Here we all are, wringing our hands over the $700 billion that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has said needs to be pumped into banks to prevent an economic collapse. That's a heck of a lot of money! It's:

  • More than we spend on oil imports each year.
  • More than we spend on public education in America each year.
  • Only 280 times the net worth of Oprah Winfrey.

Here's an interesting thought, though: What if this wasn't so urgent? What if our economy could hold off for a few years? Well then ... you, or I, could bail it out.

That's right -- let's spend a little time thinking about the miracle of compounding. I did a little number-crunching on my calculator and found that if you invested a $1,000 lump sum and earned the stock market's long-term average annual return of about 10% on it, you could grow that single $1,000 investment into $700 billion! It would take only 214 years.

Of course, there's a little problem with that -- you won't be around to receive the praise, for one thing. And because of inflation, $700 billion probably won't be worth quite so much in the year 2222. But you could alleviate some of that by:

  • Investing more than $1,000, and adding to it, if you can.
  • Aiming to earn more than 10%, if possible. You might achieve this goal with mutual funds. The Masters' Select International (FUND:MSILX) fund, for example, has averaged 11.6% over the past decade and recently included GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK), Teva Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:TEVA), and America Movil (NYSE:AMX) as top holdings.
  • Looking into individual stocks, some of which can deliver rapid growth for many years. Deere (NYSE:DE), for example, has grown by an annual average of 13% over the past 20 years. For Texas Instruments (NYSE:TXN), it's more than 13%, and for Nike (NYSE:NKE), it's 21%.

Sure, this may seem like a silly little article. You're probably not going to accumulate $700 billion. But think about it. With a little discipline, you can save, invest, and accumulate a lot of money. Just $10,000 can top $100,000 in 25 years, growing only at the market average of 10%. Hop to it!

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Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article. America Movil is a Motley Fool Global Gains pick. GlaxoSmithKline is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. Try our investing newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.