Becoming a millionaire by retirement is a goal shared by many Americans, and accomplishing it can go a long way toward giving you the financial security you deserve in your later years. Unfortunately, many seniors enter retirement with savings account balances well below that $1 million number.
The big question for you is, will you be one of the many who fall short of saving a seven-figure nest egg, or is it within your reach to earn millionaire status? If you're not sure, these five signs suggest becoming a millionaire isn't in the cards for you -- at least not unless you change your habits.
1. You aren't banking your raises
To amass a nest egg of a million (or more), you'll probably need to save a healthy percentage of your income, with the specific amount depending on how much you're earning and how old you are when you begin investing. It can be hard to hit the necessary percentage, but one of the best ways to do it is to increase your retirement account contributions as soon as you get a raise. If you earn a 2% salary bump, for example, raise your retirement contributions by 2% (or close to it) before you get used to living on the additional money.
If you aren't saving your raises and reinvesting them for your future, you're missing out on a prime opportunity to effortlessly achieve the kind of savings rates needed to end up with $1 million. Unless you're already on track to hit that target at your current savings level, failure to make good use of your salary bumps is a key sign you probably won't save seven figures.
The good news is, this problem is easy to fix. Next time you get a raise, just commit to invest it for your future instead of spending it. Arrange to have the added funds automatically transferred to your 401(k) or IRA before your first larger paycheck comes -- and keep doing that for any subsequent raises until your savings rate is high enough that you're sure to amass $1 million in wealth.
2. You're taking out high-interest consumer debt
If you're borrowing money the wrong way and for the wrong reasons, you're making it difficult -- or even impossible -- to end up as a millionaire retiree. That's because taking on high-interest debt, such as credit card or payday loans, does a couple of things.
First, it shows you're probably living beyond your means (otherwise, why would you need to borrow at a high rate?). If you're doing that consistently, you aren't going to be able to save enough to become a millionaire. Second, taking on high-interest consumer debt raises the price of anything you borrowed to pay for and ties up your future income since you'll have to use it to make debt payments instead of investing it to help you hit your $1 million target.
If you want to become a millionaire retiree, come up with a plan to pay down debt you have and commit not to take on high-interest debt for anything non-essential again. This means avoiding running up a credit-card balance even for things such as vacations, weddings, or holiday spending -- all of which tend to get people in financial trouble. Set a budget and save for these purchases instead so they don't compromise your efforts to end up a millionaire in your later years.
3. You're counting too much on Social Security as a source of retirement income
Social Security is meant to provide a small portion of your retirement income, replacing around 40% of your pre-retirement earnings. Those who are on track to amass a $1 million nest egg know they can't depend on these benefits to provide enough money to maintain their quality of life in their later years, and so they're more likely to make the sacrifices necessary to save a seven-figure nest egg to supplement their Social Security income. But if you're anticipating you'll be able to get by on Social Security, you'll probably be less motivated to do what it takes to hit a savings goal of $1 million or more.
To make sure you know the reality of what your retirement benefits will do for you, sign into your Social Security account online to see your future estimated benefit. While the estimate is just a guess based on current earnings (and will be less accurate the further you are away from retirement), it should be a wakeup call that you're going to have to get serious about amassing a large retirement investment account if you want the money to enjoy your later years.
4. You're putting off starting to save for retirement
Waiting to save for retirement is one of the costliest moves you could make, and it's likely to interfere with your efforts to become a millionaire retiree. That's because the longer you wait, the more compound interest you miss out on.
Compound interest is key to building wealth because it allows you to effortlessly earn more money. Essentially, what happens is, the money you invest earns a return that can be reinvested. The reinvested funds also earn a return, so your account grows exponentially. In a simple example, if you have $10 and you earn a 10% return on your investment, you'll now have $11 and the next time you earn a 10% return, you'll make $1.10 instead of $1. This keeps snowballing until your invested money is earning you a lot of cash in its own right.
The earlier you invest and the more you invest early in life, the less you have to do to end up with $1 million. In fact, if you invested just $190 per month starting at age 20 and earned an 8% average annual return, you'd end up with a million by age 65 -- but if you waited an additional 10 years to start investing, you'd need to up your monthly contributions to $438 per month to amass the same $1 million.
You can't go back in time and start saving sooner, but you can avoid wasting any more time. Start contributing at least something to your retirement account today if you want to end up a millionaire.
5. You aren't investing in the stock market
Finally, in order for compound interest to truly work its magic, you need to earn a reasonable rate of return. That almost assuredly means you need to invest in the stock market. It's historically provided the best balance between risk and reward of any investment, and if you don't take advantage of the market's power to build wealth, you'll need to save substantially more to end up with $1 million.
The good news is, you don't have to know how to pick individual stocks. Investing most of your money in an S&P 500 index fund and leaving it alone for decades should earn you the returns you need to amass your $1 million over time, as long as you start investing a reasonable amount at a reasonable age.