This might be a good time to load up on stock in makers of milk cartons, because suddenly there are a lot of people newly missing -- 2.5 million households' worth, to be precise.

According to the folks at the Spectrem Group, there are now only 6.7 million households in America with net worths of $1 million or more. That's down 27% from last year, when there were 9.2 million, and it's the lowest number since 2003.

It's not exactly surprising, since our stock market had the stuffing knocked out of it in 2008. It's important to note, though, that a household's net worth isn't typically all based on the stock market or even the also-trampled real estate market. To get to your net worth, you add up all your assets (your home, your portfolio, your belongings and various financial accounts) and subtract what you owe (on your house, your car, school loans, etc.).

What to think
Some may wring their hands, assuming that many Americans' retirements are now doomed. That's not true, though. If you still have a bunch of years left until you retire, you stand a good chance of seeing your portfolio (and your home's value) recover and appreciate to new heights. If you still have 10 or 20 years of working ahead of you, then your net worth today isn't of critical importance. What matters more is where it is when you retire.

There are some ways that you can aim to grow your money into a bigger nest egg. For one thing, you might simply work for two or three years longer than planned. That alone can add several hundred thousand dollars to your wealth. And if you're only investing in conservative mutual funds, you might shift some money into well-respected funds that are more aggressive.

You might also consider adding some carefully selected individual stocks to your mix. Here are some that popped up when I ran a screen on our Motley Fool CAPS screener for four- or five-star large-cap companies with dividend yields of 3% or more and three-year average annual revenue growth rates of 10% or more.

Company

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

Dividend Yield

3-Year Rev. Growth

Nokia (NYSE:NOK)

****

4.4%

22.1%

Diageo (NYSE:DEO)

*****

3.5%

10.4%

Abbott Labs (NYSE:ABT)

****

3.4%

10.3%

AT&T (NYSE:T)

****

6.2%

45.5%

Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE:CL)

*****

3%

10.6%

Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO)

****

3.7%

12.2%

General Dynamics (NYSE:GD)

****

3.8%

11.5%

Source: Motley Fool CAPS.

So whether you're a millionaire or not, take heart -- this is a very promising time in which to build wealth.

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Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Coca-Cola. Diageo is a Motley Fool Income Investor selection. Coca-Cola and Nokia are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Try our investing newsletters free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.