There are plenty of reasons Americans aren't investing as much as they should. For many workers, it's a matter of not having the money available after paying living expenses. For others, it's a matter of absent knowledge and fear. But even when these factors don't apply, Americans still tend to fall down on the investing front, so much so that 34% spend more money each year on coffee than on stocks, bonds, or other such moneymaking vehicles, according to investing app Acorns.

Now if there's one thing pretty much all financial professionals can agree on, it's that investing is the key to growing wealth. Period. So if your morning beverage is trumping your long-term savings efforts, it's time to take a hard look at your priorities and start working toward a shift.

A man, seated by a window, smiles with his eyes closed as he cradles a cup in both hands.

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

You're losing out

Why invest? It's simple. If you don't invest your money, you won't see any growth on it. If someone hands you $100 in cash and you leave it rolled up in the corner of your sock drawer for 30 years, you won't have a penny more three decades from now. But if you use that money to buy stocks and see an 8% average annual return on your investment (which is actually just below the market's average), in 30 years, you'll have just over $3,000.

Now you may not consider $3,000 a life-changing amount of money, but it's also 10 times more than the amount we started with in our example. What this means is that if you're willing to invest money consistently over time, you stand to amass a sizable amount of wealth by the time you're ready to retire. And that's important, because you need your own savings to pay the bills once your career comes to a close. Contrary to what you may have been led to believe, Social Security can't come close to sustaining the average retiree, and that's a present-day analysis. Given that the program might be forced to slash benefits in the future, relying on Social Security alone is essentially a recipe for disaster.

A better bet? Start investing money now so you have financial breathing room in the future. Even if you're younger and aren't particularly focused on retirement right now, you should still invest for the sole reason that you'll most likely come away with more money than what you started with. And who wouldn't want extra cash?

So let's see what several decades of investing might do for your money. Acorns reports that the average American spends about $1,100 per year on coffee, which breaks down to roughly $92 a month. Now, here's what would happen if you were to invest that $92 a month over time rather than gulp it down in the form a morning pick-me-up.

If You Start Investing $92 a Month at Age:

Here's What You'll Have by Age 65 (Assumes an 8% Average Annual Return):

25

$286,000

30

$190,000

35

$125,000

40

$81,000

45

$50,000

50

$30,000

55

$16,000

Data source: author.

The longer you wait to start investing, the less impressive a sum you wind up with. On the other hand, investing $1,100 a year over a 40-year period could leave you $286,000 richer under normal market circumstances. And that's a lot of money to work with, whether for retirement purposes or to meet another goal.

Now at this point, you may be thinking: "Sorry, but I can't give up my morning coffee." So don't. Find another way to come up with the cash to invest, whether it's cutting a different expense or picking up an extra shift at work every week.

None of this should be construed as an assault on your daily caffeine. Rather, it's meant to make you aware of how much you stand to lose out on if you don't invest at an early age. So find some way to stick a little bit of money each month into a retirement or brokerage account, and read up on investing basics so you have a good starting point to work with. You'll be happy you did when you're sitting on a bundle of cash in the future.

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