Only 15% of Americans identify themselves as wealthy, according to a survey conducted by MagnifyMoney, but just over 50% of survey respondents are optimistic that they will be wealthy someday.
Retiring rich may sound like a lofty goal, especially if you're earning a modest salary. But it is possible to retire with hundreds of thousands of dollars (or even $1 million or more) in the bank by retirement age if you do these three things.
1. Set up automatic retirement fund contributions
The simple act of finding cash to put toward your retirement fund can be challenging, especially if you have a long list of other financial responsibilities to consider. But if you're aiming to retire wealthy, saving will need to be a priority.
One of the easiest ways to save consistently is to set up automatic transfers to your retirement account. If you're saving in a 401(k), you may be able to have a portion of your paycheck deposited into your retirement fund before it even reaches your bank account. And if you're contributing to an IRA, you can set up automatic transfers each week or month from your bank account to your retirement account.
With automatic contributions, you can put your savings on autopilot. And when you no longer have to think about saving, it's much easier to save consistently.
2. Take advantage of employer matching contributions
If you have access to a 401(k) through your employer, you might be entitled to employer matching contributions. These contributions are essentially free money, and you don't have to do anything to earn them other than save in your 401(k).
The average 401(k) match is 3.5% of a worker's salary, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Depending on your wages, that match could amount to thousands of dollars per year, and hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime.
If you're strapped for cash and are finding it tough to find money to save, aim to save at least enough to earn the full employer match. Matching contributions can double your savings -- and by not earning the full match, you're leaving money on the table.
3. Start saving as early in life as possible
Approximately 42% of workers say they'd rather wait until they're closer to retirement to start preparing, according to a report from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. However, when you're saving for retirement, time is your most valuable resource.
Starting to save earlier in life means you won't need to save as much each month to reach your goal. And if you wait too long to begin saving, it will be nearly impossible to retire rich.
Say, for example, you want to save $1 million by age 67. If you had started saving at age 25 and were earning an 8% annual return on your investments, you'd need to save around $275 per month to reach that target. But if you had waited until age 40 to begin saving, you'd need to sock away roughly $1,000 per month, all other factors remaining the same.
If you're off to a late start, that doesn't necessarily mean you can't retire wealthy. But it's wise to start saving now, because putting it off will make it more challenging to save as much as you'd like.
You don't need to be wealthy to retire rich, but you do need to be strategic. By starting early, saving consistently, and taking advantage of all the resources available to you, you'll be well on your way to achieving your goal.