Think You're Too Old to Become a Millionaire? Think Again

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  • Becoming a millionaire is more about determination than luck.
  • Layering good financial habits is key.

Today is the best day to begin building wealth, one habit at a time.

If you believe you’re too old to become a millionaire, chances are, you’re wrong. It’s all a matter of math, the very subject some of us decided we would “never use” in real life. And yet, here we are, using math to help us forge a roadmap to a cool million.

If you’re starting late, we’ll assume for a moment that you’re hoping to become a millionaire before retirement. Let’s say you plan to work until age 70. If you’re decades away from 70, the idea may seem preposterous, but stick with us here. We'll offer other ideas later in the article.

Of course, you should do whatever makes you happiest, but according to research, here are a few advantages of working to 70:

  • Working to 70 (and beyond) can help a person stay socially engaged and mentally sharp.
  • After an 18-year study, a Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health study found that working even one year beyond traditional retirement age was associated with a 9% to 11% lower risk of dying, regardless of health.
  • Compared with people who retired, adults who worked past 65 were about three times as likely to report being in good health. In addition, these people were about half as likely to have cancer, heart disease, or other serious health problems.
  • A Stanford Center on Longevity report suggests that delaying retirement, even for a few years, can significantly increase retirement income.

Let's take this one step further by looking at how much you would need to invest per day between now and age 70 to end up with more than $1 million. This table assumes a single monthly investment earning an average return of 7%.

Age Today Years to Invest Investment End Balance
50 20 $69 per day
($2,100 per month)
45 25 $44 per day
(1,338 per month)
40 30 $29 per day
($883 per month)
35 35 $20 per day
($608 per month)

No matter how old you are today, the following five steps can help you hit your financial goal. None of them are magical (or particularly easy), but all of them are tried and true, tested by millionaires of all ages.

1. Figure your current net worth

Figuring net worth is a simple matter of adding together all your assets and subtracting debts. If you own a home and car, you may be surprised to learn that your net worth is higher than you expected. Don't forget to add in funds from your savings and investment accounts, jewelry, coins, artwork, and anything of value you own.

2. Invest time in learning about money

Life is busy, so no judgment if you don't know everything there is to know about investing. It's a learning process for everyone. Put time aside each week to focus on nothing but investing. Learning about asset allocation, common stocks, bonds, mutual funds, hedge funds, and other basic investment terms will give you a bit more confidence as you discover ways to grow your money.

3. Take a lesson from your great-grandparents

Because they lived through the Great Depression, our grandparents and great-grandparents were rarely careless with their money. For them, that may have meant one thoughtfully chosen gift on a grandchild's birthday rather than half a dozen. It meant avoiding impulse buys, emotional shopping trips, and over-the-top celebrations they could not afford. While there were exceptions to the rule, that generation tended to focus on savings rather than keeping up with the Joneses.

In other words, think (and think again) before spending money you could otherwise save and invest. You'll thank yourself one day.

4. Plan for extra funds

Automatically add tax refunds, bonuses, gifts, and other found money to your retirement savings. If you are paid bi-weekly, that means you receive three paychecks two months each year. Add them to your growing investment or savings account.

5. End the month with more money

There are two ways to end the month with more money. One is to earn more by changing jobs or taking on a side-hustle. Another is to "pay yourself more" by cutting any unnecessary spending. Whether you earn $50,000 or $250,000 a year, building wealth comes down to how much you spend and invest in relation to your earnings.

Unless you win the lottery (which is a terrible retirement plan btw) or land an NFL contract, becoming a millionaire is a matter of layering a series of small habits. Simply learning about investing won't do any more to make you a millionaire than reading about gymnastics will make you a gymnast. However, learning about investing coupled with discovering extra funds in your budget to get started is a winning strategy. Layering on a new, more frugal shopping style and planning for extra funds will get the ball rolling.

If you've ever read about a school teacher or door-to-door salesman who died and left millions of dollars to their favorite charity, their ability to do so likely came down to everyday decisions based on a desire to save more than they spent.

Our Research Expert

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