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How to Go From Zero to Millionaire in 25 Years

4 Minute Read

When you were a kid, a million dollars seemed like a milestone reserved just for rich people. But these days, it’s clear: If you want to retire in comfort, you need a seven-figure nest egg.

That can be a daunting task if you’re 40 with a big fat zero in your retirement account. It’s much easier to bury your head in the sand and pretend the retirement fairy will come through in the end.

We hate to break it to you, but pixie dust won’t do jack for your golden years.

The good news is you don’t need magic to enjoy a big, beautiful future. Build it on your own with these three steps.

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1. Grab Hold of Opportunity Today

Did you know you’re heading into your best earning years? According to the Census Bureau, the typical household income peaks at nearly $71,000 between ages 45 and 54.

If ever there was a time to go full throttle with your retirement savings, this is it! Just make sure you’re out of debt with three to six months of expenses in your emergency fund first. That way, you have more of your best wealth-building tool—your income—to work with.

So what does it take to rack up a cool million by retirement?

Invest in good growth stock mutual funds with a strong track record, and $800 a month could land you $1–1.4 million after 25 years. Not bad for a midlife start at saving! In fact, if you bring home $60,000 a year, that’s just a smidge over the 15% Dave recommends investing.

Just know procrastination will cost you. Wait just five years to begin saving, and you’d have to invest an extra $500 a month to hit your million-dollar goal. Even then, your potential shrinks to $980,000–1.2 million.

2. Make the Most of Job Changes

You’ve still got a lot of working years ahead of you. And odds are, you’ll change jobs at least once before you retire. When you do, you’ll have a decision to make: cash out your 401(k), leave it where it is, or roll it over into an individual retirement account (IRA). So what’s the right choice?

Let’s say you have $25,000 in your 401(k) account when you leave your job and decide to use that money to pay cash for a car. At a 25% tax rate, you’d pocket $16,250. But the $8,750 the government keeps for taxes and penalties isn’t the only money you miss out on at cash-out. You’re saying goodbye to $270,000 in potential growth over 25 years too. Nothing’s worth that kind of loss!

What if you leave your old 401(k) put? Many 401(k) plans charge higher fees, and without an employer match to make it worth your while, you’ll just lose money. For example, a 1% difference in fees could reduce your nest egg by nearly $50,000 if you let a $25,000 balance collect dust in an old 401(k) for the next 25 years.

That’s why it’s best to roll your 401(k) over into an IRA anytime you change jobs. If you request a direct rollover, you won’t be charged taxes and penalties for an early withdrawal. Your old 401(k) provider will simply write a check for your balance payable to the new IRA.

3. Don’t Wing It

Every year, the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies takes a close look at retirement attitudes among American workers. Their latest report revealed a startling trend: Nearly half of 40-somethings have no written retirement strategy. No wonder only 1 in 10 workers in their 40s are sure they’ll retire in comfort!

Look, this is your future we are talking about! You can’t throw caution to the wind and hope your best guess at retirement works. It’s time to get real with your goals. Start by dreaming with your spouse and putting your future hopes to paper.

Once you have a clear vision of how you’d like to spend your golden years, share it with an investing professional in your area!

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