You don't have to be rich to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, but more money doesn't hurt, especially if you're living paycheck to paycheck right now -- it may feel like your wallet is being tugged in too many directions and there's not enough cash to go around.
Increasing your net worth isn't always easy -- after all, if it were everyone would be rich -- but it's not as challenging as you may think. If you're looking to build wealth, there are some methods that are easier than others.
What it takes to build wealth
Americans think that some of the best ways to build wealth include investing in real estate, the stock market, and savings bonds, a survey from MagnifyMoney found. Other popular options include investing in gold, stashing cash, and starting a business.
When asked what they personally were doing to build wealth, Americans responded that they were saving for retirement or investing in the stock market.
Those are good answers, as investing and saving for retirement are two of the easiest ways to build long-term wealth. Unlike other methods of building wealth, like investing in real estate or starting a business, you don't need a major cash investment upfront to see your net worth grow substantially over time, and you don't need to be a financial whiz to make smart money decisions.
It may be easier than you think to start investing for retirement, too. You don't need to start studying individual stocks or brush up on Wall Street lingo -- all you have to do is start contributing money to your 401(k) or IRA. Although investing in your retirement fund won't make you a millionaire overnight, it is one of the best ways to become wealthy over time.
Saving now to retire rich
Even if you wouldn't consider yourself wealthy now, that doesn't mean you can't retire rich. You may even be able to retire with $1 million or more stashed away if you start saving early enough and make smart investing choices.
Saving early is key, because it gives your money the most time to grow, meaning it requires less effort on your end. Compound interest allows your money to grow exponentially the longer it remains undisturbed in your retirement fund, so by saving even a little bit every month for decades, you can end up with a six- or even a seven-figure amount in savings.
When, exactly, should you start saving for retirement? The short answer is yesterday. It's never too soon to begin saving, and the earlier you start, the less you'll need to save each month to establish a robust retirement fund.
The other key component of retiring wealthy is investing in the right places. More than half (53%) of workers are socking at least some of their retirement funds away in a savings account, according to a survey from Morning Consult. At first glance, that may seem like a smart move -- after all, savings accounts are recession-proof and safe from any market downturns, unlike the stock market. However, even the best savings accounts typically only see returns of around 2% per year. Long-term, your earnings may not even keep up with inflation -- meaning your cash could actually be losing value over time.
For that reason, investing in the stock market is one of the smartest ways to save for the future. That said, it's still important to play it as safe as you can, while still earning high enough returns to reach your financial goals. Investing in index funds and mutual funds can help you do just that. Essentially large groupings of different stocks, these funds allow you to spread your money across hundreds of stocks, hedging your risk while still earning average rates of return anywhere from 6% to 10% per year. While there will still be market fluctuations and your savings will take a dip every so often, over time you'll generally see your savings skyrocket.
Getting started investing for the future
The easiest way to start investing is to simply begin contributing to your 401(k) or IRA. Some retirement plans have more options than others -- IRAs, for example, offer a wealth of investment options, while you're more limited with 401(k)s -- but you'll be able to choose your funds based on how much time you have to save and your comfort with risk.
Once you have your retirement account set up, it's time to start saving. How much you should save depends on your retirement goals and how much time you have left before you retire. If you have dreams of retiring a millionaire, you'll likely need to save several hundred dollars or more per month to reach that goal by your mid-60s. If you want to save more than $1 million or retire earlier than the traditional retirement age, you'll need to supercharge your savings now to reach those goals.
Increasing your net worth and retiring wealthy are possible no matter your current financial status, but you have to be willing to work for these goals. Saving for retirement is one of the best ways to build wealth, and by making smart choices and investing every dollar wisely, you can make your retirement dreams a reality.