Can I be honest? I’m tired of hearing people make millionaires out to be big, bad wolves. That all wealthy people are evil, greedy, self-centered people who inherited or stole money to get rich. It’s as if there were something wrong with being wealthy.
Listen, people: money is neutral—what matters is how you get it and how you spend it. And most of the wealthy people I know didn’t swindle anybody. They worked hard. They saved. They sacrificed. And now they get to enjoy the results of that patience and perseverance.
I get it—not everybody wants to travel the world. Their lifestyle and wants are simple and uncomplicated. But for a lot of Americans, becoming wealthy isn’t just a lofty dream—it’s a necessity. Here are four reasons why it’s okay—and important—to become a millionaire:
1. THE LENGTH OF RETIREMENT
Back in 1960, people retired around age 65(1) and had a life expectancy of 80,(2) so they only had to fund their retirement for about fifteen years. But now, according to a recent Gallup poll, current retirees said goodbye to the workforce at age 61 and current workers expect to retire at age 66.(3) But people are living longer now. The current life expectancy for Americans is 84 years for men and 86 years for women, and one in four people will live past age 90. (4) That means you’ll need enough money to live on for at least 20 to 25 years.
2. THE COST OF HEALTHCARE
According to a recent Fidelity study, a 65-year-old couple retiring in 2018 would need $280,000 to cover their medical expenses during their retirement years.(6) Now, that amount doesn’t include long-term care, like living in a nursing home or home health care. That could cost an additional $138,000 per person.(7)
I know you’re thinking that you’re healthy and you won’t have extensive medical needs. Sorry, but the government has estimated that someone who’s 65 years old today has almost a 70 percent chance of needing long-term care at some point.(8)
Let me be crystal clear: Health care in retirement is expensive! That’s another reason you may need to hit the million-dollar mark.
3. YOU CAN’T COUNT ON SOCIAL SECURITY
I can’t count how many times I’ve heard people say they’ll just live on Social Security when the time comes. That’s a very bad idea. In 2018, the maximum monthly benefit a person can receive at full retirement age is $2,788.(9) But the average payment in August 2018 was just $1,415,(10) which comes to just under $17,000 annually. That’s only about $5,000 above the poverty line of $12,140.(11)
If that’s not reason enough to kick your wealth building into high gear, listen to this: You may not get the full amount you expect by the time you retire. Even as we speak, Social Security payouts are higher than its income.(12) If things don’t change, its reserves will go dry in 2034.(13) To make sure it doesn’t, lawmakers want to decrease the amount people get in monthly payments. Nothing has been settled yet, but it’s on the backburner.
4. YOU WANT TO LEAVE A LASTING LEGACY
This final reason to build wealth isn’t about facts and figures. It’s about your family. Most people I talk to want to leave a strong financial legacy for the people they love. Nobody wants to see their kids or grandkids struggle. Knowing that your family will be taken care of long after you’re gone gives you peace of mind. Having that safety net in place lets you sleep easier at night.
Even if you don’t have family, you may want to leave a legacy by giving generously to others. We all want to make a difference in the world. There’s nothing like surprising that single dad with money to buy his kids Christmas gifts. Or leaving a $100 tip for an overworked server. Or paying for someone to go on a mission trip. Giving away your money is the most fun you can have with it!
Sure, you might not have to break the million-dollar mark in your piggy bank. But given these reasons for building wealth, why would you try to gut it out with less? Especially since becoming a millionaire is very possible.
HOW TO BECOME A MILLIONAIRE
Listen to this: nearly 10 million people in the U.S. reported a net worth of $1–5 million in 2017. (14) And that doesn’t even include the value of their home! Do you know what this tells me? That becoming a millionaire is possible for anyone. It’s not just for trust fund babies or lucky lotto winners. So, how do everyday people like us make it happen? The formula is simple—but following it takes patience and perseverance. Here it is:
Monthly contributions + mutual funds × time + compound interest
I told you the process is simple. But I’ve met a lot of people who don’t use all the pieces of this formula, so they don’t maximize their wealth-building potential. Let’s look at each of them.
Making regular deposits into your investment accounts is a key component in building wealth. You can’t become a millionaire by putting away money when you feel like it, or when you have money left over at the end of the month. It must take priority.
You need to invest 15 percent of your gross income every month. Since you’ve already got an emergency fund in place, and you’ve paid off your debt (except the house), hitting that mark is absolutely do-able. You may have to sacrifice some things—like that fancy vacation or designer wardrobe—but you can invest that much. I’ve talked to enough teachers, custodians and blue-collar workers to know it’s possible.
How can you make sure you’re putting away money every, single, month? Automatic withdrawals. Whether you’re investing through work or through a brokerage firm, you can arrange to have a portion of your paycheck (either a fixed amount or a percentage) go into your investment account. That way, you aren’t tempted to use that money for living room furniture or the newest tech toy.
You may get tired of hearing this because it’s not flashy or trending, but the best way to grow your money is to invest it in mutual funds. Yep. No get-rich-quick schemes, and no pyramid marketing ploys peddling skincare or kitchen items. Just simple mutual funds.
Spread your investments across four groups of funds: growth, growth and income, aggressive and international. This mix of funds will balance out your portfolio, and protect it against the ups and downs of the market.
At least once a year, sit down with your investing pro to look at the funds you’re in. Make sure they’re still balanced. One sector of funds may go wild (like technology) while another struggles (like textiles), so you may have too much (or too little) money in one fund.
TIME + COMPOUND INTEREST
Building wealth doesn’t happen overnight. Money needs two essential sidekicks to grow: time and compound interest—and they’re inseparable. Here’s an example to illustrate.
Cathy starts investing $500 a month at age 25. She continues to do this for 30 years until age 55. In that time, she puts away $6,000 a year or $180,000. She invests in a balance of mutual funds through her workplace 401(k) and earns a 10-12 percent return each year. At the end of 25 years, she might amass $1.085 million. If she invested 35 years, or until age 60, she tops $1.7 million, assuming a 10 percent rate of return. That’s consistent investing in mutual funds, plus the power of time and compound interest.
Cathy’s next-door neighbor, Carl, got serious about his investing at age 40. He has realized the importance of building wealth and wants to reach the million-dollar mark. If he wants to invest $500 a month, he will need to delay retirement until age 70 to hit $1.05 million. Or, to reach $1 million at the same time as Cathy (age 55), he will need to invest $2,500 a month. Carl has to play catch-up, because he has a smaller time window for the compound interest to grow.
It’s time for a change. It’s time for a new way of thinking. It’s time for ordinary people like you and me reclaim the possibility—and ability—of becoming millionaires. But it can only happen if you decide to take control of your finances and turn the tide in your favor!
Chris Hogan is a #1 national best-selling author, dynamic speaker and host of The Chris Hogan Show. For more than a decade, Hogan has served at Ramsey Solutions, equipping and challenging people to take control of their money and reach their financial goals. His second book, Everyday Millionaire: How Ordinary People Built Extraordinary Wealth — And How You Can Too, releases in January 2019. You can follow Chris Hogan on Twitter and Instagram at@ChrisHogan360 and online at chrishogan360.com or facebook.com/chrishogan360.
A version of this article first appeared at chrishogan360.com.