Compounding investment earnings is what can make even small investments become large investments given enough time.

How It Works – The money you save (either in a savings account, a mutual funds or in individual stocks) earns interest. Then you earn interest on the money you originally save, plus on the interest you've accumulated. As your savings grow, you earn interest on a bigger and bigger pool of money.

For example, the value of $1000 compounded at various rates of return over time is shown in the following chart.





















Start Saving Early - For every 10 years you delay before starting to save for retirement, you will need to save three times as much each month to catch up.

Starting at 20 - If you put $1,000 a year into an IRA every year from age 20 through age 30 (for 11 years) and stop - and the account earns seven percent annually - your savings will equal $168,514 at age 65.

Starting at age 30 - If you don't start until age 30, but save the same $1,000 amount annually but for 35 years straight at the same seven percent rate, you will have saved three times as much money but your account will grow to only $147,913 at age 65.

From the Employee Benefits Security Administration's publication Savings Fitness: A Guide to Your Money and Your Financial Future, available to consumers by calling 1-866-444-3272, and the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards.