It Takes Exactly This Long to Make a Million Dollars in America

Becoming a millionaire is hard -- but not impossible.

More than a quarter of Americans said that you need to earn at least $1 million to be “rich” in the U.S., according to a recent GOBankingRates survey. However, it’s harder to become “rich” in America these days, as it seems each and every year the cost of living continues to rise while income growth is either lackluster or stagnate

Earning at least $1 million a year is one definition of being a millionaire; however, it’s not the traditional definition. The traditional definition of a millionaire is someone who has assets, or a net worth, equal to at least $1 million.

GOBankingRates conducted a study to find how long it takes to reach $1 million in assets or worth. The study takes into account annual incomes, annual consumption expenditures and savings per year. The findings aren’t reassuring if you want to realistically become a millionaire in your lifetime without making some serious moves.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Millionaire in the US?

When you account for the cost of living, it takes close to 65 years to become a millionaire. But with basic investing, it’ll take about 61 years — which might not seem much quicker, but that’s because it’s an extremely conservative calculation.

How Long It Takes to Become a Millionaire in America
How Long It Takes to Earn $1M (not incl. cost of living or investments)How Long It Takes to Earn $1M (incl. cost of living)How Long It Takes to Earn $1M (incl. cost of living and investments)
U.S. Average17 years, 9 months and 2 days64 years, 8 months and 23 days61 years, 4 months and 9 days

To find out how long it takes to become a millionaire, the study assumes that a person is making the median household income in the country/their state. From this income, the study subtracted the average per capita personal expenditures (i.e., cost of living) in a year. The difference between the two — this surplus — was then assumed to be put into an investment portfolio with a 5.5 percent annual return, which is the approximate average return for an investment portfolio. From there, the study calculated how long this surplus per year would generate $1 million.

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These calculations were necessary because you can’t simply multiply your income by a number of years to reach $1 million. If you could, it would take approximately 18 years to become a millionaire. But this would assume you earn money and then never have to spend any on the necessities of life, let alone discretionary expenditures. That’s why determining the nation’s and each state’s per capita expenditures is essential to calculating how long it’ll take to reach $1 million.

The Secret to Becoming a Millionaire Faster: Investing

At the same time, just calculating income minus cost of living alone won’t give you much of a surplus to build on. People trying to reach $1 million in their lifetime must invest, rather than hoard it or put it into a basic savings account with a return that’s much lower compared to a diversified portfolio.

So, the key to becoming a millionaire — to becoming truly wealthy in the long term — is to invest. When you take out investing, it adds many more years.

“If you want to get on the path to riches, find ways to make more money — whether it’s negotiating raises, making the change to a higher-paying career, getting a second job, investing in rental property or all of the above,” said Cameron Huddleston, personal finance expert and GOBankingRates’ Life + Money columnist. “Then, invest those earnings in the stock market so your money can grow even more.”

Investing can lead to further investing as well as more complex vehicles and strategies, which really accelerate your savings over time but would be completely absent if you never invest. You can’t predict future returns, but if you never open the door, you can’t even get in on the wealth-building action.

How Long It Takes to Become a Millionaire in Every US State

The cost of living and median income vary from state to state. That’s because different states have different jobs and workers — and thus different incomes.

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Cost of living varies due to factors such as the amount of money residents can even spend, the purchasing power of their dollar, as well as supply and demand. For example, housing is more expensive in states where supply is low and demand is high, such as Washington, D.C., Massachusetts and Hawaii.

Check out the table and visualization below to see how long it takes to become a millionaire in each state:

StateTime It Takes to Become Millionaire (Without Investing) Time It Takes to Become Millionaire (With Investing)
Alabama72 years, 6 months and 30 days68 years, 9 months and 17 days
Alaska35 years, 2 months and 7 days33 years, 4 months and 6 days
Arizona52 years, 6 months and 25 days49 years, 9 months and 28 days
Arkansas87 years, 2 months and 16 days82 years, 7 months and 29 days
California42 years, 9 months and 2 days40 years, 6 months and 10 days
Colorado42 years, 7 months and 14 days40 years, 4 months and 25 days
Connecticut43 years, 11 months and 30 days41 years, 8 months and 13 days
Delaware51 years, 5 months and 29 days48 years, 9 months and 22 days
District of Columbia68 years, 5 months and 24 days64 years, 10 months and 28 days
Florida88 years, 1 month and 28 days83 years, 6 months and 25 days
Georgia53 years, 11 months and 3 days51 years, 1 month and 10 days
Hawaii35 years, 1 month and 19 days33 years, 3 months and 20 days
Idaho60 years, 8 months and 5 days57 years, 6 months and 7 days
Illinois55 years, 4 months and 31 days52 years, 6 months and 10 days
Indiana62 years, 5 months and 2 days59 years, 2 months and 2 days
Iowa53 years, 8 months and 26 days50 years, 11 months and 8 days
Kansas53 years, 7 months and 21 days50 years, 10 months and 3 days
Kentucky77 years, 7 months and 14 days73 years, 6 months and 28 days
Louisiana94 years, 2 months and 18 days89 years, 3 months and 19 days
Maine102 years, 10 months and 10 days97 years, 6 months and 1 day
Maryland29 years, 5 months and 19 days27 years, 11 months and 6 days
Massachusetts45 years, 4 months and 11 days42 years, 11 months and 29 days
Michigan75 years, 4 months and 22 days71 years, 5 months and 17 days
Minnesota49 years, 4 months and 11 days46 years, 9 months and 14 days
Mississippi85 years, 2 months and 18 days80 years, 9 months and 8 days
Missouri76 years, 1 month and 15 days72 years, 1 month and 26 days
Montana110 years, 1 month and 24 days104 years, 4 months and 29 days
Nebraska59 years, 7 months and 6 days56 years, 5 months and 28 days
Nevada64 years, 11 months and 30 days61 years, 7 months and 10 days
New Hampshire48 years, 4 months and 4 days45 years, 9 months and 27 days
New Jersey38 years, 1 month and 12 days36 years, 1 month and 17 days
New Mexico82 years, 10 months and 30 days78 years, 7 months and 4 days
New York73 years, 4 months and 18 days69 years, 6 months and 21 days
North Carolina60 years, 9 months and 23 days57 years, 7 months and 22 days
North Dakota71 years, 8 months and 2 days67 years, 11 months and 7 days
Ohio77 years, 3 months and 11 days73 years, 3 months and 1 day
Oklahoma61 years, 11 months and 27 days58 years, 9 months and 4 days
Oregon59 years, 8 months and 28 days56 years, 7 months and 16 days
Pennsylvania70 years, 11 months and 6 days67 years, 2 months and 26 days
Rhode Island57 years, 5 months and 2 days54 years, 5 months and 4 days
South Carolina63 years, 2 months and 18 days59 years, 10 months and 30 days
South Dakota83 years, 10 months and 29 days79 years, 6 months and 15 days
Tennessee73 years, 3 months and 1 day69 years, 5 months and 6 days
Texas52 years, 4 months and 16 days49 years, 7 months and 23 days
Utah33 years, 1 month and 4 days31 years, 4 months and 16 days
Vermont101 years, 7 months and 20 days96 years, 4 months and 3 days
Virginia40 years, 8 months and 5 days38 years, 6 months and 24 days
Washington43 years, 11 months and 18 days41 years, 8 months and 2 days
West Virginia115 years, 10 months and 1 day109 years, 9 months and 17 days
Wisconsin61 years, 10 months and 14 days58 years, 7 months and 24 days
Wyoming53 years, 0 months and 8 days50 years, 3 months and 4 days
United States64 years, 8 months and 23 days61 years, 4 months and 9 days

Tips to Start Investing and Grow Your Wealth

Investing is so important to wealth, and thus becoming a millionaire, for many reasons. But perhaps the key reason can be observed in discussing the difference between saving money and investing.

Take, for example, the popular phrase “a penny saved is a penny earned.” That phrase refers to saving money because when you save money, you’re storing it away for use at a later time and purpose, such as saving for your kids’ college education or a car. Your saved money will not be building your wealth.

Investing that money, on the other hand, allows your money to grow to a larger sum. Here are some easy options you can invest your money in:

These are just some of the more common investments available. Once you jump into the investing waters, you can go even deeper, finding different investment vehicles, returns, levels of risk, etc. — all of which can help build your wealth in a manner that hoarding or saving with little to no interest cannot do.

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Methodology: GOBankingRates calculated how long it takes to be a millionaire by using median household income data from the U.S. Census Bureau and annual consumption data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. We found the difference between what a median household in every state earns and per capita consumption in every state, and then divided that number by 1,000,000 in order to determine how many years, days and months it would take to reach $1 million in every state and in the U.S. We used median household income because per capita income does not cover the per capita consumption in every state and is much smaller than annual spending. 

In addition, to account for investing leftover income, we took the difference between annual income and consumption expenditures, and assumed it was invested in a portfolio with the average investor’s long-term average of around 5.5 percent, according to Zacks Investment Research.

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About the Author

Andrew DePietro is a finance writer with years of experience covering topics such as taxation, Social Security, entrepreneurship, investing, real estate and housing markets. His work has appeared on MSN, Yahoo Finance, Fortune, Forbes, CBS and U.S. News. Before writing for GOBankingRates, Andrew worked as a research assistant and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in History.