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Many of us dream of retiring as millionaires. But life's little surprises often get in the way of our best-laid plans. Whether from raising kids, caring for aging parents, or facing unanticipated health- or home-related expenses, a lot can get in the way of investing for our futures.

If you started and then stopped investing for your retirement, you probably still have some money socked away for your future. Perhaps it's hiding out in an IRA or former employer's 401(k) plan. Whatever the amount, your existing nest egg is valuable seed money to help you restart the quest to retire a millionaire.

What does it matter?
Ultimately, how much you wind up with depends largely on three key factors:

  • How much you invest.
  • How long you invest for.
  • What rate of return you earn on your investments.

Money that you've already got working for you can compound on your behalf, even if you don't invest another dime. The table below shows the number of years it'll take you to amass that $1 million, depending on how much you start with, how much you save each month, and what rate of return you earn. As you can tell, even restarting from a relatively small $10,000 base can take years off the time it'll take to get there:

Starting Amount

Monthly Contribution

10% Annual Returns

8% Annual Returns

6% Annual Returns

4% Annual Returns

$0 $100 44.5 52.9 65.7 88.6
$0 $500 28.8 33.4 40.1 51.0
$0 $1,000 22.4 25.5 29.9 36.7
$10,000 $100 38.4 46.5 58.9 81.3
$10,000 $500 27.3 31.8 38.5 49.4
$10,000 $1,000 21.6 24.7 29.1 35.9
$50,000 $100 28.0 34.5 44.8 64.0
$50,000 $500 22.7 27.0 33.3 43.8
$50,000 $1,000 18.9 21.9 26.2 32.9
$100,000 $100 22.1 27.3 35.8 51.8
$100,000 $500 19.0 22.8 28.5 38.2
$100,000 $1,000 16.3 19.1 23.2 29.5

How to restart
If life got in the way of your initial investing plans, it's perfectly fine to restart investing now by putting aside what you can, when you can. In addition to the benefits you get from the money you've already invested, what's also clear from that chart is that the more you put away, the quicker you'll hit that $1 million target. So even if you restart slowly, your future self will thank you tremendously if you ramp up your investing as your financial situation allows.

In most situations, investing a small amount of cash at a time is a sure way to get your wealth confiscated by commissions paid to your broker. There is one class of investment, however, that often welcomes small contributions and does so with little or no fees attached. They're called dividend reinvestment plans (aka DRIPS), and there are several that will let you efficiently invest $100 or less at a time.

The table below shows a few small-investor friendly DRIPs that offer the ability to contribute and reinvest dividends with no fees:


Initial Enrollment

Minimum Optional Contribution

More Information

Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT  ) 1 share of stock $10 Click Here
El Paso Corp. (NYSE: EP  ) 1 share of stock $50 Click Here
Hasbro (NYSE: HAS  ) 1 share of stock $25 Click Here

Of course, investing in individual stocks instead of exchange-traded or mutual funds does expose you to company-specific risks of loss in addition to overall economic risks. While I'm not predicting Abbott Labs to go out of business anytime soon, there's always a chance of it happening. So if you're concerned about those risks, you can also invest in broader funds.

While broader funds give you the benefits of instant diversification, there's a trade-off. You have to pay for the funds' management above and beyond the company management, and may also owe commissions. Additionally, the higher a fund's turnover rate, the more hidden costs you're exposed to due to that churn. Those costs and risks need to be balanced with the broader diversification benefit of fund-focused investing.

The table below shows a handful of pretty well-diversified ETFs with low expenses and turnover rates:


What it Tracks

Expense Ratio


SPDR S&P 500 (NYSE: SPY  )

The US S&P 500:

large-cap U.S. stocks

0.09% 5%
Vanguard Total World Stock (NYSE: VT  ) The FTSE All World Index: large-cap worldwide stocks 0.25% 7%
Vanguard All World ex US Stock (NYSE: VEU  ) The FTSE All World Index excluding U.S. stocks 0.22% 6%

Whether you're looking to buy American, own the world, or hedge the risk of an American economic collapse, there are low-cost, low-churn ETFs that can let you invest inexpensively.

Plant new seeds and water well
Regardless of how long it has been since you've actively invested for your future, you can get restarted now. Just remember that your ultimate net worth depends on how much you can sock away, the length of time you invest, and your overall rate of return. The more cost-efficiently you invest, the better your chances of success.

At the time of publication, Fool contributor Chuck Saletta did not own shares of any company or fund mentioned in this article. Coca-Cola is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Hasbro is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Hasbro and Coca-Cola are Motley Fool Income Investor recommendations. The Fool owns shares of Abbott Laboratories, Coca-Cola, and El Paso. Alpha Newsletter Account, LLC owns shares of Abbott Laboratories. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

 We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (17) | Recommend This Article (15)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 15, 2011, at 3:26 PM, wmslpf wrote:

    Ive been a happy DRIP investor for over a dozen years (thnx to Chuck Carlson's advice). It's the perfect way to invest for those of us w/ limited funds. It's been surprising that Motley Fool has given it so little attention.

  • Report this Comment On April 15, 2011, at 6:52 PM, tshk1221 wrote:

    Dear Motley

    The article reads very encouraging. However, as I clicked on the More Info links and reviewed the fees attached to their very low initial investment requirements (=teaser amounts), oh, God, their fees are egregiously high. Their fees will eventually gorge out all the dividends you will reinvest for your life. Furthermore, your table calculations do not include these diminishing effects on compounding by taxes on dividends and their flagrant fees. When these tax bites and their high fees all factored in, it will break the compounding and it is impossible for small investors to reach that $1.0 million as you stated.

    For small investors like us to reach $1.0 million or more, there should no tax bites on dividends, not to mention those transaction-related fees. In order to reach a million or more, way more, I would suggest the following:

    1. Choose a well-established and trustworthy fiduciary such as Vanguard Brokerage.

    2. A fiduciary such as Vanguard can automatically reinvest your dividends for NO FEES. You don't even need any subsequent monthly investments tied with another set of PURCHASING FEES 'cause your dividends will be automatically reinvested on long-term average costs free of any fees.

    3. Open a non-taxable or tax-deferred accounts such as Roth, which is the best choice to maximize the compounding effects. Tax deferred accounts would be the next choice.

    4. Save additional money to your best so that you can contribute more to your Roth annually whenever a good acquisition time comes back.

    5. Never diversify. Choose only one company such as KO. You will likely to loose more when you diversify. Our life is too short to diversify. Diversify only after you have made more than a billion through one company such as KO.

    When done, it will get us to more than $100 million or even a billion after 50 or even 60 years since TIME generates more money for us. Don't be satisfied with these yet, though. As you all know, those $100 million or even a billion might not be worth that much after 50 years if those are discounted back to present values. Long way to go..

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2011, at 8:06 AM, TMFBigFrog wrote:

    Hi tshk1221,

    Could you help me understand what fees you're concerned about? Is it the sales charges? Yes -- many of them have sales charges, but I tried to pick DRIPs that had no purchase or reinvestment fees attached.

    One of the primary goals of DRIP investing is to enable investing and compounding, even if a person doesn't have much money to start with. While selling is often not free in a DRIP, if you are investing for the long haul, you'll only need to sell if the company's fundamentals and/or valuation change such that it's no longer worth owning or if you really need the money.

    Hope this helps.


    Inside Value Home Fool

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2011, at 10:28 AM, 5mackDab wrote:

    Coca Cola had a lot of fees, Abbott Labs was virtually free I didn't check out the other ones

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2011, at 11:10 AM, TMFBigFrog wrote:

    Hi 5mackDab,

    Good golly, how did I miss those fees for Coca-Cola? Thanks for the catch.

    Let me contact my editor and ask him to adjust either the table or the text around the article.



  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2011, at 11:54 AM, mm5525 wrote:

    Interesting article regarding DRIP fees. I was unaware there were any fees for DRIP investing with the company directly, so thanks for the heads up on that. The reason I don't know is all of my DRIPs are done through my broker. Sometimes I get a little irritated with what price I get through my broker, and therein may lie my hidden fee, but sometimes I am very impressed with what prices I get based on the price action of the day. So I believe it balances out. I am a big believer in DRIP investing. I own PM, PG, KFT, and a bunch of MLPs such as PAA, CHKM, MMP, HEP, EPD, and PNG. I DRIP it all, and if you don't pay me a dividend, you get no investment dollars from me. I take great satisfaction in seeing my income grow each quarter, and I am also not so upset when I see lower stock prices as I get more shares next DRIP go-around. It helps me keep my eye on the prize, which is a multi-decade time horizon. There's nothing worse than owning a stock and seeing huge gains evaporate. We've all been there. When you get dividends, it's easier to take the pain, especially when you DRIP those dividends/distributions.

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2011, at 4:37 PM, tshk1221 wrote:


    As you see in this company's fee chart below,

    Initial Setup Fee $10.00

    Cash Purchase Fee $3.00

    Ongoing Automatic Investment Fee $2.00

    Purchase Processing Fee (per share) $0.03

    Dividend Reinvestment Fee 5% of amount reinvested up to a maximum of $2.00

    Batch Sale Fee $15.00

    Batch Sale Processing Fee (per share) $0.12

    Batch Maximum Sales Fee N/A

    Market Order Sale Fee $25.00

    Market Order Processing Fee (per share) $0.12

    First of all, I cannot understand why we need to pay these FEES for dividend reinvestment. It clearly says 5% of dividend reinvested or a max of $2. Imagine you have to pay these fees for your life. This fee will definitely break the compounding so bad. You gotta add tax bites, too.

    Second, when a small investor decides to reinvest their dividends through this company, the following multiple fee scenario can happen:

    a) Dividend reinvestment fee is 5% of amount of reinvested or a max of $2.

    b) Purchase processing fee is $0.03 per share. You have to pay for this fee, too, since you are buying new shares through dividends.

    c) Market order processing fee is $0.12 per share. I'm not sure of what this fee is, but investors might have to pay for this fee, too, when buying new shares through dividends.

    d) Besides, minimum monthly investment is $50. You would have to pay for another fee for this monthly investment. You don't need to make any minimum investment since dividends themselves become your quarterly investment.

    Well, it is up to you small investors, but I would never, ever go with this company and choose this company as the fiduciary of my previous money for my life. Add dividend tax bites and these fees to your investment, man, it will be this company that will get rich with the fees, not you. Never you.

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2011, at 5:10 PM, tshk1221 wrote:

    Dear mm5525,

    I don't know how much portfolio balance you have, but I know that diversification will lead us to another risk - Diversification Risks, which will result in gradual loss of capital, inability to estimate their earnings and a few others. Small investors like you and me should never try to grow our money through diversification. Our money will never grow. All the rich people we know of achieve their wealth through concentration. Diversification is only for the fools who have no confidence in the company they're in. Contrary to our belief,

    Buffett is the master of concentrated investment.

    If I were you, I would concentrate the number of companies to two to three of superb American companies with long established history such as KO, PG, JNJ, WMT and so on. Just one is perfect.

    And, please do not worry too much about the acquisition costs of your dividends being reinvested to the company. Eventually all these thousands of small seed capitals made through dividend reinvestment will pay off greater after 40 - 60 years. KO born in 1886 and PG, 1837 will outlive all of us in the US.

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2011, at 6:31 PM, ruggedcrosspro wrote:

    I'm new to this site so I'm not sure about the rules about recommending specific brokerages or services, but as far as I can tell from everything I've read about the dividend reinvestment plan on Sharebuilder (part of ING Direct) there are NO additional fees involved. They seem to be ideally suited to the small, long-term investor. I am by no means trying to be a shill for Sharebuilder, but it seems that some people here have run into issues with fees?

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2011, at 8:36 PM, tshk1221 wrote:


    If Sharebuilder by ING charges for fees for dividend reinvestment, that's good. Besides, ING could be a trustworthy fiduciary like Vanguard. Maybe more perfect than Vanguard if their initial investment is really $40 or $50.

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2011, at 11:08 PM, TMFBigFrog wrote:

    Hi tshk1221,

    As mentioned above, I've contacted my editor and asked for the article to be fixed. Apparently, I clicked on the wrong link or read the wrong row or otherwise somehow misread when initially investigating the DRIP for Coca Cola, because I thought I read it as a $0 fee to buy $0 fee to reinvest DRIP when I first clicked on the apparently wrong link. Yeah -- the fees there are certainly higher than $0, which makes it far less useful a program for small investors.



    Inside Value Home Fool

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2011, at 12:57 AM, tshk1221 wrote:

    Thank you very much, Chuck.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2011, at 8:04 AM, TMFBigFrog wrote:

    Hi tshk1221,

    No problem. Thanks for pointing out the goof. I appreciate it.


  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2011, at 8:30 PM, tshk1221 wrote:


    I think you have a very interesting job of writing for stock investments. What kind of qualifications does Motley Fools require, let's say, if I want to be a writer like you? Is this free-lancing or salary based? I'm just asking since your job sounds so interesting to me.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2011, at 9:17 PM, TMFBigFrog wrote:

    Hi tshk1221,

    I do this freelance for the Fool, but there are folks with contractor status, as well. There are also full time Fool employees, but I don't know how many of the writers hold employee status.

    I personally really enjoy this work. It has been an excellent opportunity to sharpen my saw, both from an investing and a written communication perspective. Also, Foolish financial teaching has really struck a chord with me personally. My wife and I know we're far more stable financially having found the Fool than we would have been otherwise.

    The available roles at the Fool are online, here: . I don't see the writer/analyst position currently posted, but from time to time the Fool does look for folks to write for them.

    Happy to talk more. Feel free to email me via the link in my name in the disclosure section at the end of the article.



    Inside Value Home Fool

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2011, at 9:47 PM, TMFBigFrog wrote:


    To answer the other part of your question, I don't know that there are specific education requirements to be a Fool writer. They tend to look for people who aren't afraid of either numbers or words, and who can explain complicated financial concepts in a simplified manner. You'll likely also have to show you can work your way around the SEC's edgar web site and can analyze a company's financial information.

    At the time I signed on, I had an MBA with a concentration in information technology, but I did later go on to get a finance concentration, as well. I learned most of the useful stuff I know about money and investing from the Fool.



    Inside Value Home Fool

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2011, at 5:31 PM, TMFBigFrog wrote:


    FYI -- The editor confirmed that his recollection when fact-checking this article was consistent with mine -- that the Coca-Cola fee schedule looked friendlier at the time of writing and verification than it did at the time of publication.

    So either we both misread the data or there was a temporary data feed glitch or there was a fee-structure change in progress that just happened to hit in the window between writing, editing, and publication.

    In any event, the Coca-Cola reference, link, and text discussion in the article have been removed.

    Best regards,


    Inside Value Home Fool

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