If you dream of retiring rich, you're not alone. More than half (51%) of Americans believe they will be wealthy someday, according to a survey from personal finance website MagnifyMoney.
Exactly what "wealthy" means depends on the individual. For some, it might mean retiring a millionaire. For others, it could be defined as being able to pay all their bills and live a comfortable lifestyle.
Regardless of what retiring wealthy means to you, it's not easy. Even if you have years left before you can even think about retiring, it takes loads of hard work and dedication to amass hundreds of thousands of dollars or more for retirement. But it can be done, especially if you get into the habit of doing these three things.
1. Start saving early
It's never too early to start saving for retirement. The earlier you start, the easier it is to build a robust retirement fund. That's because compound interest is on your side -- that's when you earn interest on your interest and your balance grows exponentially. So the more money you have in your retirement fund, the faster your savings can grow.
When you wait too long to start saving, your money doesn't have as much time to grow, and you'll need to save more each month to reach your goal.
Say you want to save $1 million by age 65. If you were to start at age 20, you'd need to save approximately $300 per month, assuming you're earning a 7% annual rate of return on your investments. Wait until 35 to begin, and you'd need to stash away roughly $900 per month. And if you don't start until 50, you'd need to save a whopping $3,400 per month to reach your goal.
Even if you don't have much to save right now, saving just a little is better than saving nothing at all. It might not seem to make much of a difference, but give that money a couple of decades to grow, and it can be significant.
2. Set goals -- and write them down
Saving without a goal is like taking a road trip without a GPS. You might end up where you want to be eventually, but there's a good chance you'll get lost along the way.
When you set a goal for yourself, it will help you figure out how much you should be saving now to achieve that goal by the time you retire. It also helps to set smaller, more achievable goals along the way so you don't get overwhelmed by your overarching target. Instead of thinking about how much you need to save by retirement age, focus on what you should be saving each month or each week. That helps make your target less intimidating.
Also, once you have your goals set, write them down to hold yourself accountable. Nearly two-thirds of those who have a written financial plan say they feel financially stable, a survey from Charles Schwab found. In addition, 78% of those with a written plan are able to pay their bills and save each month, compared with only 38% of those without a written plan, according to the survey.
3. Prioritize saving for retirement
Once you have your goals in mind and a written plan to achieve them, prioritize that plan. It's easy to shove retirement saving to the bottom of your priority list, especially if you still have decades left to save.
But rather than treating it as an afterthought and only saving whatever scraps you have left at the end of the month, think of it as an important bill that has to be paid every month. You can't skip paying the mortgage or the electric bill because you'd rather spend that money elsewhere, so think of retirement saving the same way.
Make sure you dedicate at least some money every month toward your retirement fund. If you don't have enough cash to meet your monthly goal, either make cuts in other areas of your budget or make up for it by saving extra the next month. Don't get into a habit of not saving, because it can be much harder to catch up.
Retiring wealthy is an admirable goal, and it's within reach even if you don't consider yourself wealthy now. Getting into the habit of making smart financial choices will give you the best shot at a comfortable retirement.