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40 With No Savings? How to Retire a Millionaire

5 Minute Read

Here’s something you may not have thought about when you celebrated your 40th birthday: You’re almost as close to traditional retirement age as you are to your high school graduation.

It’s true! The year most of us turn 41, we’re mid-way between receiving our high school diploma and receiving our gold watch (if they still gave out gold watches for retirement).

If that thought stirs a bit of fear in your heart, you’re not alone. The Employee Benefits Research Institute reports that 37% of all employees age 35–44 and 34% of employees age 45–54 have less than $1,000 saved for retirement. If you’re one of those folks, you’ve got your work cut out for you if you want to build a $1 million retirement nest egg. Maybe you’ve already decided it’s out of your reach.

Don’t give up hope yet! Even if you’re 40 years old with nothing saved for retirement, it is possible to reach your $1 million retirement goal—and it might be easier than you think.

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A Couple of Numbers That Could Change Your Future

In order to retire with $1 million in 25 years, a 40-year-old just getting started would need to invest $800 a month—a little less than 20% of the average $50,000 income.

Delay retirement until age 67, and you can reduce your monthly investing amount to $650, a little more than 15% percent of a $50,000 income.

Whichever option you choose, you need to put your money to work where you’ll get the most bang for your buck. The easiest and often most effective way to get started is through your workplace retirement plan—a 401(k) for most of us. Most employers who offer a 401(k) will match a portion of your investment, so invest enough to get the full match for an instant and guaranteed 100% return on your money!

If your employer offers a Roth 401(k) option and the plan offers a choice of good growth stock mutual funds, you can invest the entire amount in your workplace plan. If a Roth 401(k) isn’t available, simply invest up to the employer match in your 401(k) then open a separate Roth IRA to invest the remainder.

Can You Make Those Numbers Work?

So now that you know it is possible to reach your $1 million retirement goal, you’re probably wondering if you can afford to invest as much as 20% of your income each month to reach that goal. The quick answer? Yes, but . . .

If you’re out of debt except for your home and have a fully funded emergency fund (3–6 months of expenses) then yes, you can afford to invest up to $800 a month for retirement. But, if you’re not on a budget, you probably don’t believe you can afford it.

If you don’t plan your spending each month, it’s easy to feel like you’re broke all the time. Isn’t that why you’re behind on retirement savings now? A budget allows you to set your spending priorities before the month begins, so you always know where your money’s going and how it’s working for you.

Begin with the basics: food, shelter and utilities, clothing, and transportation. Retirement needs to come right after that in your budget. Divvy up the remainder of your income among the rest of your spending categories. You’ll probably find that you have to cut back on some line items like eating out or travel for example. But making that sacrifice now means you can look forward to a comfortable retirement.

The Only Reason to Delay Investing Today

On the other hand, if you’re still in debt, you truly don’t have much leftover cash to invest for retirement. The average car payment is creeping toward $500, and the average student loan payment clocks in at nearly $250. According to Statistic Brain, consumers spend nearly 14% of their income on credit card debt alone! No wonder retirement savings takes a back seat!

The solution to getting out of debt and getting started on your retirement goals is the same as for folks who are already debt-free: get on a budget. Your priority is to get out of debt as quickly as possible. Set retirement saving aside for now. Budget for the basics then tackle your debt using the debt snowball method.

Once you’re debt-free, you’ll be a pro at budgeting. All you’ll have to do is adjust your focus to retirement investing and keep it going for the long haul.

Trade Your Retirement Worries for a Million-Dollar Outlook

You may have let the previous 20 years of your career roll by without getting serious about retirement savings, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend the next 20 years the same way. Change your habits now, get on a plan, and change your future for the better!

Talk with an investing professional who will help you choose your long-term mutual fund investments, keep an eye on their performance, and keep you on track to retire according to plan. Don't know where to start? Talk with an investing professional in your area today.

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