invest save for retirement

In some ways, retirement planning is fiendishly complicated. You have to guess how long you will live. You need to decide on the right balance of risk and reward for your investments. And, of course, you have to find the money to save in the first place!

But, in other ways, retirement planning is as simple as pie. Start early. Invest in a low-fee index fund or ETF. Then, sit on your hands and *don’t touch anything!*

The problem, of course, is that for most of the people, the “set it and forget it” school of retirement planning feels more like the “I wish I’d done that earlier” school of retirement planning!

But, fear not! While it may be too late for many of us to become “automatic millionaires,” there is still hope for the younger members of our families – particularly our grandkids.

To explain exactly what I mean, I’d like to share a conversation that I had with my son last weekend. It is no exaggeration to say that this 30-minute chat changed my life – and the lives of my 3 grandchildren.

When is a 12-oz Starbucks Latte Worth its Weight in Gold?

Every week, I try to meet my eldest son for coffee. The location of our meetings varies, but, Starbucks is usually our go-to coffee shop.

So, imagine my surprise when I showed up at Starbucks a few Sundays ago only to find my son standing outside with a thermos of coffee.

Our conversation went something like this:

Me – “Hey Nathan, good morning! What’s with the flask of coffee? Is Starbucks out?”

Nathan – “Oh, you know… I just didn’t feel like my regular latte was worth its weight in gold.”

We started walking and my son explained to me that he had decided to start skipping his regular Starbucks in order to add a little extra to the custodial accounts of his two children. He went on to say that $6 (the price of a 354 ml, 12 oz tall latte in Switzerland) invested over 70 years would become $16,179. When you consider that 354g of gold is worth $16,059, it’s a startling comparison!

So, every time he skips his morning Starbucks, he is quite literally putting a gold bar into his 1-month-old’s retirement account. How crazy is that?!?

If a Coffee is Worth its Weight in Gold, is a Nice Dinner Worth a House?

After our conversation, I started thinking about how much money I spend on going out with my friends. It’s not a lot, but, I would say that I probably go out to one or two nice dinners a month, each of which costs me about $50.

So, last month, I decided to skip both of my outings (actually, I invited my friends over for tea!) and give my son the money that I saved to invest. He was grateful and told me that he would be happy to put my contribution to work in the S&P 500 ETF that makes up the bulk of his kids’ portfolios.

Of course, as they say in the finance biz, “Past results are not indicative of future returns.” But, if the S&P 500 were to match its historical returns of 12%, the $100 that I saved by not going out to eat last month could transform into close to $250,000!

And, if it doesn’t… who cares? My waistline probably benefited from eating salad at home! And, was the conversation any less engaging because we had it over tea? Of course not!

Scrooge McDuck vs. The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg

Skipping Starbucks to save a few pennies? Eating at home to fill the coffee jar with $10s and $20s? Am I becoming Scrooge McDuck?

Of course not! I still enjoy my creature comforts and there I refuse to see ever tub of ice-cream as a potential gold bar in my grandson’s vault.

Instead, I’d rather think of myself as the wise old goose that laid the golden egg. I won’t be around when my grandkids retire, but, I will want to contribute to their financial future.

So, I’m going to live, love and laugh. But, I am also going to treat each purchase decision with respect… because, at the end of the day, small investments, if given enough time, really do grow!

70 years from now, I hope that my grandkids are sitting on a pile of gold that even Scrooge McDuck would be proud of. And, looking down at their wealth, I hope that they spare a moment to think about kooky old grandma Margaret… that funny old lady who gave them a golden egg all those years ago.

What do you think of the idea of starting an investment account for your grandkids? Have you already done something like this? Why or why not?