I Had Just $200K in Retirement Savings — Here’s How I Grew It to $450K a Year Later

Mature 60s  woman saving retirement money with a piggy bank at home.
pepifoto / iStock.com

According to the most recent census data, more than half of working-age Americans have no retirement savings at all, and most of those who do are drastically underfunded. Many of them might feel like they don’t have time to catch up — and who could blame them?

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It takes decades to build a nest egg that can outlast today’s long retirements, but there’s nothing to say you can’t sprint for a few stretches during the marathon. 

The following stories are from real people who grew their retirement savings by leaps and bounds in a single year. Some made lifestyle changes. Others launched side hustles. Others found avenues in their careers and investments that allowed for major growth and rapid returns. 

But all proved that with diligence, a plan and a little bit of luck, a lot can happen in a year.

Check out how much you should have in your retirement account at every stage of life.

A Real Estate Investor Does Well by Doing Good

For Joel Efosa, the pandemic proved to be a financial boom.  

“In 2020, I remarkably increased my retirement savings in a matter of one year,” he said. “I started the year with a nest egg of approximately $200,000. By the end of the year, I managed to grow it to $450,000 — more than double what I started with.”

That year, he found a profitable niche in his career as a real estate investor. It’s right there in the name — Fire Cash Buyers in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Are You Retirement Ready?

“The key to my success was a strategic focus on undervalued, fire-damaged properties in areas with promising real estate projections,” he said. “Often overlooked by traditional investors, these properties provided a unique opportunity. My team and I would acquire these properties at a significant discount, invest in their restoration and then either sell or rent them out for a profit.”

It’s an unusual forte that doesn’t bring a lot of competitors, so Efosa hit his stride quickly.

“This approach not only generated substantial income,” he said, “but also created a positive impact on the community by revitalizing properties that otherwise would have been left to decay.”

A Mortgage Pro Gets Serious About Saving — and Gets a Side Hustle

Adam Garfield is the marketing director of a hair restoration company called HairBro.

He started last year with just $15,000 saved for retirement — but then he got serious about saving.

“Determined to make significant progress, I adopted a rigorous savings plan and cut down on unnecessary expenses,” Garfield said. “I created a budget and stuck to it religiously, allocating a large portion of my income to retirement savings.”

He leveraged his age and special IRS rules that incentivize saving in the run-up to retirement.

“To maximize my contributions, I took advantage of the catch-up contributions allowed for individuals over 50 years old,” he said. “This allowed me to contribute more than the standard annual limit to my retirement accounts, accelerating the growth of my nest egg.”

He also decided it was time to roll the dice on bets with longer odds than he was used to for their potential to deliver better gains. 

Are You Retirement Ready?

The gamble paid off.

“I also took a more aggressive investment approach, focusing on higher-risk, higher-reward opportunities,” said Garfield. “While this approach came with some volatility, it ultimately led to substantial gains in my portfolio.”

Additionally, he leveraged his skills and expertise to launch a small consulting business on the side — but he didn’t inflate his lifestyle when the new money started rolling in.

“The extra income from my consulting gigs was funneled directly into my retirement accounts, further boosting my savings,” he said.

By the end of the year, his retirement savings had grown to $35,000, representing an impressive 133% increase. 

“My commitment to disciplined saving, catch-up contributions, strategic investments and additional income sources were the key factors that contributed to the substantial growth of my nest egg in just one year.” 

A Mortgage Pro Adds 50% With a Few Smart Changes

George Rogers, a mortgage advisor at LendingLine, had about $20,000 in retirement savings a few years back, but he made some crucial adjustments that quickly built on that amount.

“I was able to grow my nest egg by over 50% in one year by making a few key changes,” Rogers said. 

The first was increasing his 401(k) contributions. 

“I was previously contributing 6% of my salary, but I increased that to 10%,” he said. “This simple change added an extra $2,000 to my retirement savings each year.”

The second was that he supplemented his pre-tax employer-based plan by opening an after-tax Roth IRA.

“I contributed $5,000 to my Roth IRA in the first year,” he said. “This investment grew by over 10% in the first year, thanks to the strong stock market.”

Are You Retirement Ready?

The third piece of the puzzle was switching to index funds, which cost less than mutual funds but mitigated the risk he was taking by picking individual stocks. 

“Index funds are a low-cost, low-risk way to invest in the stock market,” Rogers said.

Finally, he tied it all together by making important changes to his spending habits. 

“I started tracking my spending and found that I was spending more than I needed to on things like eating out and entertainment,” Rogers said. “I was able to cut back on my spending and save an extra $1,000 per year. By making these changes, I was able to grow my retirement savings by over 50% in one year. I’m on track to retire comfortably, thanks to these simple changes.”

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