Compound Interest is Your Friend [Infographic]

by Miranda Marquit

We are so used to thinking of interest as the bad guy. And for good reason. Many of us are paying interest, and when it’s compounded, we are actually paying interest on our interest. When in debt, this situation leads to a rather discouraging state of affairs in which it is difficult to get out from under the debt. However, compound interest isn’t, itself, evil.

Indeed, compound interest, like so many other things in life, is a tool. It all depends on how you use it. In the case of compound interest, it often depends on which side of compound interest you are on. This infographic offers an interesting look at compound interest. (click on the graphic for enhanced details)

Compound Interest Infographic

You know that interest is just money you pay directly into someone else’s pocket. Interest is the fee you pay in order to be able to borrow money. Lenders want to be able to earn money off the money the provide you, and so charge interest. You aren’t receiving any goods or even any direct services when you pay interest. When you are in debt, you can continue paying interest long after any enjoyment you derived from spending the money is gone.

As you can see from the infographic, there are some moral issues associated with charging excessive interest. However, regardless of what has been written anciently, compound interest — and even usury — have become regular parts of our financial system. And regular parts of our lives.

The infographic also makes an interesting point about how often interest is compounded. When interest is compounded, it is added to your balance. Then, the next time interest is charged, you are charged on your principal, plus the interest charges incurred the last time. One of the reasons credit card debt is such a pain is that many cards compound interest daily. This means that your balance grows every single day, just from the interest. The more often interest is compounded, the more the fees…well, compound, growing a little bit bigger each time.

Using Compound Interest in Your Favor

I especially like the Albert Einstein quote in the infographic. Clearly, those who understand the true implications of compound interest are better off than those who don’t. The trick is to get compound interest to work in your favor. While you probably wouldn’t charge interest to family and friends that borrow from you, chances are that you have other ways of earning compound interest. Many investments and cash products provide you with the opportunity to earn compound interest. Regular contributions to accounts that provide you with the opportunity to earn interest can help you build up a nest egg, and prepare for the future.

While compound interest will work with one lump sum initially invested or deposited, you can build your wealth more effectively if you continue to add to your accounts. Regular savings and investments can help the power of compound interest work even more in your favor. (Of course, with investments you have to be careful, since you can lose money as well.)

In the end, though, compound interest itself is not necessarily evil. At least, not when you’re on the receiving end.

Published or updated December 19, 2013.
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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Charmaine

Very interesting presentation and it makes sense.


2 Khaleef @ KNS Financial

That poster should be hanging up in almost every room in America – schools, banks, homes, EVERYWHERE! This explains perfectly why we should avoid debt at all costs!


3 The Passive Income Earner

Love the graphics! I couldn’t agree more that understanding compound interest will leave you in a better financial state in the long run. I intend to educate my young children on this concept through DRIP.


4 Financial Samurai

The secret really is to build that nut. Have that first $1mil in cash, and earn $40,000 a year forever. That’s a great start!


5 Ryan

Sam, weren’t you reading? It’s $40,000 the first year, then it gets bigger each additional year. 😉


6 basicmoneytips

Great graphic. Yes compounding interest can be your friend. The goal in any retirement plan should be to build a nest egg and then hopefully be able to live off the interest that it generates. At least that is the safest model.

However, based on the last 10 years, not sure how many of us are going to make it to that point.


7 Moneyedup

I really enjoyed the compound interest poster. If I had seen this when I was in school I probably would have set aside more money in compound interest investments. Graphics can really help to make something more easily understood.


8 myfinancialobjectives

Awesome post! I love this graphic, I may just print it out and put it up at work in an effort to try and convince more people to start contributing to their 401k.

I love this topic. I have talked abotu it many times in various posts I love it so much. If you are able to truly harness the power of compounding interest at a young age, you can easily retire early. It all depends on how much discipline you have!


9 youngandthrifty

Cool, this infographic is so cute!

Yes, I loveee compound interest. One day it will really work for me (when I am retired early- hopefully).


10 Adam@RabbitFunds

Great infographic. You should make it easily available for reposting and get some link love back to this post.


11 Greg McFarlane

Miranda: Insightful post and a wonderful (and evidently time-consuming) graphic.

May I be so bold as to offer a tiny tweak to the formula? Really, it’s just a reminder that r is not necessarily the annual interest rate; it’s the interest rate per period, however long that period is. If r is an annual interest rate, then in the formula you need to divide it by the number of periods in a year.
So for Sally, whose 12% compounds quarterly, you’d divide .12 by 4 to get .03. Add that to 1, making 1.03, take it to the power of 120 (the number of quarters, i.e. periods, in 30 years) and multiply by $10,000 to get $347,109.87.


12 Miranda

Thank you for the insight! I had the infographic created by someone else, and apparently missed that. Great catch!


13 Timothy Ng

This is one of the most important financial concepts I learnt at university. Many people are unaware of the power of compound interest over time.


14 Financial Success for Young Adults

Great infographic! Compound interest is definitely the 8th wonder of the world and it’s important to understand how it works.


15 Scott

Compound interest is simple and easy to understand. The problem with the graphic is the 12% interest rate. Please tell me where I can get that. CD’s are at about 1.3% for 5 years! Unless you have a large sum (principle) to begin with, that’s peanuts.


16 Ryan Guina

Scott, CD’s haven’t provided strong interest rates for some time now, and haven’t reached the 12% range since the 1980’s. In general, CD’s are good for stability, and slight growth, but not much else. They often don’t even keep pace with inflation. The 12% interest rate is used to represent potential returns from the stock market. While 12% is aggressive, it is a return that has happened over decades. Looking at the history of the US stock market, you can see long term trends around 10%. Of course it isn’t stable, straight line growth (or exponential growth, as it were). There is risk associated with the stock market, and there will be peaks and valleys. So while 12% may be an aggressive number, it is used for illustration purposes only. Over the long run, the number will more than likely be between the 1.3% you reference, and the 12% used in the chart.

Many “experts” predict returns in the 7% – 10% range. But those are just guesses. The key is using compound interest in your favor. So not carrying any high interest debt and investing for the long haul will work in your favor in the long run. Given enough time, the returns can be amazing.


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