If saving consistently for retirement were an easy thing to do, perhaps more of us would have larger nest eggs. But we all know very well that when life's many expenses pile up against us, setting aside funds for an IRA or 401(k) can be challenging, to say the least. And to an extent, this especially holds true for millennials, who are most likely to not only be grappling with entry-level wages, but have nagging student loans eating away at their earnings.

But rather than work around these limitations and develop long-term savings plans that allow them to build wealth for retirement, millennials have come up with what they think is a better idea: winning the lottery and using that cash to fund their golden years. In fact, nearly 60% of millennials think that playing the lottery is a reasonable plan when it comes to producing retirement savings, according to investing app STASH.

Group of young adults in a circle high-fiving


The irony, of course, is that while 31% of Americans across the board (millennials included) don't invest their money for the future because they feel it's too risky, 59% of millennials think it makes sense to regard lottery jackpots as a solid means of retirement income. And the sooner they realize just how insane that notion is, the sooner they can take steps to implement savings plans that actually have a shot at working.

Don't bank on a windfall

You've probably heard that you're more likely to get struck by lightning than actually come up with a winning lottery ticket. Incidentally, you're also more likely to be born with extra fingers or toes, or have quintuplets naturally. The point, therefore, is that while playing the lottery is something you can feel free to do for fun (assuming you don't waste too much money on it), it should by no means serve as your retirement safety net. For that, you'll actually need to make an effort to save on your own, and then invest that money wisely.

Unfortunately, millennials in particular are struggling in this regard, with 76% living paycheck to paycheck. If you're not sure how you might begin to manage to save for retirement, start by creating a budget. Doing so will give you better insight as to where your money goes month after month so that you can examine your spending and find ways to cut back, whether it's downsizing to a smaller living space or curbing leisure.

At the same time, it pays to consider a side hustle if your regular paycheck doesn't allow for the level of savings you'd like. Of the millions of Americans who currently hold down a second job, 14% do so for the purpose of being able to build a nest egg.

Once you are able to eke out some monthly savings, be sure to invest it in stocks. You can do so by buying individual stocks in an IRA, or by loading up on index funds in your 401(k).

How much savings might you amass by going this route? The stock market has historically delivered about a 9% average annual return. Since you probably won't (or shouldn't) invest your entire nest egg in stocks, let's assume that you're able to score an average annual 7% return over time. If that's the case, here's what your IRA or 401(k) balance might look like after 40 years, depending on how much money you're able to set aside each month:

Monthly Savings Amount

Total Accumulated Over 40 Years at an Average Annual 7% Return










$1.2 million

Data source: AUTHOR.

It's OK to dream about winning the lottery. Just don't bank on a massive payout to fund your golden years, because chances are, it isn't going to happen. Instead, take savings matters into your own hands, and give yourself the longest possible window to accumulate wealth.