Recently I was asked to share my personal experiences regarding my opinion on achieving financial success. While being a very broad question that has different meanings and answers for specific individuals, I can summarize the answer to this question in one word, ‘time.’
There’s little debate that time is the ally of anyone seeking financial independence or ‘success.’ Time gives you the opportunity to take chances, make mistakes, save and invest for a longer duration and can enable the ultimate in long term capital appreciation, the magic of compounding.
It’s often said that the best time to start planning for retirement is today. Of course, ‘today’ has different meanings for individuals as we are all at different stages of our lives. For many in their 20s, the notion of retirement might seem like a distant dream but the reality is that starting out on an investing regimen at that age can set yourself up for a very bright financial future. As mentioned earlier, time is the ally of anyone seeking financial independence, especially the young.
Drawing on my personal experience to achieve financial success I set out to start my own business right out of college. Being in my early 20s watching the first wave of Internet startups seemingly sprout up daily, I decided to ‘jump into the mix’ and stake my own dot com claim. Your 20s are probably the best time to take chances and make mistakes and fail but most of all invest in yourself. It was this key reason I decided to take a chance with a new business as to not have any regret in the future for not starting at all. After all, I was young, single and still living at home without any college debt. Why not take advantage of that situation to the fullest and take a chance on myself? That was back in 1998. Fast forward seventeen years later and I’m still happily self-employed and ever grateful that my past self took a risk and ventured to start a business. As mentioned earlier, being in your 20s is probably one of the best times to invest in yourself. Of course there are other ways to invest in yourself besides starting a business.
If I could go back in time there is one thing that I would do differently to ensure a better financial future for myself and that would be to start investing in dividend growth stocks in my 20s. There’s no denying that starting my own business has been a blessing. It has provided an income for myself and now family for almost two decades. I never once felt the pangs and sorrow of Monday mornings, office politics nor seemingly endless and pointless ‘team meetings’ that I read so much about. It has enabled me to manage time on my own terms as well as provide the means to travel and explore various parts of the world and visit more countries by the time I was 40 than most people see in a lifetime. That being said, I still feel I missed out on one the greatest benefits of long term dividend investing, compounding.
I think everyone is familiar with the ‘should have, could have’ mantra as we inevitably look back at our lives and realize that perhaps we should have started that business, bought that piece of real estate or invested in that stock that has grown for multiple decades. Now that I’m in my early 40s I definitely wish that I had the foresight to buy shares of Pepsico, Inc. (PEP), The Coca-Cola Company (KO), The Procter & Gamble Company (PG), 3M Company (MMM) and the like while still in my 20s. Of course, it can be argued that I was busy starting my own business at the time and my focus was certainly elsewhere. That being said, my single best piece of advice for anyone in their 20s would be save as much money as you can and put those dollars to work in some of the best run dividend paying companies in the world. Simply collect those dividends, reinvest, add fresh capital when you can, wash rinse repeat and watch your dividend snowball grow and create an ever increasing diversified passive income stream. My business, after almost two decades, might not be around forever, but my diversified portfolio of dividend stocks certainly could be.
And these days there are literally no excuses for not starting an investment portfolio of your own. With new trading platforms such a Robinhood and Loyal3, to name a few, investing in stocks has never been easier nor cheaper. After all, these zero commission investing platforms enable even the smallest budgets to start building a dividend growth portfolio which can create an ever increasing passive income stream indefinitely. In fact, other online tools like net worth calculators or a budget calculator make it even easier to track your progress. Investing in dividend growth stocks is one of the easiest and measurable methods to ensure a better financial future. Sure, stock prices can swoon and portfolio values can rise and decline in various market environments but dividend income can continually grow even during the worst economic times.
The reality is that building a financial safety net is best done in your 20s as you have the advantage of time and the ability to compound returns. However, it is never too late to start if you haven’t already. I only became an earnest dividend growth investor in my mid 30s and in just a few short years have seen the real world results from my yearly increasing passive dividend growth income. As most dividend investors know, the saying goes, ‘dividends don’t lie’ as it’s real cash being returned to investors and cannot be faked.
The bottom line is to invest in yourself and for yourself in your 20s and accumulate income producing assets rather than just accumulating assets. In this way you’ll always be able to live and spend the interest/dividends without having to touch your asset/principal.
Disclosure: Long PEP, KO, PG MMM