Most Americans who've attempted to set retirement savings goals think they'll need $1 million or more to be financially secure as a senior. They're right to believe that, as $1 million produces only around $40,000 in income or less at a safe withdrawal rate. But knowing that you need a seven-figure nest egg is very different from understanding how to amass so much money.
The good news is, it doesn't have to be hard as you might think to become a retirement millionaire, and you can do it even if you have an average salary. Here are three steps to get it done.
1. Make retirement savings a priority so you can achieve aggressive savings goals
Presidential candidate Joe Biden once said: "Show me your budget and I'll tell you what you value." While he was speaking about the country's budget, the words hold true for households as well. If you want to become a retirement millionaire, you need to prove your commitment to your goal by making sure retirement savings is one of your top budget priorities.
In fact, you should set your retirement savings goal, determine the amount you need to invest each month to achieve it, and make that amount a must-pay bill when you make your budget.
Of course, this won't necessarily work for every single person as you may find hitting that elusive million dollar savings target is out of reach based on your current earnings. But, depending when you start saving, you may not need as much money as you think.
In fact, if you start investing at age 30 and want to become a millionaire by 65, you'd need to save around $435 per month to hit your target (assuming an average 8% annual return on investment). That's a good amount of money, but it's only about 10% of the median annual earnings of $52,000 annually for full-time workers in 2020.
If saving enough is impossible for you right now, hopefully as you advance in your career, you'll be able to earn enough that you can do it. For many people, though, coming up with the necessary funds is within reach if you make the sacrifices necessary to put retirement savings first. And that's worth doing, as securing your future just as important as other essential expenses such as your mortgage payment or food budget.
2. Automate your contributions so you don't miss any
Once you've determined how much to save every month, you can make the process automatic so you never miss a month. Whether you have a workplace 401(k) or other type of tax-advantaged retirement account, arrange to have contributions taken directly from your paycheck or withdrawn from your bank account when your check is direct deposited.
3. Invest your retirement money appropriately
Once your money is in your retirement account, you'll need to put it to work -- which means putting a reasonable percentage of it in the stock market. And you'll want to go beyond choosing the right asset allocation to also make sure you're selecting a diversified mix of investments that will help you earn a reasonable rate of return.
While 401(k)s usually offer limited investment options, you'll have a much broader selection of choices with most IRAs held at brokerage firms. You can pick individual stocks if you're willing to put in the time and may be able to beat the market by doing so -- or you can opt for exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that either track market indexes, such as the S&P 500, or give you exposure to particular industries such as marijuana ETFs or technology ETFs.
Whatever investments you choose, pay attention to fees, as they can eat into your returns and make it harder to build the nest egg you need. And make sure you rebalance your portfolio periodically and avoid investing money you may need to spend within around two to five years, as a such a short time frame means you may not be able to wait out market crashes.
Becoming a retirement millionaire is within your reach
By prioritizing saving for retirement, making the investing process automatic, and choosing smart investments, you most likely can build the nest egg you need to retire. The earlier you start putting money into your retirement accounts, the easier it will be, so work on completing these three steps ASAP. When you can retire with a big pot of cash and few financial worries, you'll be glad you made the effort.