Suppose I told you that you could have millions of dollars by the time you were 70 with very little effort and sacrifice on your part -- without winning the lottery.

What would you say? Probably something like, Uh, dude, have you looked at the news in the last three months?

Yeah, I have. It's not good out there right now. But suspend disbelief and think about it with me for a minute.

Imagine the warm sun on your face, a quiet morning sometime in your future. You left work for good a few years ago, and now you're sitting outside sipping your coffee after a restful night's sleep. A quick glance at your investment accounts draws a smile -- you've got millions of dollars, more than enough to fund anything you might want to do for the rest of your life.

What will you do today? You can do just about anything you can imagine -- you're living the life of the independently wealthy.

And you didn't even have to work hard to get here. A few simple decisions, made at just the right time years ago, brought you this wonderful life. Do you have a dream like this?  

Stop dreaming. You have an incredible opportunity to make it happen -- starting right now.

The opportunity of a lifetime
The broadness and depth of this stock sell-off has led to what may be the best investing opportunity of the last 35 years. In the 1970s, the oil embargo, the Vietnam War, stagflation, malaise, and the Bee Gees combined to create a truly awful-looking stock market that lurched and bumbled from low to low.

Indeed, it really was awful -- from the perspective of then. But from here -- yes, even after the Great Panic of 2008 -- it looks like it was one heck of a buying opportunity. Look what would have happened if you had put just $5,000 into any of these stocks and done nothing more for 35 years:


Initial investment


McDonald's (NYSE:MCD)



Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG)



International Paper (NYSE:IP)



DuPont (NYSE:DD)



Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ)






Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT)



Source: Yahoo! Finance.

OK, so Wal-Mart is something of a ringer in that chart -- but everything else was a household name 35 years ago. And if I know one thing about the stock market, it's this: Somewhere out there are stocks -- maybe not household names now -- that will return at least that much over the next 35 years. And if you hold them in a tax-advantaged retirement account, all of that money could be yours.

Do it right
Our tax-deferred retirement vehicles -- IRAs and defined-contribution plans -- are some of the best wealth-creation tools ever devised. Not only are they easy to set up and contribute to, they all let your investments grow untouched by the tax man (at least until you withdraw).

Avoiding the capital-gains tax hit on every trade -- and keeping that money compounding -- makes a huge difference to your results down the road. Add in the design features that make monthly contributions automatic, and the whole thing seems painless. It's hard not to amass an impressive nest egg -- if you know how to get the best out of your options.

Make it happen now
Combine tax-advantaged retirement accounts with the buying opportunities that abound in this market, and you can have that retirement you've always dreamed about.

Investing for retirement isn't hard, but it involves more than just picking hot stocks or funds. You're going to have to live on this money someday. You need to use all of the tools at your disposal to make the most of those investments -- and tax-advantaged retirement accounts are one of the best.

But they aren't the only ways you can maximize your retirement. Our Rule Your Retirement service offers up advice on everything from portfolio allocation to stock and fund recommendations to education on different asset classes. Every month, you get a newsletter with the latest expert thinking on retirement issues. And any time you want, there's a searchable archive containing five years' worth of retirement information. Try it on us -- full access is free for 30 days, with no obligation to subscribe.

Fool contributor John Rosevear has no position in the companies mentioned. Johnson & Johnson and International Paper are Motley Fool Income Investor selections. Wal-Mart and 3M are Inside Value recommendations. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy