Reaching $1 million in retirement savings isn't easy, but it is possible -- if you have the right strategy.

It's also not an unrealistic goal, especially as retirement becomes increasingly expensive. Some retirees may even need more than $1 million to enjoy their senior years comfortably, so it's smart to begin thinking about your goals sooner rather than later.

Fortunately, there's one secret that can supercharge your savings and help you retire a millionaire: Start investing right now.

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Image source: Getty Images.

The key to retiring a millionaire

To build the strongest nest egg, you'll need to invest rather than simply save. Investing in the stock market can be intimidating, especially right now when the market is volatile, but it's a phenomenal way to generate long-term wealth.

Thanks to compound earnings, your money will grow exponentially the longer it's allowed to grow. That means the sooner you begin investing, the easier it will be to earn $1 million or more.

For example, say you're investing through your 401(k), and your investments are earning a modest 8% average annual return. Here's approximately how much you'd need to invest each month to reach $1 million in savings, depending on how many years you let your money grow:

Number of Years Amount Invested per Month Total Savings
40 $350 $1.088 million
35 $500 $1.034 million
30 $750 $1.020 million
25 $1,200 $1.053 million
20 $1,900 $1.043 million

Source: Author's calculations via Investor.gov

Every year counts when you're saving for retirement, and by putting it off for even five years, you may need to invest hundreds more per month to reach your goal.

Is it really safe to invest right now?

It's more daunting to invest during periods of market volatility. Stock prices have been on a roller coaster of ups and downs over the past year, and it's tempting to wait to invest until the market stabilizes.

However, there's never necessarily a wrong time to invest if you keep a long-term outlook.

In the short term, the market can fluctuate wildly. But over decades, it's consistently earned positive total returns -- despite experiencing severe recessions, crashes, and bear markets.

For example, since 2000, the S&P 500 has faced the dot-com bubble burst, the Great Recession, the crash in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the current downturn -- along with countless smaller downturns along the way. Yet despite all of that, it's still up by more than 172%.

^SPX Chart

^SPX data by YCharts

The amount of time you're able to give your money to grow is more important than short-term volatility. If you only invest when the market is thriving, you'll miss out on valuable time -- which will make it far more difficult to reach your goals.

Boosting your retirement savings

If you're falling behind on your savings, you're not alone. The current cost-of-living crisis also makes it more difficult to save, so if you don't have hundreds of dollars per month to invest, that's OK.

Rather than setting unrealistic expectations, simply do whatever you can right now. If that means only investing $20 per month, that's fine. Over 30 years, $20 per month at an 8% average annual return can add up to more than $27,000, which is certainly better than nothing.

Also, if you have access to a 401(k) that offers an employer match, try your best to take advantage of it. Employer matching contributions are essentially free money, and they can double your savings with zero effort on your part.

Saving for retirement is tough, especially during difficult economic times. But getting started now will make your life monumentally easier down the road, and your future self will thank you.