Compounding returns can help the money you’ve invested grow, as long as those returns are reinvested.
Compound returns depend on the rate of return–meaning how much the investment gains or losses over time. The most powerful effects of compounding returns take time, even decades. That’s why people are often encouraged to start investing at an early age, even with small amounts. The longer their money is invested, the more compounding it can do.
How can investors receive compounding returns? Here’s how the process works and steps to take to achieve it.
What Are Compounding Returns?
Compounding returns are the earnings you continuously receive from contributions you’ve made to an investment.
Compound returns can be achieved by any type of asset class that produces returns on both the initial amount–or the principal–as well as any profits or returns that are generated after the initial investment. Essentially, the money you put to work is doing additional work automatically for you.
💡 Quick Tip: If you’re opening a brokerage account for the first time, consider starting with an amount of money you’re prepared to lose. Investing always includes the risk of loss, and until you’ve gained some experience, it’s probably wise to start small.
How Does Compounding Interest Work?
Compound interest, on the other hand, refers to interest that accrues on savings accounts. (There isn’t such a thing as compound interest in stocks.) So, for instance, if you have a savings account that pays interest on the principal in the account, the interest you earn gets added to the principal. That means, your interest ends up earning interest–or compounding.
The Value of Compounding Returns
Here’s a hypothetical example that illustrates the idea of compound returns. (However, be aware that this is only for an investor making profits. In reality, an investor could also experience losses.)
Let’s say an investor buys a stock that costs $1,000. That’s the investment’s “principal.” In the first year, they earn a 10% return. The stock is now worth $1,100. Things start to get interesting in the second year, when the stock increases in value another 10%, bringing the stock’s value to $1,210.
That’s $110 in profit earned in the second year, compared to $100 in the first year. This happened even though they did not add any additional money to the investment, and they earned the same compound rate of return. The investment simply grew over the previous year, creating a larger base from which to earn more.
If the investor were to earn a 10% rate of return the third year, the profit would be even greater than in the previous two years. Working off a larger base—now $1,210—a 10% return will yield a profit of $121.
But keep in mind that investments that hold stocks may experience volatility. Take the example from above. Three consecutive years of precise 10% returns is highly unlikely. In fact, it’s also possible for investors to lose money on their investments, which is the case in almost any asset class. While helpful for understanding the concept of compound returns, it’s not necessarily reflective of the real-world experience.
Recommended: A Beginner’s Guide to Investing in Your 20s
How to Get Compound Returns
With compound returns, the reinvestment of interest may be done automatically or manually.
Here are some examples of investment types that can earn compound returns.
Stocks: There are two ways to make money on a stock. The first is through price appreciation, and the second is through dividend payments. When the value of a stock grows over time, an investor has the potential to earn compound interest if those profits are reinvested. With cash dividend payments, compound returns are not automatic, as they are paid out in cash, but an investor can add the payouts back in in order to potentially earn additional returns.
Mutual funds: Mutual funds are pools of stocks, bonds, or other investment types. For example, a mutual fund could invest in the U.S. stock market. Over time, the goal is that the mutual fund grows as the underlying investments grow. Many mutual funds give the option of automatic dividend reinvestment plans. This way, the investor can earn compound returns in both ways, on the price appreciation and the dividend payments.
Exchange-traded funds (ETFs): Similar to mutual funds, ETFs are pools of investments, like stocks. As the value of the ETF grows over time, returns will compound. Depending on which bank or institution where the ETF is purchased, it may or may not be possible to automatically reinvest dividends.
Remember, with all investments, a good return on investment is not guaranteed, even profits aren’t. Plus, investments that tend to earn a higher potential return may also come with higher risk.
💡 Quick Tip: How to manage potential risk factors in a self-directed investment account? Doing your research and employing strategies like dollar-cost averaging and diversification may help mitigate financial risk when trading stocks.
Which Products Offer Compound Interest?
Here are some examples of the types of accounts that earn compound interest.
High-yield savings accounts: Some high-yield savings accounts pay interest on cash balances. With these accounts, it is possible to earn interest on top of interest earned in previous months, therefore earning compounding returns.
Money market accounts: These accounts combine features of both a savings and a checking account. For instance, you may be able to write checks or use a debit card with a money market account. You earn interest on the balance in the account.
CDs: With a CD, or Certificate of Deposit, you place your money in the account and leave it for a specified period of time, which is usually anywhere from three months to five years. While the money is in the account, it earns a guaranteed amount of interest that typically compounds.
Bonds: You can buy different types of bonds such as US Treasury Bonds. In return for buying the bonds, the issuer pays you compound interest over a certain period of time, which can be as long as 30 years until the bonds mature.
Compound returns can be a powerful way for your money to grow over time. When you invest your money in stocks or other asset classes, you have the potential to earn compounded rates of return. And the longer you invest, the more time your returns may have to compound.
Ready to invest in your goals? It’s easy to get started when you open an investment account with SoFi Invest. You can invest in stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and more. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).
Do stocks compound daily?
Compound return is a measure of a stock’s performance over time. Compounding often happens monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually.
What is the average compound interest return?
The average compound interest return depends on the types of savings vehicles you have.
What is the difference between arithmetic and compounding returns?
With arithmetic returns, you take the difference between the ending value of an investment and the beginning value of the investment and divide it by the beginning value. Compound returns depend on the rate of return–meaning how much an investment gains or losses over time.
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