When you start calculating how much money you need to save for big goals, such as retirement or putting your kids through college, the numbers can seem daunting. It's often easier to break your goals down into milestones so you can achieve big wins along the way.

One big milestone is saving your first $100,000. When your account balance crosses into six figures for the first time, it's a heady feeling. It also means that you've amassed a large enough nest egg that compound interest should start making a big difference in how quickly your money grows. That's why many seasoned investors say the first $100,000 is the hardest. 

If you're starting from $0, the path to $100,000 may seem like a long one. But how long will it actually take you to save your first $100,000? 

Woman putting money into a piggy bank

Image source: Getty Images.

When will you hit your first $100,000? 

The amount of time it takes to save $100,000 varies depending how much you're able to set aside and how big your returns are. The table below shows the number of years to hit this milestone, depending upon both factors:

Amount Saved Monthly

Years at 5% Annual Return

Years at 6% Annual Return

Years at 7% Annual Return

Years at 8% Annual Return

$100

32.92

29.92

27.50

25.50

$200

22.58

20.92

19.50

18.33

$500

12.17

11.58

11.08

10.58

$1,000

7.00

6.75

6.58

6.42

$1,500

4.92

4.83

4.75

4.67

$2,000

3.83

3.75

3.67

3.67

Calculations by author. 

If you can invest more of your money in the market and earn around a 7% or 8% rate of return, versus a lower rate from safer investments like bonds, you can cut off years of time. 

However, the biggest impact comes from increasing your investment. Just going from $100 monthly to $200 monthly could cut roughly seven to 10 years off the time it takes to hit $100,000.  

Why is it important to hit the $100,000 milestone ASAP?

The sooner you hit this milestone, the sooner your $100,000 will start working for you.

If you had your $100,000 saved by age 30 and just left that $100,000 invested without adding to it, you'd end up with around $1.07 million by age 65, assuming a 7% rate of return. But, if you didn't hit the $100,000 milestone until you were 53, the money at the same interest rate would grow to about $225,000 by age 65. 

The chart below shows just how much your $100,000 could become by 65, assuming a 7% annual rate of return, depending upon the age at which you hit this savings goal. 

If You Have $100,000 By This Age...

You'll Have This Much at 65

30

$1,070,000

35

$761,319

40

$542,806

45

$387,009

50

$275,928

55

$196,728

60

$120,446

64

$107,001

Time works hard for you by turning your initial $100,000 investment into a very substantial sum if it's left invested long enough. 

Ideally, you'd be able to save $100,000 within just a few years by investing $1,500 or $2,000 monthly. But that's simply not possible for many. The good news is, increasing your savings a little bit and making smart investment choices -- including building a diversified stock portfolio -- can still allow you to do quite well. 

If you can earn 7% and manage to save about $500 monthly starting at age 30, you could hit your $100K goal by 41. Your hard work would pay off by allowing your nest egg to grow to over $500,000 -- even if you didn't continue investing, which of course you should do.  

How can you increase your savings?

There are two big ways to increase your savings: cut spending and increase income. You can work on both if you want to really accelerate your efforts to hit $100,000.

Working a side hustle could help you to earn $500 a month to put directly into an investment account, while you could potentially find extra money to save by giving up cable, eating at home instead of eating out, avoiding food waste, or cutting some other unnecessary costs

One last question: When will you start?

Now you should have a clear idea of when you're likely to hit your first $100,000, based on how much you're saving and what your investments are earning. Set a goal today to invest a little bit extra to speed up this timeline, and you'll reap big benefits in later years. 

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