So you want to get rich and become a millionaire? Why not?
Money won’t buy you happiness but it will buy security and opportunity which can lead to greater happiness. What’s not to like about that?
Odds are, if you’re reading this, you probably can be rich – if you really want it.
I don’t mean wanting to be rich alone is enough. You’ll have to work for your million dollars but as for getting it, yeah, that’s possible, maybe even probable.
While there are innumerable ways to become rich, most of them boil down to these five classic strategies:
1. Hitting the Jackpot
Whether you try to get your million at the gambling tables or in a lotto drawing, the odds are you’ll spend $2-3 million dollars to win that $1 million. You might get lucky, of course, and win on your first dollar. Then again, you might be equally unlucky and it’ll cost $4-6 million for that $1 million.
So much for Option 1.
2. Build It and They Will Come
Creating something of value is a sure-fire way to make your million. There are as many ways to succeed as you can imagine and even more ways to fail but any way is going to require work, imagination, timing, lots of learning, and a bit of luck.
This way will work, if you can get it right, but remember, I promised you “the easy way.” I can tell you from personal experience, this isn’t it (although it can be very rewarding).
3. Rock Star
Fame and popularity are another sure-fire pathway to millions. Achieving riches this way is probably the most unlikely of all to succeed because the barrier to entry is so low.
Anyone can try to be popular and famous. Most people just aren’t interesting enough to stand out from the crowd.
If you’ve got it, bring it. If not, well, welcome to the club.
4. Inherit Your Million
Everybody has a rich uncle, right? Or maybe it’s grandma. Whoever it is, all you need to do is cozy up to them and make them fall so in love with you that they can’t imagine leaving the money to anyone else.
Of course, most people who have enough skill to have made their million dollars in the first place can see right through your game.
Beside all this, you might find out your rich uncle wasn’t so rich after all. Maybe he just invested in appearances. Also, you have the tricky part about having to wait until he dies…
Maybe it’s better not to count that chicken before it hatches.
5. Fairy Tale Marriage
Here’s the thing about marrying money, well two things, actually. If you’re going to be a millionaire in your own right, you’ll need to marry a multi-millionaire who is a) single, b) likes you, c) willing to split it with you, d) has never heard of a pre-nup, and, last, though arguably easiest to work around, e) just fell off the turnip truck and can’t tell you’re after his or her money.
In the United States, only about 1% of all households have a net worth of over $1 million. The vast majority of those households are families, not that hot single guy or gal you’ve seen on TV. You know, the one who is famous and popular.
If it’s odds alone you want, the lottery is a better choice.
The Easy Way to Become Rich
Which one of the 5 options would you choose to make your easy $1 million? I hope you said, “none” because that’s the most sensible choice. Fortunately, there is another way and here it is:
Save and invest $1,500 a month, every month, for 25 years*.
It sounds dull, doesn’t it? Do that, though, and, if the future is anything like the past, there are reasonable odds are you’ll be a millionaire in 25 years.
And not just a paper millionaire, either. You’ll have assets you can use to live on. Best of all, since you’re used to living modestly, the 4% safe withdrawal will give you an income of $40,000 a year for the rest of your life (adjusted for inflation, naturally).
Notice I’m not talking about buying a million dollar house here. That approach won’t really work because you’ll be paying interest on the giant loan that will offset all the interest you’re supposed to gain by investing. You might make money that way, or you might not but it’s not a reliable path to millionaire status other than on paper.
The second problem with the house is that you need to live somewhere. How likely are you to sell your dream house after 25 years of fixing it up? And where will you move then, something more basic but affordable? No, the big house is doing it backwards.
The right way is to live modestly, work steadily and well, and make regular and substantial contributions to your millionaire fund as early and often as possible.
Sure, you might have to give up some things at the beginning but it’s a bit like buying that house. At first, the mortgage payment is all you can manage. Later, as your income grows, it becomes easier. That $18,000 per year is the same way.
If $18,000 per year sounds like a lot, well, it depends on how badly and how soon you want the $1 million. If you want it in just 25 years, that’s your number.
If not, set your sights a little lower or your time horizon a little later. How about this formula instead?
$900 per month for 30 years*.
You could do that, couldn’t you? A cheaper car, smaller home, skip the giant screen TV and the latest gadget, eating-in more often, and dropping some pay channels would get you most of the way there just today. Remember, it’ll get easier over time, too.
The numbers get even smaller if you’ve got 35, 40, or 50 years.
Imagine what would happen if you started a retirement fund for your children at birth. Invest $81 per month in a low-cost S&P 500 index fund and they’ll retire at age 65 with an inflation-adjusted million in the bank. Why we aren’t all doing that for our kids?
Looking back, if you had started such an investment program 25 years ago, you would have that million in the bank right now. Makes me wonder what I was thinking back then…
Why Be A Millionaire?
The question you should have asked yourself before you even started this article was, “Why?”
Why do you want a million dollars? If your answer is for financial security, then you now have a plan. If your answer is that you want the money so you can have the time to do something else, then my question is what is stopping you from starting today?
Will a million dollars make you happy or would your life be happier if you spent the 20 or 30 years it’ll take to save it doing what you love?
For most of us, it’s easy to meet our basic needs for food and shelter today. Everything else in your life is a choice. What choices will you make?
* Monthly contribution method based on historical returns of the S&P 500 index as of December 31, 2012, adjusted for inflation, and with dividend reinvestment. Does not account for taxes and investment fees but does have some excess built in to accommodate some of those costs. Calculation source: (25 year**) , (30 year**)
** The above calculator I used seems to have been taken offline. I suggest Morningstar’s Savings Calculator as a simpler alternative. (Note that it only does annual compounding, not monthly and that does matter, but it is otherwise sensible.) Another useful calculator is here. FYI, the historical rate of the S&P 500 since 1871, compounded annually, adjusted for inflation, and assuming .2% annual investment fees is 6.51% as of 12/31/2012.