50 ways to make your first $1 million
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Updated May 17, 2019: OK, so maybe a $1 million isn't as cool as it used to be. Thanks, inflation, David Fincher's "The Social Network" and Russ Hanneman! Making the two-comma club is still a noble financial goal. And an attainable one, with a little luck and a whole lotta work. Or vice versa, depending on where you're at in life and how much money is already sitting in your bank account.
With that caveat in mind, here are 50 ways that, taken collectively (more or less), could make you a millionaire.
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If you're just starting out in the workforce, "keep living like a student," Jeff White, a financial analyst with FitSmallBusiness.com, says. Which means, yes, try to set aside almost half of your income. Saving is important, but you'll also want to ...
Because, let's face it, these days, it's pretty much impossible to nickel-and-dime your way to a $1 million.
Take that 40% to 50% of your paycheck and "invest into more than one source," White says. That includes stocks, bonds, real estate and mutual funds. But if you're already overwhelmed, we get it: investing is terrifying.
There are plenty of investing apps out there that can get you started. Some apps, like Betterment and Wealthfront, are robo-advisors, while others serve as online investment brokers. Think Robinhood and Stash. And then there's Acorns, which lets you invest your spare change.
Our partner ConsumersAdvocate can help you find the best robo-advisor for your financial situation. (FYI: We may receive compensation when you click on the map.)
We're talking IRAs and 401(k) plans. These funds are essential for a stable retirement. But the tax penalties associated with early withdrawals should dissuade you from tapping that money for non-emergencies. In other words, "you don't feel the temptation of diving into those accounts just to go to Disney World," White says.
If your employer matches up to a certain amount, well, that's the amount you should deposit into the fund each paycheck. Otherwise, you're basically leaving free money on the table.
In 2019, for instance, your total contributions to all of your traditional and Roth individual retirement accounts can't be over $6,000 ($7,000 if you’re 50 or older) or your taxable compensation for the year, assuming your compensation was under that limit.
Terrifying, we know, but think about how much Facebook stock originally sold for after its IPO ($38 per share) and how much it's worth now ($185.85 as of writing this.) Of course, be sure to consult a financial adviser before making any major investments.
That's the theory all those tiny house hunters you're watching on HGTV subscribe to: Less is more — and great for your bank account.
If you decide to downsize — or, maybe, when you decide to downsize — make some money off of your still salvageable stuff. There are plenty of sites and apps, like eBay and Poshmark, that'll help you save your gently used wares to the masses.
True minimalism isn't for everyone. (Fumio Sasaki, a leading voice in the minimalism movement, only keeps a roll-up mattress, three shirts, four pairs of socks, a box that serves as a table, chair and desk and a computer.)
But, even if your budget is already lean, there's usually at least some place you can trim more fat. Common money-wasters? Avocado toast. Your morning coffee. One-thousand dollar smartphones. You know, the usual.
"Millionaires are made by years of smart financial choices," entrepreneur Tyler Douthitt says. "Make the cuts to your budget to make it work."
There are plenty of wealthy individuals who are unabashedly frugal. Consider Oracle of Omaha Warren Buffett who once had a vanity license plate that said "thrifty".
Notice we didn't say "pay your debt down". That's certainly important, but also it's own thing. Like, if you're seriously in debt, focus more on paying it down and less on making your million, you know?
Future millionaires keep debt to an absolute minimum — even the good kind, which is essentially debt associated with an asset that'll increase in value. Like a home.
That's a term used to describe someone who's living in a home that's essentially eating all of their income. So, yes, you might be paying your mortgage, but you've also got credit card debt and $0 in your emergency fund. If you can't save three to six months worth of expenses, how are you going save $1 million?
"Only buy a house that fits your family, without feeling the need to be in the most expensive neighborhood," White said. "You don't need to build a home from scratch if you're trying to save."
Because it's an investment. Plus, depending on where you live and how much of a down payment you can put down, a monthly mortgage payment could be more affordable than the one you're making to a landlord. If you must lease ...
That's the general rule of thumb when it comes to the cost of housing, but, if you're trying to hit a mil, you'll need to aim higher. Or lower, in this case. Think 20% to 25%.
Lest a fire, break-in, explosion, etc. drain your coffers and blow your master plan. And, yes, that goes for renters, too. You can learn more about renters insurance here.
Disability insurance will replace some or most of your income if you're suddenly unable to work for a period of time. Car insurance covers you if you cause an accident with your vehicle. And, as your wealth grows, umbrella liability insurance can cover anything in between. Bottomline: If you're trying to build your net worth, you have to protect your assets.
As anyone involved in the Equifax data breach undoubtedly knows by now, your credit affects everything: how much interest you pay on a loan, what apartments you can score, how high your car insurance premiums climb. The list goes on and on.
To keep good credit, pay all your bills on time (yes, every single one), keep you debt low (told you) and add new lines of credit organically over time.
It's easy to get entrenched in a contract, but we'd be the first to tell you, it pays to shop around. Call up your current service providers — cable company, credit card issuer, etc. — to see if you can score a lower rate. If not (and your contract is set to expire), take your business elsewhere.
Once you get to spouse and 2.5 kids-mode, it gets a lot harder to bank nearly half of your paycheck. Aim instead to invest 20%-plus of your monthly income into a retirement account.
That way, "by the time you hit retirement, the compounding returns should easily make you worth much more than $1 million," White says.
And, listen, if even that gets tricky ...
"No matter what happens," he said.
There are ways to make saving a little bit easier. One method involves setting it and forgetting it.
"Every time you have a deposited, have your bank account setup to automatically put a certain amount in your savings account or investment portfolio," Jay Labelle, owner of The Cover Guy, says.
That way "you don't dive into your savings or investment accounts if something unexpected happens, which it will with kids," White says.
Couples with kids are (probably) less inclined to throw down a bunch of money on $85 pet rocks. But there are certainly temptations prospective $1 million parents will need to negotiate.
"Find memorable, but affordable, vacations," White says. "You can have a blast with your kids without spending $20,000."
Sure, you want to buy a new TV or Escalade, but you'll reach a $1 million much faster if save that money for later.
Makes a person healthy, wealthy and wise, you know?
If you can't save more, make more. And, thanks to the gig economy, there are plenty of ways to bring in a little extra income on your nights and weekends.
Thanks to sites like Airbnb and VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner), it's also possible to make some extra money when you away. You just gotta be cool with renting out your place to strangers. You can see what side hustles earn Americans the most money here.
Who knows? Your side hustle could turn into a full-time gig. Or maybe you've got an innovative idea venture capitalists will love. That might sound real pie in the sky, but consider this stat, courtesy of The Cato Institute: Roughly one-third of first-generation millionaires are entrepreneurs or managers of non-financial businesses.
That could mean scooping up some investment/rental properties as your wealth grows. Or something as simple as renting out a room in your abode to help with your mortgage. We hear house hacks are all the rage these days.
Dirty word, we know, but, per Forbes, top influencers can take home about $187,000 per Facebook post and $150,000 per Instagram.
That's according to Mark Cuban, and while it sounds ... well, kind of terrible, we figured we'd pass it along.
Not enjoying life is actually a theme among self-made millionaires. Earlier this year, VaynerMedia CEO Gary Vaynerchuk said millennials were financial failures because they watch too much Netflix and play too much Madden.
Studies have found wealthy people exercise more. Plus, you know, it's good for your health.
Wage stagnation has let up at least a little bit since the recession, so you might find there's more money to be made in your current position. Case in point: Senior executives who changed jobs in 2013 received compensation increases that topped 16%, according to a survey from Salveson Stetson Group.
Don't take any bonus options you have at work for granted — and, by that, we mean don't assume you won't net the full amount. It might require a mad dash to December, but you definitely won't get the money if you don't put in the work. Not eligible for a bonus?
So long as you deliver on a certain goal, of course.
If you want to make a million, you need to make sure your spending doesn't increase alongside your income. Seriously. Lifestyle creep is a big problem that's kept plenty of high-earners from maximizing their money.
This one comes courtesy of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
"The Hacker Way is an approach to building that involves continuous improvement and iteration," he wrote in a 2012 memo to Facebook shareholders. "Hackers believe that something can always be better, and that nothing is ever complete.”
I mean, the grand prize for Survivor and Who Wants to be a Millionaire is a $1 million.
Remember, once you're over the age of 50, you can make annual "catch up" contributions into certain retirement accounts, including 401(k) plans and IRAs. You can learn more about what amounts you can allot to each account on the IRS' website.
Also helpful for people who are older, but not quite at the $1 million mark, since, thanks to delayed retirement credits, your can receive larger (in fact, the largest) Social Security benefits by retiring at age 70.
Flexible Spending or Health Savings Accounts. Commuter benefits. Property tax and mortgage interest deductions (told you it helped to own a home). Make sure you're capitalizing on anything and everything Uncle Sam offers in terms of tax breaks.
The higher your income, the more complex your finances will be. (Case in points: all those tax breaks we just mentioned.) And, at a certain point, it's a good idea to bring in the professional — a certified financial planner or certified public account — to help you manage your money.
Because you can't make amass a small fortune overnight. In fact, a 2016 study found it took the average self-made millionaire an average of 32 years to become rich.
Because you can make $1 million.
"Confidence will get you through your moments of weakness when you want to pull money out of savings or your investment accounts," White says. "Keep going, and before you know it you'll hit your goal."
Or, you know, you could just cross your fingers and hope you ...
It could happen.
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