Thursday, December 27, 2007

Is it better to save, or invest in your business?

A reader recently sent me this e-mail:

"My daughter-in-law wants to save, but cannot convince my son. He thinks that every dollar she tries to save would be better off going straight into his business.

She and I have talked about the importance of saving. I would love to show her the plan to save $1 million by the time she is a certain age. She is 34 now. How much per month will she need to save to reach $1 million by age 50 or 60?"

Figuring out how much to save per month to reach $1 million can be a good motivational tool, especially if someone is young. (In fact, I recently used it with my daughter.) But to get the reader's son onboard with a plan to put away some money for the future, it may work better to focus less on the potential reward of saving and investing, and focus on the potential risk of small businesses instead.

Not much motivation
The sacrifice required to reach $1 million by age 50 won't sway the son (or encourage his wife) to start saving. To reach that goal, the couple would have to sock away nearly $2,300 per month for the next 15-1/2 years (assuming a 10% average annual return, which you can get with a well-mixed portfolio of stock and bond mutual funds).

Waiting a decade or so makes the amount more palatable, but still tough to swallow: $725/month to reach a million by age 60, and $427/month to get there by age 65 (such is the magic of compounding). Doable, but still unlikely to convince Sonny Boy that the money is better off invested in stocks and bonds than in his own business-building skills.

Offsetting a huge risk
Which is where risk comes in. Investing solely in one's own business is a lot like investing in the stock of an individual company--except, if you're just starting out, even riskier. Many small businesses fail within the first five years (depending on the source, between 50% and 80%). The son may invent the next Google, but he may not. Saving money for the future to offset this huge risk isn't a comment on his business idea or abilities; it's good financial sense.

Come together on a plan
That said, my e-mail friend should encourage her son and his wife to sit down together and establish a concrete plan. It should have room for both saving for tomorrow and investing in the business, with well-defined and mutually agreed upon goals and definitions of success.

Since they are relatively young, the couple could put more money toward the business initially, with the caveat that they evaluate the return on their investment in a year or so. If the business is showing signs of progress, they may even be able to increase the amount they're putting toward both goals. If not, they could evaluate whether it's time to shut the operation down. Either way, the decision should be theirs--not his or hers.

Potential reward is the aspect many people consider first about investing, but don't forget about risk. Understanding your own comfort with it--as well as that of your spouse--can go a long way toward making you a wise investor.

1 comment:

Deals Hunt said...

both were important i think because when you invest in your business you will gain and when you will gain than you able to save your money.