Math hits us early with our first paycheck. Out of gross pay, subtract 7.65% for Social Security and Medicare. Then we subtract about 15% for federal income taxes and maybe 5% for state income taxes when applicable. Then we should at least 10% taken out for the 401(k). After a few more items like health insurance, dental, vision, etc. we might, if we are lucky, end up with 60% left over. More math to follow.

We take that roughly 60% and use it to pay the bills. Let's say 30% goes to housing. Other bills like utilities, gas, cable, wifi, phone, groceries, etc. come out equalling roughly another 10% (higher for many). This leaves us with something close to 20% for "fun." Basically, 80% is out the door every month (for some, it is actually 100% or more) before we start deciding what to do with what is left. More math to follow.

Maybe we go out to eat and spend about 3 times more than it would cost to eat at home; maybe more. Of course, we have to pay the 7% sales tax (sometimes more) and let's not forget the 15%, 20%, or 25% tip based on how generous we want to be. All in all, the $10 meal at home for two, might end up costing $40 eating out, 4 times the amount when considering the whole experience. More math to follow.

We might place that experience on a credit card and pay only the minimum when the bill comes due. That would equal roughly an additional 18% on something that cost us 4 times more already, rather than eating at home. Of course, if we miss a payment, that rate might go up to 29%. We might get 1% back with each purchase, but that seems small compared to the 18% or 29%. More math to follow.

Maybe we take 10% and go to the department store and buy some "stuff." Of course, we are not getting out of there until we pay the 7% sales tax (10.25% if we buy in Chicago) and if we repeat the minimum payment approach, we end up paying 29% on top of that to the credit card with our mighty 1% back on the credit card with the "sale" we got from the store with 10% off. More math to follow.

We could take a trip with 10% where we stay at a hotel in Chicago, paying the all in hotel tax of 17.4%. We then eat out, go shopping and start to see just how the compounding of interest can devastate an individual and/or family. 10.25% here, 20% there, and maybe 29% somewhere else. These are examples of how math works against us in some pretty destructive ways. Let's look at one more math problem.

You decide to take that 10% in savings and put it in the bank where it earns .5%. Using the rule of 72, it will take 144 years to double your money! There is another number we have to consider. That is the inflation rate, which is running at about 8% today. That means, our real return (after inflation) is -7.5% per year. That's right, our savings is losing value at that rate year after year based on the inflation rate. Now some good math.

We put 20% in our 401(k), which minimizes our taxes when it goes in traditional. That means we can actually withhold less federal and state income tax and actually get more back after putting 20% into the 401(k). Maybe we find ways to get the housing down to 25% or less. There's another 10% in our pocket. With a bit of sacrifice, we might have 30% for our use after the bills are paid. More math to follow.

We eat out much less, saving the 300% mark up, the 7% sales tax, and the 20% tip as we eat groceries at home with no mark up, no sales tax and no tip. We spend less time in the department store, saving the 7% sales tax as well as avoiding the hotel and the 17% hotel tax. All of this money can be used elsewhere to make the math work in our favor. That's right, math can be your friend or your foe. More math to follow.

You could take the extra money and invest in a Roth IRA, buying VSIAX (small-cap value index fund) at a cost of .07%, averaging over 12% (13.75% before fees over the last 50 years), beating the inflation rate by a ginormous amount! Using the rule of 72, that 12% return, doubles your money in 6 years (72 divided by 12 = 6) and then again in 12 years and then again in 18 years, and then again in 24 years, and then ........

What does starting at $0 look like in 24 years at 12% per year with $20,000 contributed yearly to a 401(k) and Roth IRA combined?