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Here’s how much $100 invested returned in a lifetime

Here's how much $100 invested returned in a lifetime
Elmaz Sabovic

While $100 might not initially seem like much, its potential for growth turns out to be substantial, particularly when you consider the returns it can generate over time.

Let’s delve into a hypothetical scenario: imagine your parents or someone you know invested $100 in a particular asset or commodity back in 1970, a period spanning 54 years, which is well within the average human lifespan.

We’ll start with the worst-case scenario: if your parents simply held onto the $100 bill for most of their lives, its value would grow to $956. However, its purchasing power would significantly diminish over time due to inflation and the increasing money supply.

Purchasing power of dollar. Source: Visual Capitalist
Purchasing power of dollar. Source: Visual Capitalist

Optimal and common investments

This example vividly illustrates the power of compound investing. If they chose to invest in real estate, their initial $100 would have grown to $1,542 by now, assuming an average annual return rate of 5.5%. Alternatively, opting for US 10-year treasury bonds would have yielded a value of $2,286 today.

Turning to the perennial favorite for guarding against inflation, gold, the initial $100 investment would now be worth $5,545 in 2024. Similarly, investing in corporate bonds, a type of debt security issued by corporations to investors, would have multiplied the initial $100 to $7,775.

US treasury interest payments increase. Source: Barchart
US treasury interest payments increase. Source: Barchart

Best-case scenario investment

If you chose to disregard all the previous investment options and remained steadfast through numerous economic crises, including the dot-com bubble and the 2008 financial crisis, the stock market would ultimately reward your patience and faith handsomely.

Specifically, investing $100 in the S&P 500 five decades ago would have grown to an impressive $22,419 in your bank account, boasting a robust annual return of 11.3%.

54-year returns of various asset classes. Source: SavvyTrader
54-year returns of various asset classes. Source: SavvyTrader

These returns underscore the significance and benefits of investing, offering protection against inflation and, in the best-case scenario, yielding substantial returns.

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