7 Strategies for Growing Your Savings Account to $1 Million

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These days, having $1 million to your name is nowhere near as impressive as it used to be. And yet, putting away $1 million in a savings account is a major goal that requires a solid plan of attack to reach.

For instance, the chart below shows how much money you would have to save each month, depending on time frame and estimated annual return, to reach a $1 million balance.

how to save a million dollars

Of course, this all works well in theory — if you know of a way to earn 10 percent a year, please, sign me up.

Due to our low-rate environment, there are a number of additional strategies you’d have to put into place if you ever hope to contribute $1 million to your savings in your lifetime.

7 Ways to Become a Millionaire

1. Pay Yourself First

Paying yourself first means making saving money a line item in your budget, and making it the top priority — even above bills. The only way to ensure you hit aggressive savings goals is by putting the money away before rent, car loan payments and groceries can eat it up.

Andrea Travillian, president and founder of Take a Smart Step, agrees, “My husband and I have found the key to building our nest egg early has been to save from the start and make that a priority … our savings is the first budgeted item,” Travillian said.

2. Start as Early as Possible

As you can see from the chart above, the sooner you start saving money, the easier it is to reach $1 million. It’s tempting to put off saving money, but don’t bank on a higher salary or future windfall — even someone who makes up for years of no savings and contributes the same amount of money toward his $1 million goal won’t be able to catch up to someone starting at a younger age.

The same reason why the first $100,000 is the hardest to save applies here: compound interest. The more money you have over a longer period of time, the easier it is to save even more.

“This is the snowball down the mountain that turns into an avalanche,” said financial writer Uncle Bill. “The growth comes from the compounding as the investments pay off. It is getting started that is the hard part.”

3. Take Advantage of Your Employer Match

If retirement savings make up a part (or all) of your $1 million savings goal, you can eliminate some of the heavy lifting on your part and take advantage of free money. Most employers offer a match to employees’ retirement savings either as a percent of salary or contributions. Either way, it’s an opportunity you shouldn’t pass up.

Related: 5 Money-Saving Employee Benefits You Really Should Be Using

4. The $500 Plan

The iPlanRetirement blog lists a couple of interesting strategies for reaching a $1 million savings goal — and in just 20 years. The first is referred to as the $500 Plan. Essentially, you begin by saving $500 per month in your first year. Then each additional year, you increase your monthly savings by $100. So, for example, in 2014 you would save $500 each month. In 2015, you would increase your monthly savings contributions to $600. In 2016, up it to $700 and so on.

This is a slow-and-steady approach that will get you to your goal more rapidly as time goes on, however, it only works if you have substantial income to set aside every month.

5. Save Your Raises

So what if you don’t have the necessary funds for the $500 Plan? The other strategy proposed by the iPlanRetirement blog is the Save Your Raise approach. Assuming you currently make $45,000 per year, you should expect an annual raise of 5 percent. Don’t increase your spending along with your raises, and allocate raises toward savings. According to ERB, this will get you to $1 million in 20 years.

6. Increase Your Income But Not Spending

Even if you aren’t getting any raises, there are a plethora of options for increasing your income. Give yourself a raise instead by exploring these options, and follow the same principles above to reach $1 million.

7. Take on Some Risk

Finally, as evidenced by our chart above, you’ll never reach $1 million by depositing your money in a savings account alone. A major savings goal requires the help of substantial returns, and the only way to realize necessary earnings is by taking on risk with market investments. Again, the sooner your start the more risk you can afford to take on and the easier saving $1 million will be.

Photo credit: amanda tipton

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  • Tahnya Kristina

    Love this post. Great savings strategies, even if people implement 4 out of the 7 they will be well on their way to building their savings account. I am going to share this post next Friday on our Dinks Finance weekly roundup. Have a great weeken.d

    • Casey

      Thank you! :)

  • jeff

    Isn’t wise to take care of high interest loans, ie credit cards, immediately, even before saving money away?

    • Casey

      If you’re trying to save up a million dollars, absolutely! Many finance experts recommend saving up a smaller emergency fund before tacking debt (to prevent further debt should an unexpected expense pop up), but reaching major savings goals is near impossible if you’re losing money to interest charges every month.

      • Chris

        I think Jeff is pointing out that tip #1 (paying yourself first before paying bills) likely is not the soundest approach to saving a nest egg. This, and tip #4, are absurd suggestions. The other information is good.

  • Ron

    I did the same thing with the 7. Started when I was 35 retired at 60
    with a new car new house in Florida and !.8 million O it is wonderful. Ron

  • Chris

    The $500 plan is horribly inaccurate. Casey Bond – I recommend checking your “facts” before you post them. It’s simple math. $500/mo for 12 months = $6,000 the first year. $600/mo for 12 months = $7,200 the second year. Keep going to year 20 and you’ll be investing $2,400/month, or $28,800 in year 20. Cumulative total after 20 years? $348,000, or roughly a third of the promised amount ($1,00,000) after 20 years.

    This error is particularly appalling considering that you start your article with a discussion of how much you have to save each month with a given rate of interest over a given amount of time! Per that table (and very basic math), it would take over $4,100/month (with 0% interest) to reach $1,000,000 in 20 years.

    This means you must be assuming a large interest rate to reach $1,000,000 in 20 years, but none is stated. A 10% interest rate (which is reasonable given historic stock prices but not those over the past 10 years) would bring the 20-year savings up to ~$800,000 using the “$500 plan.”

    When trying to be helpful and educate the masses, please get your facts straight.

    • Chris

      Also, it’s clear we can’t trust the published date. As of today (8 June 2015),it says the published date is 8 December 2014 (exactly six months ago). However, there’s a comment on this article that is shown as being posted two years ago!

  • Neeraj Agnihotri

    Hello experts,
    I am a software engineer, I am new to my job and my age is 25. My earning is $8000/month and expenses are around $2000/month . I have no idea about investment but this article rises me for the same. I would love to take your suggestions how I should go to reach $1million at the age 50/ 55 . you can consider my growth 7 to 10% per annum.

    • Shari Mae

      Have you talked to an advisor?

  • Dinka Chika

    “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful … that’s what matters to me.”
    Steve jobs – Quote

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