How to Retire With at Least $1 Million

Most people will not follow the advice in this article because it precludes living a flashy lifestyle, and most people would rather look like they’re rich than actually increase their net worth.

Please note this article assumes you are making at least $40,000 per year. It’s possible to retire with at least $1 million if you are making less, but doing so requires you to live even more frugally in the process.

Let’s assume you want to retire at or before 65 (preferrably before, because working sucks!). Also assume you don’t even start working until you are 25. So you’ve got 40 years to accumulate at least $1 million. Ready?

Here it goes: Save and invest $5,000 per year into whatever mutual fund/stock fund/exchange traded fund you like. Assuming you get average market gains of 8% per year, you will have $1 million in less than 40 years. So for example, the first year you invest $5,000. At the end of that year you have roughly $5,400 ($5,000 + 8% interest). At the beginning of the next year, you add another $5,000, giving you $10,400, and at the end of that second year you have $11,232 ($10,400 + 8% interest), and so on. Here’s a breakdown:

Year Value at year end
1 $5,400.00
2 $11,232.00
3 $17,530.56
4 $24,333.00
5 $31,679.65
6 $39,614.02
7 $48,183.14
8 $57,437.79
9 $67,432.81
10 $78,227.44
11 $89,885.63
12 $102,476.48
13 $116,074.60
14 $130,760.57
15 $146,621.42
16 $163,751.13
17 $182,251.22
18 $202,231.32
19 $223,809.82
20 $247,114.61
21 $272,283.78
22 $299,466.48
23 $328,823.80
24 $360,529.70
25 $394,772.08
26 $431,753.84
27 $471,694.15
28 $514,829.68
29 $561,416.06
30 $611,729.34
31 $666,067.69
32 $724,753.10
33 $788,133.35
34 $856,584.02
35 $930,510.74
36 $1,010,351.60
37 $1,096,579.73
38 $1,189,706.11
39 $1,290,282.59
40 $1,398,905.20

*note that this table does not account for taxes which may vary depending on your investment vehicle, dividend distribution, etc.

By following this method you will actually reach $1 million at the end of year 36, four years ahead of schedule.

One million dollars can secure a relatively stable retirement by investing risk free in something that pays 5% interest, like CDs (which are occasionally at 5%), bonds, some low risk funds, etc. Five percent interest on one million will pay $50,000 per year without ever touching the principal. $50,000 per year isn’t much, but it’s more than our hypothetical person making $40,000 per year is used to living off of, and they no longer have to work.

Now, $1 million isn’t really that much money, and will be even less in 40 years due to inflation when you retire, but most people will not even achieve this goal. Why not? Because it will require most people to live much more frugally than they want to. If someone is making $40,000 per year, that’s roughly $30,000 after taxes. If they invest $5,000 of that, it means they only have $25,000 to spend the entire year. Most people won’t do that. It means they will have $5,000 less to spend each year, and most people would rather use that $5,000 per year ($416 per month) on something flashy like a more expensive car payment, or a lavish vacation, or expensive clothes.

I’ve just shown how someone making $40,000 per year can retire with $1 million in less than 40 years. But most people in the corporate world will end up making much more than $40,000 per year, and many people will be married at some point in their lives which can significantly increase household income.

I won’t bore you with another chart, but if you’re making $60,000 per year, and you invest $10,000 per year instead of $5,000, you will have $1 million at the end of year 28, and $2.7 million at the end of year 40. Invested at 5% risk free, that’s $140,000 per year for doing nothing. Is that enough for you?

Let’s look at one more example. A couple is married and have a combined yearly income of $100,000. They are smart and able to live frugally, and invest $30,000 per year. They begin when they are 30. They will be worth $1.7 million after 17 years (when they are 47), and if they stick it out until retirement age at 65, they will be worth $5.5 million, which if invested risk free at 5% per year, is $275,000 per year for the rest of their lives without having to work. Is that enough for you?

It’s an easy choice if you ask me, but some people would rather have their leased 7 series BMWs and their daily Starbucks.

Most People in the Corporate World Suck With Money. Do You?

Most people are bad with money, but for some reason, most people in the corporate world are even worse with money. I have never met so many people with upper five-figure and lower six-figure salaries who are drowning in debt as I did in the corporate world.

Corporate employees can’t seem to stop spending money. Maybe they need a new BMW to be seen in for 20 seconds in the morning as they park in the parking garage. Maybe they need the all-white $180 designer dress shirt that look identical to other, cheaper brands. Or maybe they need to eat at $100 per person Brazilian steakhouses once a week in order to feel important. And don’t forget the $5 Starbucks coffee every morning!

And as they get raises, they continue to spend more money, and their net worth never increases. The small amount of savings they have is invested with an interest rate that is much less than what they are being charged on their credit cards, where they are carrying large balances. After a few promotions at work, they are now making $90-$100,000 per year, yet their net worth has not increased any since they were 22 years old. They don’t have any emergency savings in case they lose their jobs or have a medical emergency, but they have a leased BMW, a motorcycle, and a boat, all of which are liabilities that lose value over time. They are one paycheck away from bankruptcy but they appear to be doing well to everyone who sees them.

I guess as long as you look like you’re rich, it doesn’t matter that you lay awake in bed at night wondering whether or not you’ll be able to afford this month’s car payment.

Most people don’t want to be rich because it requires living conservatively.