Hey Kids, money is important

April 16, 2014

Three reasons for liking money: The best is that it buys things you want at today’s prices. Another reason is that it will buy things in the future. And the third reason is that it represents the trading value of goods and services (1).


Most people aren’t given a lot of money. They have to earn it and invest it to get rich. They also have to protect it against ‘risk’. Think of risk as your chances of losing money. Here are some easy ways of losing money:

  1. Theft. People may steal your money unless you put it in the bank and keep your bank account’s password a secret.
  2. Overspending. Save money for things that you will need in the future. Otherwise, you are spending too much money. Another way of overspending is to borrow money to buy things that you don’t really need. The best way to avoid overspending is to plan a budget.
  3. Debt. Using a credit card or taking a loan are two different ways of borrowing money from somebody called a lender. Before borrowing the money, you must sign a contract that requires you to repay the lender on time with an extra amount of money called interest. All of the money that you owe is called debt and refusal to repay the lender may eventually prevent you from buying things. Don’t borrow money unless you need it for an important reason (such as education) and use a budget to manage your debt.
  4. Unemployment. Unemployment occurs when people can’t work for money. Avoid unemployment by getting a good education and learning good skills. Don’t drop out of high school before graduation.
  5. Disasters. Accidents, illnesses, wars, and severe weather conditions are disasters that require a lot of money to survive the damage. Adults can buy insurance that will help pay for illness, injuries, and property damage.
  6. Inflation reduces the purchasing power of money.
  7. Citizens are required to pay taxes on the money they earn.


Money’s ability to pay for things is called purchasing power. It’s no secret that the purchasing power of money changes over time. Today the price of a Big Mac™ hamburger is nearly five dollars. But 50 years ago, the price of a Big Mac™ hamburger was only 45 cents. What happened over 50 years? The prices of most things went up, including the price of hamburgers. The increase in prices over time is called ‘inflation’.

You can be sure that today’s money will buy less in the future due to inflation. The best way to protect against the effects of inflation is to start investing money as soon as possible.

Investing money

Think of  ‘investing’ as a good way of using money to earn more money. The money that you earn is called a profit or a return. Investing is a lifetime skill worth learning now.

The risk of investing is that you will lose money. If you don’t want to risk losing money, invest in U.S. Government Bonds. The government always repays your money plus a type of return called interest.

Stocks are risky investments that often pay a higher return than U.S. Government Bonds. When you buy shares of a good stock, you must sell them at a higher price to earn the type of return called a capital gain. Try to avoid losing money by selling the shares at a lower price than you paid; that kind of loss is called a capital loss. The longer you wait to sell shares, the better your chance of selling them at a higher price. Some good stocks also pay small amounts of cash called dividends.

Investors who don’t have the time or interest in selecting a good stock can earn the average return from a large group of stocks by purchasing shares of a stock index fund. Investing in a good stock index fund is less risky than investing in a good stock.


Investors must pay part of their returns to the Government by paying taxes. Employees are able to pay lower taxes on their returns by investing in tax-deferred and tax-free retirement accounts. If you earn wages as an employee, you may be able to invest in tax-deferred accounts known as the traditional individual retirement account [IRA] and the employer sponsored 401(k) account. Tax-deferred accounts protect you from paying taxes on returns until you start withdrawing money after retirement. You may also be able to invest in tax-free accounts known as the Roth IRA and the Roth 401(k). After you pay regular taxes on your wages, you never pay taxes on money that you withdraw after retirement. Employers, tax advisers, and librarians can provide information that you need to know before using these important retirement accounts.

Making the most of your money

Click into this money management website to get good advice on managing and growing your money.

Copyright © 2014 Douglas R. Knight


1. Free exchange. Money from nothing. The Economist, 3/15/2014.

Performance measured by GAGR

November 6, 2011


Financial success is typically discussed in terms of return, rate of return, and performance.  The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is a good measure of an investment’s rate of return.  An investment “outperforms” or “underperforms” a market index according to the difference in CAGRs.


Investors hope to earn a profit called the return.  The two main types of return are cash distributions and capital gains.  Cash distributions include dividends and interest.  A realized capital gain(loss) is the actual return earned from an increase(decrease) in market value between times of purchase and sale.   An unrealized capital gain(loss) is an imaginary return calculated by the increase(decrease) in market value of an unsold investment.  The total return from an investment is the sum of its cash distributions, realized capital gains, and unrealized capital gains 1Significance: It’s important to know whether a market index measures the total return of the market (e.g., S&P 500 Total Return) or the price return of the market (e.g., S&P 500) 2.

Rate of return

The rate of return is a change in value with respect to time.  Annualized return is a return, or rate of return, from any time period that’s converted to an annual value 3.  Annualization may or may not account for the effects of compounding.  Example #1:  To annualize any monthly or quarterly rate of return without concern for compounding the returns, multiply the unannualized rate of return by 12 months/year or 4 quarters/year as appropriate for the time period.  This method provides only an estimation of the annual rate of return.  Example #2:  The annual rate of return is simply the ratio of yearly return to initial investment expressed as a percentage.  Example#3:  To annualize a compounded return over several preceding years, compute the compound annual growth rate (CAGR4,5.  VIDEO: CAGR

Figure 4 illustrates the use of CAGR to describe the 5-year growth of a market Index called the S&P United States 500 Total Return 1988 (SPTR).

Fig. 4 Rate of return measured by CAGR

Each datum (blue dot) is a spot value of the Index at the end of the last trading day of the year.  Lines connecting the data form peaks and valleys on the graph to illustrate the dynamic nature of the stock market.  The dashed line represents a smoothed continuum of Index values as if the Index grew at the appropriate CAGR of 2.29%.  Significance: Net growth of value occurs when CAGR is a positive value and net loss occurs when CAGR is a negative value.


Investment performance is best determined by comparing the investment return to an impartial standard value.  The standard value is either a numerical goal or the value of a market index.  The comparison is only meaningful when the investment return and standard return are based on the same,

  • class of financial assets
  • type of return (e.g., total return, price appreciation) 2
  • units of return (e.g., percentage)
  • time interval (e.g., annual)

Outperform” means that the investment return exceeds the standard return and “underperform” means that the investment return lags the standard return.  Investment performance is often measured by comparing the CAGR of an investment portfolio to the CAGR of an appropriate market index1.  For example, Fig. 5 shows that a Fund’s portfolio underperformed its market index.

Fig. 5 Performance measured by CAGR

Figure 5 compares the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust’s 5-year portfolio return (NAV) to the benchmark return of the S&P United States 500 Total Return 1988 (SPTR).  The 5-year returns were measured as CAGRs and performance was measured by the difference in CAGRs.

Concluding trivia

  • CAGR is a statistic that’s calculated as the geometric mean for a series of annual percentage returns.
  • The graph of CAGR is an exponential curve defined by the formula Y = X(1+CAGR)N . Y is the final value, X is the initial value, CAGR is a decimal number, and N is the number of years.
  • The generic rate of return (R ) applies to unannualized growth rates and financial applications such as the calculation of future values.

Copyright © 2011, Douglas R. Knight


1.  Kennon, Joshua. Evaluating Investment Performance. Calculating Total Return and Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) http://beginnersinvest.about.com/od/investing101/a/aa081504.htm

2.  S&P 500: Total and Inflation-Adjusted Historical Returns.  Copyright © 2009 Simple Stock Investing. http://www.simplestockinvesting.com/SP500-historical-real-total-returns.htm

3.  Annualize.  Copyright © 2011 Investopedia ULC. http://www.investopedia.com/terms/a/annualize.asp#axzz1d326sqhX

4.  Annual return.  Copyright ©2011 Investopedia ULC.  http://www.investopedia.com/terms/a/annual-return.asp#axzz1Zkpsxjsb

5.  Compound Annual Growth Rate- CAGR.  Copyright ©2011 Investopedia ULC.    http://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/cagr.asp#axzz1Zkpsxjsb

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