Whenever I see the presentations or documents imploring me to invest in 401k and retirement, it always shows a nice graph showing a 7% compound interest and how less money saved earlier in your 20s grows to be higher than money starting to get saved in your 30s.
Here's a nice article in Business Insider explaining this. I've attached the graph similar to one in many 401k presentations (from the same link).
I understand the importance of investing in a 401K, particularly if the company offers matching, but two related questions:
- Why would the compounding interest for a 401k be different from any other type of compound interest? Example: if I invest in a S&P500 index or something that has annualized returns of 7% annually, I get the same effect of compounding interest, correct?
- What happens if the 401k loses money? This isn't just a rhetorical question, it actually happened to me this year. 401k's are tied to real world events (such as the stock market), and it is possible for them to fall and lose money along with the rest of the economy, isn't it?