Find a Penny, Save a Million

This following is a guest post by Bob Bobala, personal finance guru and former Motley Fool editor-in-chief.

In a sign of the times, educators in Florida are trying to collect 2.6 million pennies – one for each student in the state – to make a point about the plight of education on the steps of the Florida state Capitol. The plan has had some kinks, namely, the heft of 2.6 million pennies – about 15,000 pounds. Oh, and also, the “lint and household goo” that comes along with that many pennies being out of circulation for that long.

I’m getting grossed out just thinking about it. But it’s also made think about the value of the penny and saving in general. I recall super investor Warren Buffett offering his perspective on saving and frugalness once. He said if finds a penny, he still picks it up.
That sounds downright folksy and goes right along with Buffett’s personality, if you know anything about him. But, of course, the idea of a nearly-eighty-year-old billionaire picking up loose change on the sidewalk sounds completely ludicrous.

Or is it? Because in the end, saving money is really about attitude. It starts with that first penny, or that first dollar, and with confidence that you can add to it and make it grow a little more each month and each year. Heck, start with $100 today. Add $100 every month for 50 years at 8% interest (actually a little below-average return for stocks if you don’t count the current mess we’re in) and you end up with a stash of nearly $800,000. Parents, take notes for your kids and teach them budgeting and how to save money!

That’s a lot of pennies. And it starts with picking one up and putting it in your pocket, saving it, and making the commitment to keep doing it year after year. You don’t need a lot of money, you just need perseverance. Think about that the next time you drop some loose change in the “give a penny-take a penny” cup at 7-Eleven.

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