For many folks, there's no greater financial goal than becoming a millionaire . And while plenty of us will inevitably struggle to reach millionaire status in our 20s, 30s, 40s, or even 50s, those of us who focus on retirement savings early enough have a good shot of hitting $1 million in our nest eggs.
The problem, though, is that most younger workers aren't saving for retirement -- an estimated 62% have not yet begun to build a nest egg, according to new data from TD Ameritrade . It's surprising, then, to learn that 53% of younger workers are convinced they'll end up becoming millionaires nonetheless.
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Of course, saving consistently in a retirement plan from a relatively young age isn't the only way to build wealth. You never know when you might start a business that really takes off, or score a high-level position later in your career with a salary that offers ample opportunity to pile up cash. But if you're intent on becoming a millionaire at some point in your life, your best shot is to do so in a retirement account over a long period of time.
What will it take to become a millionaire?
Acquiring $1 million often boils down to these factors: living below your means, saving consistently, and investing wisely.
So, let's talk lifestyle. In an ideal world, your income would allow you to rent a fabulous apartment, dine out frequently, and enjoy exotic vacations that take you to different corners of the world. In reality, your salary probably isn't as generous as you'd like it to be, which means if you want to carve out room for savings, you'll need to make some sacrifices. That could mean paying for a slightly less roomy living space, cooking your own meals, and spending your time off close to home. The key is to not max out each paycheck you collect so there's room left over to bank some cash.
Now let's talk savings. You might think that in order to become a millionaire, you'll need to part with a huge amount of money each month for your entire life. Not so. If you give yourself a long enough savings window, you can actually get away with saving a relatively small amount on a monthly basis, which won't have such a negative impact on your lifestyle. On the other hand, if you wait too long to start saving, you'll need to forgo a lot more cash on the regular, which means you might come to feel the pain.
Finally, let's talk investing. When you're young and first starting out, the best place to put your money is the stock market , because it has the potential to generate respectable returns. As you get older, you'll want to shift more of your money into safer investments, like bonds, but no matter where you are in life, stocks should always have a place in your portfolio.
Let's see what the above translates into money-wise. Imagine you're able to set aside $300 a month for the remainder of your career, and you invest that money heavily in stocks. Here's the sum you might end up with depending on your age at present:
If You Start Setting Aside $300 a Month at Age:
Here's What You'll Have by Age 67 (Assumes a 7% Average Annual Return):
TABLE AND CALCULATIONS BY AUTHOR.
And there you have it: If you give yourself 45 years to save and consistently set aside $300 a month at an average annual 7% return, you can retire a millionaire without sacrificing too much along the way. But don't despair if you're older, because you still have an opportunity to reach millionaire status as well -- you'll just need to do better than $300 a month. For example, if you only have 30 years to save, you'll need to set aside around $900 a month to grow your nest egg to $1 million, assuming that same 7% return. And while that is a lot of money, it's far more doable once your salary increases and your student loan debt goes away.
Though being a millionaire isn't necessarily something to fixate on, if it's a goal you'd like to achieve, know that you have the power to make it happen. You just need to commit to it and make smart financial choices along the way.
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