A million-dollar nest egg can provide the financial security you deserve in retirement. But, for most people, it will take discipline and hard work to ensure your account balance is seven figures by the time you're ready to leave the workforce.

The good news is, there's a proven path to achieve this goal -- if you're willing to make the effort. You just need to follow these five steps. 

Retired couple on a beach.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Calculate the number of years to retirement

If you want to save a million dollars before you retire, you need to determine what your timeline is. That means considering your desired retirement age.

Remember to be realistic when you set your expectations, though. Many people hope to work until 70 but relatively few are able to do so because their health prevents it or they don't have available job opportunities. 

2. Figure out how much to save each month 

After you know your timeline, you can determine exactly how much you must invest every month in order to have $1 million by your deadline. 

This savings goal calculator from Investor.gov allows you to input your savings target and estimated annual returns and tells you exactly how much to invest each month to meet your goal based on how long your money can grow. 

Remember to be reasonable when estimating returns, as you don't want to be too optimistic and end up with too little money if your investments don't perform quite as well as you expected. 

3. Open a retirement investment account

You'll want to invest for retirement in a tax-advantaged account to take full advantage of the help the government is willing to offer.

Depending on your job situation, you may have access to a workplace 401(k). You should also be able to invest in a traditional or a Roth IRA, as long as your income isn't too high. 

Research each of these account options if you don't have a retirement plan already. And consider whether a traditional or Roth account would be a better fit. Traditional accounts provide a tax deduction for contributions in the year they are made, but withdrawals are taxed. If you expect to be in a lower tax bracket as a retiree, a traditional IRA or 401(k) could be your best option. Roth accounts don't provide up-front tax savings, but withdrawals are tax free. If you think your tax rate will increase, you'd probably want to opt for a Roth. 

4. Set up automatic contributions

After opening your account, set up automatic contributions for the monthly amount you determined was needed.

Automating your retirement investments increases the chances you'll hit your goal since the money is moved effortlessly without intervention on your part. Most people tend to stick with the status quo. So, once you set up automatic contributions, chances are good you won't reduce the amount you're investing and you won't miss a month.

5. Invest your money wisely and leave it alone

Finally, choose a good mix of investments appropriate to your age and risk tolerance -- and avoid taking money out of your retirement accounts early.

This could mean buying shares in individual companies, if you know how to pick stocks wisely. Or you could opt for exchange-traded funds that track the performance of the market to give you exposure to stocks with minimal risk and effort. 

If you follow these five steps, you should be able to hit your retirement savings goals and end up with $1 million in the bank by the time you reach retirement age. When you have plenty of funds to enjoy your life after leaving work, you'll be glad you followed this path.