How to begin investing while paying down student debt

By Michael Taylor ’90

Falmouth Academy alumnus, former Wall Street bond salesman, and current finance writer and professor at Trinity University

Mike Taylor

It may seem like there’s never quite enough cash to begin investing. But young people have the great advantage of time, which is far more important than deep pockets…in the beginning.

I published a book in June called, The Financial Rules for New College Graduates (Invest before paying off debt – and other tips your professors didn’t teach you). This guide provides simple rules for practical financial planning choices during your first ten years out of school.

I wrote this book essentially for my two children, so they could get Taylor Booka basic understanding of how finance works and how to invest and create wealth for their older selves.

Here are my top tips to grow wealth — especially for  people up to ten years out of college.

  1. Max out your IRA, and the employer match if you have a 401(k).

Even if you have student loan debt, fund your tax-advantaged retirement accounts. You can slow down paying low-interest student debt and start investing with as little as $500. Take the time to look up the cost of each investment choice, as costs often are not clearly disclosed. Understanding the math of compound interest – the most powerful force in the known universe – helps you understand why paying off high-interest debt like credit cards is essential, but you can live with low-interest debt for a while as you begin investing.

  1. Learn the Math of Compounding and Discounting.

Everyone with a junior-high level understanding of math can and should learn this, and doing so would demystify the biggest lessons of personal finance regarding debt, savings, insurance, retirement and long-run investing. When you can do this in a spreadsheet, you don’t have to listen to a guru, you can teach yourself.

  1. When young, invest risky.

The only way to grow money long term is by making risky investments. This does not mean lottery tickets or moonshot investments, but rather diversified stocks, mutual funds, individual stocks, real estate, and entrepreneurship. Because of the long-term effects of compound interest, staying “safe” in bonds and cash and annuity products will be harmful to your wealth-building prospects, over a lifetime.

  1. Consider entrepreneurship.

The current tax code is built for business owners and owners of capital. The best way to be wealthy is to earn money from your own money, whether invested in stocks or in your own company. Entrepreneurship is partly a personality preference and not necessarily for everyone. For those who succeed, it is the only way “to blow your doors off” with wealth.

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