The time value of money concept is one of the most important factors individuals face when it comes to investing assets. Time value of money is the idea that money available today is worth more than the same amount of money available at a future date, because of interest earning potential.
Let’s say you are offered $100 today, or were given the opportunity to collect $100 one year from now. Would you take the money now, or later? Your best option would be to accept the $100 today, because of interest earning potential and opportunity cost.
Taking the payment today would allow you to invest your money in a savings vehicle like a savings account or money market account. Investing your money allows you to earn interest, meaning the bank is paying you a small percentage for using your deposited funds. Therefore, depositing your money in a savings account will allow your money to grow every year.
Going back to the example, the opportunity cost of choosing to defer a $100 payment today is the interest you could have earned through investing your money. Opportunity cost is a trade-off between what you chose and what you could have had. For instance, if you pay $10 for a movie ticket, your cost of attending the movie is not only the $10, but also the time and value of what you could have enjoyed doing instead of going to the movie. That being said, when choosing to spend or save your money, it is important to think about the opportunity cost of your decision, making sure that the benefits outweigh the costs.
The main idea of the time value of money is that as a young investor, you should start saving as soon as possible! The sooner you invest, the higher your interest earning potential, and thus, the more likely your money will grow over time.
Written by Jessica Wesser, Financial Wellness Peer Educator, University of Illinois Extension