Whether you’ve been investing for decades or are just starting out, learning to manage your money is essential. Reaching $1 million or more in your 401(k) has long been the gold standard for retirement. That might sound like a big number, but getting there is actually simpler than you might think. It just requires discipline, consistency, and a little financial acumen.
Obviously, starting early is ideal, but crossing that seven-figure mark can be achieved by overcoming your own personal finance challenges—no matter your age. Even if it’s not feasible for you, optimizing your investing strategies now can double or even triple your retirement account.
Read on for tips on how you can set yourself up to reach (or at least approach) that $1 million mark at any age.
This decade of your life is a pivotal time for securing your future financial health. Learning to live frugally and spend consciously will set you up for success later in life. Understanding your cash flow is a big part of it. Consider your regular expenses like rent, utilities, groceries, transportation, debt repayment, entertainment, etc. and identify where cuts can be made.
If you’re lucky enough to have an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan, don’t neglect to invest even a modest amount every paycheck. Even just 1% of your income will add up over time. If you don’t have access to a 401(k) through work, you can open an Individual Retirement Account to get started.
This is a big decade for most people. Maybe you’re starting a family (if you haven’t already), or are considering buying a home. If you’re not investing yet, it’s important to start now since you still have plenty of working years ahead to build wealth. Keep in mind, the more of your debts (such as student loans and credit cards) you’ve paid down, the more you’ll have to invest.
Hopefully, at this point, you have access to a 401(k) plan to start stashing away—at the very least 4–5% of every paycheck (or more if you can afford to). This percentage should gradually increase over time. If your employer matches your contributions up to a certain percentage, you can easily make up for waiting until later to start saving.
By now, you should be saving a significant portion of your income every month. If you haven’t, it may be a difficult starting point to catch up, especially if you’re paying to take care of a loved one or for college tuition. One solution is to maximize the amount you’re saving. A good rule of thumb is to have 3x your income saved at this point, and 4x by your mid-40s.
Investment wise, you should be maxing out your 401(k) contribution (currently $19,000) each year. You’ll want to put away 15–20% of each paycheck. If you’re making up for lost time, you might consider choosing a more aggressive investing portfolio. With retirement still 20 years or so away, any volatility in the stock market will likely recover.
We’re not going to sugarcoat this—with retirement looming, your options are limited. It might be time for a few hard looks at what you can and can’t afford as far as sustainable spending. Revisiting your cash flow and looking at your spending level versus your income can help put into perspective your essential and superfluous expenses.
Fortunately, turning 50 unlocks the ability to make catch-up payments (an additional $6,000 dollars you can contribute above the $19,000 max). If you can afford to do so, this extra amount can help bridge some of your savings gap.
Obviously, it’s critical to save for retirement as early as possible so that you can enjoy your golden years without worrying about your finances. Your 401(k) is a great vehicle to save, and $1 million may sound like a generous amount, but there are things you should keep in mind.
No matter your age, income level, or lifestyle, investing in a 401(k) is a great option for your retirement savings. However, with so many other possibilities to consider, determining where to start can seem overwhelming. Since everyone’s situation is different, it’s always a safe bet to consult a financial adviser who can offer their professional opinion on what’s best for you.
Interested in learning more about personal finance? Check out our post on how much money you should have saved at every age.