Understanding the general concept of the time value of money can help consumers plan appropriately for future needs and today’s wants. This concept applies to how a consumer may save, invest and make decisions on lending needs.
Many of us are familiar with the idea that the earlier one starts saving the more he or she will have in the future. This may be the case, but it’s also important to be familiar with present value of money and debt, future value of money and debt, and the beginning period and ending period of saving.
When a consumer considers how these concepts work together, it can provide the consumer with the valuable information needed to effectively plan for the future. A good example is credit card debt. If one were to calculate the length of time and amount of finance interest paid to credit card companies by only paying the minimum payment, it would shock most of us.
Saving for future needs is important. We must understand that the dollars we save today (present value of money) will most likely be worth less in the future. So how can we make decisions to save and take advantage of time value? Let’s consider a scenario of saving for retirement in an IRA (Individual Retirement Account) annually. Investors have a choice to save at the beginning (beginning period) of each year rather than saving at the end of the year (ending period of investing). Using this strategy, an investor can earn more on his or her money by contributing the same dollar amount annually at the beginning of the year rather than at the end of the year.
Investing consistently and taking advantage of different types of accounts sponsored by employers, deferred-tax saving retirement accounts and after-tax saving accounts can help consumers plan for retirement. Many employers offer match savings, as well as company contribution, just for signing up for the employer retirement plan. It’s important to take full advantage of the match. Also, some plans offer both a Traditional (pre-tax) deferred saving as well as (after-tax) Roth saving plan. Each of them has specific benefits, and if used properly, they can be a valuable piece of a consumer’s planning strategy. Keep in mind that withdraws prior to age 59-1/2 may result in a 10 percent IRS tax penalty, in addition to any ordinary income tax. IRA and Roth IRA accounts can also be used in addition to employer sponsored plans.
The traditional employer plan and individual retirement plans allows consumers to save on a tax deferred basis; however, he or she will need to account for ordinary income taxes during distributions. Where as, Roth contributions allow for after-tax contributions and tax-free growth and withdraws. By combining these options, and starting sooner rather than later, consumers can take advantage of the time value of money as well as using all options available.
As consumers, it’s not only important to take advantage of the time value of money by investing early, but it’s also important to manage debt in a similar way. Present debt and future debt are key ingredients to manage and can make or break consumer’s future plans. By applying the same concepts to debt management, one can see the value of using time as a way to structure debt for the consumer rather than the financing institution. For example, be wary of committing to long-term debt. When committing to long-term debt, consider a plan to payoff the debt early by making additional payments. Applying the time value of money in this case will save consumers a lot of money in the long run and reduce debt sooner. Also, keep in mind that lower interest rates will help save consumers finance cost. A little extra planning can greatly benefit consumers.