggressive investing goals, which leads in nicely to the topic at hand.

Most people understand the concept of compound interest and the benefits of starting sooner rather than later, but did you know you can squeeze EVEN MORE out of your investments by starting EVEN EARLIER?

That doesn’t make sense?

How can someone so young start any earlier?

ANSWER: FRONT-LOADING

Plenty of friends ring in the New Year by starting on their resolutions or recovering from hangovers, but my big excitement is fully-funding my Roth IRA. While this may seem a bit much, it’s a preplanned event much like what was discussed in the defense is a calculated defense.

I recently had this conversation with a financial advisor whom I respect, partially because he’s an ex-engineer, but primarily because he doesn’t mind taking time out of his day to help young investors. I’m not even under his employer’s plan anymore, and we still trade emails now and then. Too bad there aren’t more like this in the industry.

He agreed, noting that it “should give your contributions a (generalized) 4% bump over time”. That’s pretty considerable. Especially since it involves no special investment knowledge.

Of course, it makes perfect sense applying the principles of compounding. Consider investments paying monthly or quarterly dividends. If you’re reinvesting those dividends, then the shares received are calculated based on the shares already owned. The earlier you have that money invested, the more shares you’ll receive. And the cycle continues each month, quarter, or year.

Although you’re not “spreading” your investments throughout the year, single years seem almost negligible when you’re considering decades, or half-centuries in Daniel’s case, of investing. There are plenty of (decent) articles out there refuting the idea. Actually, Warren Buffett has even been known to remark on the pitfalls of dollar-cost averaging.

There’s no set strategy either. Maybe it’s too nerve-wracking or simply unfeasible to get everything in all at once. Instead, maybe you shoot to get everything in before the first declaration date or semi-annual dividend.

Just to illustrate the benefits of front-loading, I went over to Dinkytown and plugged in some different scenarios into their Future Value Calculator. To “prove” the point, the only variable I changed was whether there were periodic deposits or a single lump sum.

I’m not sure why, but I spend the time making these different graphs and then scrap them anyway. At any rate, here are the parameters used:

Case A = $5,000 initial deposit

Case B = $416.67 monthly deposit ($5,000 yearly deposit / 12 months)

Scenario Compounded Yield Years
1 Monthly 1.25% 1
2 Quarterly 3.50% 5
3 Annually 7.00% 10

Drum-roll please… And the FV results were:

Scenario #1 Results
Case A $5,063.00
Case B $5,034.00
Difference $29.00

 

Scenario #2 Results
Case A $33,741.00
Case B $27,357.00
Difference $6,383.00

 

Scenario #3 Results
Case A $83,754.00
Case B $71,675.00
Difference $12,079.00

These were my own concoctions so I urge anyone to go over and plug in their own numbers. What you will find is that any value, over time, should return more through front-loading than periodic deposits. Now, I believe that the advisor noted “(generalized)” because you need to factor in the positive AND NEGATIVE fluctuations of investments.

If the better return isn’t enough to entice you, let me offer a few other benefits in closing.

Being One-Year Ahead

Like I mentioned, the contribution is a planned event. The year prior is spent saving for that January deposit. As a side effect, holding yourself to this standard will help develop more savings discipline.

Other Opportunities

Checking anything off your financial to-do list allows you to explore other investments. Or spend more time with friends and family. Or whatever else it is that you enjoy. Point is, It’s just one little thing off your back that you won’t have to worry about.

Alright readers, your turn. What do you think of the idea? A worthwhile effort or too many holes in my assumptions? Do you think that “training” for this goal, whether it be your IRAs or 401ks, will better prepare you for other saving goals?

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5 Responses
  1. I agree with front-loading being the way to go. You sound a lot like me: one of the best things about the New Year’s time is being able to open up contributions to my Roth IRA again!

    Also – in reading Stocks for the Long Run by Jeremy Siegel, he (probably meaning his graduate student slaves haha) did a study and found out that it’s actually better to invest a lump sum all at once instead of spreading it out over time.

    And PS – engineers probably do make the best money advisors… :)

    1. Fin Engr

      @ Jacob:

      Ha. Well glad you agree and throw the same type of financial New Years party I do! Actually, I can’t recall exactly but that may have been the study I was referencing. I think there’s more out there on the subject – something international too, from Denmark? Netherlands?

  2. Might have been! I know Siegel went through analyses of pretty much every possible aspect that could affect investing. One of my personal favorites was that he analyzed the performance of stocks during President’s tenures! I need to break out that book again soon.

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