Are you more of a visual learner? Well, then I have just the article for you! When it came to making a positive change with our personal finances, I was amazed at how eye-opening financial pictures and calculators helped put things in perspective.

The pictures within the article you’re thinking about reading probably aren’t anything you haven’t seen from me yet. They tell a similar story. Paying massive interest sucks and doing the minimum with your personal finances can cost you thousands of dollars over time.

If these pictures don’t make you think or inspire change even a little bit, well, I guess we’ll try something else next time!

Minimum student loan payments over time

If I stuck with what I was handed in terms of student loan payments over a 20 year payoff period, with a monthly payment of $251 per month, my original $33,000 in student loans would have cost me an additional $27,000 in interest.

Fortunately, a simple calculator can help you see why you might want to speed this payoff period up.

Student loan interest over time

Even if you paid a little bit extra each month, you could cut this time and interest cost in half. What would you do with $13,500?

PS. If you’re serious about finally tackling your student loans, I wrote in-depth about this in a previous article.

Credit Card Payoff and interest

Do you know why your minimum payment is so low? Because the credit card companies love to make money off of you and everyone else with the high-interest rates they charge.

If numbers don’t convince you, maybe your hatred for large corporations taking advantage of you will. Also consider the fact of the harmful ways they are using your money to push their own financial agendas.

Below is a picture of a simple credit card repayment scenario and a link to a calculator too.

A simple credit card calculator

The fine print of literally anything…like your credit card

I call this photo the dangers of the fine print. How often do we read it?

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A snap shot from my credit card statement

Take a look at this simple example of a credit card statement. Not only will I get charged $38 penalty for a late payment, but they will also increase my Annual Percentage Rate (APR) by about 7-10% and lock it in at 29.99% APR moving forward.

Your 30-year mortgage interest payments

I like to play around in Excel when it relates to personal financial planning because I’m a numbers guy. I found this awesome preset mortgage calculator and amortization table online through Vertex42 excel templates.

All you need is some basic inputs that you can find across the internet (or call a mortgage broker as I did) to run your scenarios. Everything is preset and the numbers will change as you type them in.

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All of this in a pre-made Excel spreadsheet

Whether you have a mortgage or are considering one, you should run some numbers for yourself. Seriously though. Check this bad boy out.

Future Roth IRA (or any investment) over time

A Roth IRA is a wonderful investment vehicle. It gains interest tax-free over the course of your life. This means all of the money you save now is never taxed after age 59 1/2. This is important because lord knows what the tax rate will be by the time you’re that old. 

Although the limit right now is $6,000 per year, Bankrate’s calculator is working off of the past numbers so that’s why we’re using $5500 per year. The numbers are illustrative so keep that in mind.

At $5,500 per year or $458 per month, you’d have…

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Roth IRA calculator

$615,000 in tax-free money that’s completely yours to use how you wish.

Now think of this. Multiply these savings times two if you are married because you both can have a Roth IRA and the total is nearly $1.2 million by age 60! If you did nothing else with your investments (i.e. contribute to your 401k through work) you’d still be pretty well off by retirement. But you want to be epic so do a little bit more elsewhere.

Check out this Roth IRA calculator for yourself!

Investment advisors and fees over time

You may have asked yourself once or twice: should I get an investment advisor? I’m not here to bash investment advisors that you pay to manage your money. Especially if it means the difference between you not investing at all.

However, despite all of the curated marketing material explaining why you should, the simple fact is that time and time again, study after study, billionaire after billionaire, book after book, show that most investment firms/advisors don’t usually beat the market over a 10-30 year time period. In fact, they end up quite comparable to that of a low-cost mutual fund investment account (i.e. Vanguard) for the average investor. JL Collins, the author of the book Simple Path to Wealth (100% recommend this book), wrote a fantastic article about why he doesn’t like investment advisors if you’re interested in seeing why this is.

An example

I’ll try to keep this statement simple. If you start with $0, invest $6,000 per year starting at age 30 in a Roth IRA with Vanguard your expense ratio (i.e. fees) would be approximately .14%. Compared to an investment advisor, you’d be paying anywhere between 1 and 2% per year in fees.

Let’s assume that history repeats itself, which means no advisor will gain a significant interest increase beyond what the market returns (i.e. your mutual fund) over the long term.

The picture below shows three scenarios. In fee 1, you see a typical Vanguard setup (that you set and forget) which has an annual fee of 0.14%. If you went with an investment advisor who charged 1%, again assuming they don’t beat the market over 30 years, you’d have $95,724 less for the same average return rate over 30 years. And if they charge 2% per year, well, you can see how that eats into your returns.

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$6k per year investment scenarios

Now, lets talk bigger money using the same scenario but with more money invested each year. The difference is even more substantial.

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$10k per yaear investment scenarios

Stock market returns ebb and flow over time and just as fees add up exponentially over time. Another way to look at this is if an advisor was able to get you an extra 1-2% return beyond what the market did, it would be offset by the fees being charged in the fine print. You don’t typically find out (if at all) until many years later that the rate of return was pretty similar. Most don’t know at all.

All I’m saying is to be wary of fancy marketing material and pressure to be advised. If you desire simplicity, it may be best not to chance it for what you would probably get anyway with a set it and forget it Target Rate Fund or a DIY investment approach (assuming you do your homework).

Of course, there are exceptions but if you’re guaranteed extra returns just by hiring an advisor you might read more and reconsider your investment options. It’s hard to outsmart a game millions of people are playing against corporate America and wall street. Taking the “average” will still pay off quite nice without the added risk and extra fees.

Why not get a high yield online savings account?

Online savings accounts are super simple and there are many perks including no minimums or fees (I use a Discover Online Savings account). Although the rate of return fluctuates between 1 and 1.5%, that number is 1-1.5% higher than what most big banks will give you for your money just sitting there.

Banks are ripping you off free money that you could gain elsewhere via any online savings account and they are built around bullying you with penalties and fees to do so.

Take a look below what a simple savings strategy can net you over time. Here’s the calculator.

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This is your online savings account with 1.2% per year

Vs. Your current big banks interest yields (I.e. Chase gives me .01% on their savings account)

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This is your big bank with .01% per year

Sure, its not a slam dunk, and the interest gained is not going to help you retire but it does get you a nice little bonus for doing absolutely nothing. Hell, I earned $200 last year because of it for just having money sit in a savings account.

There’s tons of flexibility with these and you can have as many as you want. Check them out.

Conclusion

In personal finance and life, you must remember to play the long game and you can understand the future better by using simple calculators and tools. The long game is subtle and can work against you over time.

Personal finance is a game you play over the course of your entire life. The decisions you make today could really add up in the future. So why not have a “learn it-set-it, and check-it” attitude as you progress through life?

Broke people ask how much per month. Rich people ask how much total.

Dave Ramsey

The simple objective of this article is to get you a little bit interested in some online calculators to see how your strategy stacks up. These tools will answer some important questions you may have wondered about and hopefully inspire you to take the first step towards a better financial future.