Lindsay’s eyes narrowed. I was delivering a presentation on investing, and she had a burning question. It was something many people think…but few have the courage to ask.

“I can see the benefit of compound interest,” she said. “I can also see why investing in a portfolio of index funds makes so much sense. But is it too late for me to start investing? I’m already fifty-eight.”

I’ve met plenty of people like Lindsay. In fact, my parents were a lot like her. They worked hard all their lives. They raised their children. But after the cost of living and their regular mortgage payments, they didn’t have money to invest.

By the time they hit their mid-50s, however, they lived in an empty nest.

That was when they asked if they were too late to start investing. Like Lindsay, they worried what would happen if the markets fell. After all, they wanted to retire within ten years, and they didn’t want to lose their hard-earned money.

You might relate. After all, you probably remember the market crash of 2000-2002. U.S. stocks dropped about 40 percent. Stocks crashed again in 2008: U.S. stocks cratered 37 percent and global stocks fell even further. But I’m going to make a bold prediction. If you don’t have any investments today, and if you start to invest regular monthly sums, you will make a profit over the next 10 years. No, I don’t have a working crystal ball. But history paints a profitable picture, even though the canvas has lumps.

There are just two rules: The portfolio should include broad diversification of stocks and bonds. I suggest about 60 percent in stocks and 40 percent in bonds. It should also charge low fees. A low-cost balanced index fund should do the trick.

Using portfoliovisualizer.com, I checked the 38 rolling 10-year periods between 1972 and 2019. In other words, I looked at the ten years between 1972-1981, 1973-1982, 1974-1983, and so on, until 2009-2018. If an investor began with nothing, and if they added a consistent monthly sum to a balanced index fund, they would have made a profit during every one those 38, ten-year periods.

I also checked the 48, rolling 5-year periods between 1972 and 2019. Shorter time durations bring higher risks. But investors would have earned profits during 46 of the 48 periods. One exception was 1998- 2002. Investors would have lost 1.14 percent per year. But if they added money for just one more year, they would have earned a compound annual return of 4.89 percent over the six-year period from 1998-2002.

The only other rolling 5-year period when investors wouldn’t have made a profit was between 2004 and 2008. Investors would have lost 1.56 percent per year. But once again, if they added regular sums for just one more year, they would have seen gains. Over the six-year period from 2004-2009, investors would have earned a compound annual return of 3.91 percent.

Stocks don’t always rise. They have good days and bad days, good years and bad years. But if we add regular sums to a balanced portfolio every month, we’ll likely never be too old to see a decent profit.

Rolling Ten-Year Returns For A Balanced Index Fund
Assuming The Investor Started With Nothing And Adds $500 A Month

Rolling 10-Year Periods Total Added Money Weighted Compound Annual Return Portfolio End Value
1972-1981 $60,000 9.02% $94,943
1973-1982 $60,000 12.13% $111,722
1974-1983 $60,000 13.35% $119,140
1975-1984 $60,000 12.57% $114,366
1976-1985 $60,000 15.04% $130,300
1977-1986 $60,000 15.57% $133,942
1978-1987 $60,000 13.67% $121,140
1979-1988 $60,000 13.42% $119,611
1980-1989 $60,000 14.73% $128,180
1981-1990 $60,000 12.31% $112,768
1982-1991 $60,000 14.08% $123,815
1983-1992 $60,000 12.77% $115,580
1984-1993 $60,000 12.45% $113,606
1985-1994 $60,000 9.56% $97,655
1986-1995 $60,000 12.22% $112,269
1987-1996 $60,000 12.64% $114,741
1988-1997 $60,000 14.44% $126,211
1989-1998 $60,000 15.24% $131,673
1990-1999 $60,000 15.29% $132,035
1991-2000 $60,000 12.71% $115,205
1992-2001 $60,000 9.83% $99,069
1993-2002 $60,000 6.48% $83,265
1994-2003 $60,000 8.14% $90,732
1995-2004 $60,000 7.65% $88,457
1996-2005 $60,000 6.56% $83,620
1997-2006 $60,000 6.81% $84,708
1998-2007 $60,000 6.74% $84,370
1999-2008 $60,000 2.11% $66,672
2000-2009 $60,000 4.54% $75,395
2001-2010 $60,000 6.28% $82,423
2002-2011 $60,000 6.14% $81,839
2003-2012 $60,000 6.84% $84,839
2004-2013 $60,000 8.76% $93,672
2005-2014 $60,000 9.14% $95,567
2006-2015 $60,000 8.0% $90,074
2007-2016 $60,000 8.26% $91,293
2008-2017 $60,000 9.48% $97,280
2009-2018 $60,000 7.44% $87,473



Rolling Ten-Year Returns For 60% Global Stocks, 40% Global Bonds
Assuming The Investor Started With Nothing And Adds $500 A Month

Rolling 10-Year Periods Total Added Money Weighted Compound Annual Return Portfolio End Value
1994-2003 $60,000 7.23% $86,542
1995-2004 $60,000 8.20% $91,021
1996-2005 $60,000 7.32% $86,944
1997-2006 $60,000 8.54% $92,632
1998-2007 $60,000 8.97% $94,260
1999-2008 $60,000 2.24% $67,114
2000-2009 $60,000 6.16% $81,889
2001-2010 $60,000 7.70% $88,667
2002-2011 $60,000 6.38% $82,856
2003-2012 $60,000 7.17% $86,260
2004-2013 $60,000 7.92% $89,669
2005-2014 $60,000 7.31% $86,899
2006-2015 $60,000 5.63% $79,716
2007-2016 $60,000 5.97% $81,093
2008-2017 $60,000 8.25% $91,242
2009-2018 $60,000 5.52% $79,257

Andrew Hallam is a Digital Nomad. He’s the author of the bestseller Millionaire Teacher and Millionaire Expat: How To Build Wealth Living Overseas