Most of us have heard of the rule of 72. If you are paid an interest rate of say 6%, then it takes about 12 years to double your money. The “rule of 72” part comes from 6 times 12 equals 72. Similarly, it would take only about 8 years at 9% interest. However, this so-called rule is just an approximation.
When you multiply an interest rate in % by the number of years it takes to double your money, you get the following chart:
The rule of 72 turns out to be exactly accurate at about 7.85%. But up at around 26%, it should be called the rule of 78. Down around 1% or 2%, it should be called the rule of 70.
An otherwise interesting article on why Canadian banks won’t be raising the interest rate they pay on savings accounts made the mistake of using the rule of 72 for interest rates of 1% and 2%. The real times to double your money are about 70 and 35 years rather than 72 and 36 years.
This kind of error certainly isn’t a big deal when doing back-of-the-envelope calculations, but I prefer to know when rules are accurate and when they are just approximations.