You’ve probably only got two words on your mind right now: Student loans.

I know, I know. But in the next few paragraphs, you’ll see why you should set aside those words for a moment and focus on just one word: TIME.

Basically, the earlier you start consistently investing money in the stock market, the more likely you are to accumulate a large amount of wealth over time. To calculate how much you can accumulate you need to know three things: how much money you will invest each month, the average yearly profit you expect to gain from compounding interest, and the number of years you will be consistently investing. Try using a compound interest calculator, like this one from Investor.gov, to see how you’ll net out.

By investing \$150 from every paycheck starting right out of college at age 23 (assuming you get 2 paychecks per month) and doing that with discipline for 40 years, you’ll be able to retire at 63 years young with nearly a million dollars (\$932,603.47 with an expected annual return of 8% which you can see in the graph below).

But what happens if you choose to live that YOLO life until age 30 instead? I mean nobody gets their youth back, right? So, you start investing at age 30 with \$150 per paycheck and by the time you are 63 years young, you will only have \$525,422.23 as shown in the graph below. How come? Because you only invested for 33 years. That’s 7 years less of compounding and exponential growth. Man! Don’t you wish you could go back in time and start investing at age 23? Oh, but nobody gets their youth back, remember?

In order to start investing at 30 years old and have a similar amount of money accumulated by age 63, you’d have to double down and invest \$300 per paycheck instead of just \$150. In your early 20’s you are much less likely to have a spouse, children or a house you own so finding an extra \$150 from each paycheck is most likely going to be significantly less of a financial hassle than finding twice that amount per paycheck later in life. If you disagree, just google the cost of childcare!

Another result of starting at 30 years old instead of right after college, is that if you can’t afford to invest double the money then you’d have to keep working to earn more income after your 63rd birthday, which means you’ll have to retire later in life. In order to accumulate \$932,603.47 (assuming the same 8% average annual return as before), you’ll need to invest for 40 years after you start. That means retiring at the age of 70, which is a BIG difference!

Time is the one key advantage you have as an investor when you’re fresh out of college, which means it is critical that you begin to invest monthly if you haven’t started already. Student loans are among the lowest interest rate debt in the country, so if you can afford to send more than the minimum payment due each month then you should, by all means, do that. But just remember to set aside a little something for your retirement investing too!