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Debunking the myth of the 8% return

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One of the very basic staples of personal finance is the idea that by starting to save when young, one can become very wealthy watching their investments multiply over time. I surely agree that starting to save young is ideal, but a lot of the personal-finance literature can take things way too far. It is common to see return assumptions of 8% or higher when showing basic examples about the power of compound interest. Surely, if someone can earn 8%, planning for retirement becomes a lot easier. But let's break this assumption down.