How Much Would You Have for Retirement If You Saved $5,000 Every Leap Year?

Leap year is an intriguing phenomenon that most people don’t think of except when it happens every four years. For some, it’s a mystical event, while for others, it’s simply an extra work day. But what would happen if you used that one extra day every four years as an excuse to invest more money? Silly as it might sound, anything that prompts you to sock away more for your retirement is a good thing, so why not?

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You might be surprised at just how much money you could earn investing just $5,000 every leap year into the S&P 500 index — and how easy it would be to do. If you saved just $3.42 per day for those four years, including the leap day, you’d have $5,000 to plunk into the market. Here’s how much you’d have now if you invested $5,000 on Feb. 29 of each of the past six leap years, based on the S&P 500 closing price of 5,078.18 on Feb. 27, 2024.

S&P 500 Exchange Traded Fund Investment Asset Stock Market Money.


On Feb. 28, 2020 — Feb. 29 fell on a Saturday — the S&P 500 index opened at 2,916.90. Even after suffering through the fast and vicious coronavirus bear market that started in March, your $5,000 would have still grown to $8,704 just four short years later, a gain of 74%. 

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On Feb. 29, 2016, the S&P 500 index opened at 1,947.13, a significant jump over its prices from 2000-2012. However, even after a huge move upwards from 2012 to 2016, your $5,000 would have turned into $13,040.

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After the so-called “lost decade” for the S&P 500 from 2000-2010, the index started a long-term bullish trend that continues to this day. The leap year of 2012 was the last time you would see the S&P 500 index anywhere near its opening price of 1,372.20 on Feb. 29. A $5,000 investment on that date would now be worth $18,503. 

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In 2008, the S&P 500 had its worst calendar year performance since the Great Depression, on the back of the financial crisis and the collapse in the housing market. This means that investing at the start of the year wasn’t a great time to begin. Still, you’d have done quite well if you made your $5,000 leap-year contribution thanks to the market’s tremendous outperformance in subsequent years. The S&P 500 opened on Feb. 29, 2008 at 1,364.07. After rising to its Feb. 27, 2024 level of 5,078.18, your investment would have grown to $18,614. 

investing in stocks


The second leap day of the new millennium fell on a Sunday, so for leap day investment purposes, you would have invested on Feb. 27, 2004. On that day, the S&P 500 opened at 1,145.80. A $5,000 investment at that price would now be worth $22,160, posting a gain of 343%. 

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If you invested $5,000 on Feb. 29, 2000, at the start of the millennium, your money would have been growing for 24 years. At a starting price of 1,348.05, the S&P has returned 276.7%, turning your $5,000 into $18,835. 

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The Bottom Line

If you add up the performance of each of these $5,000 investments over those six leap years, the $30,000 you invested would be worth $99,856 as of Feb. 27, 2024. That’s more than a tripling of your invested value, even with the S&P 500 essentially going nowhere for 12 full years from 2000 to 2012. Overall, that’s not a bad return for such a quirky strategy. 

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This article originally appeared on How Much Would You Have for Retirement If You Saved $5,000 Every Leap Year?

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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