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The Easy and Hard Parts to Becoming a Millionaire by Age 65

Would you feel financially secure if you became a millionaire? I’d say most people would. A million dollar net worth provides the cushion you’d need to weather almost any financial storm. Becoming a millionaire should set your financial worries at ease.

becoming a millionaireThat doesn’t mean though, that when you reach that milestone, you can live recklessly and spend money on whatever you want. Do that and you might find yourself broke before you know it.

Nor does it necessarily mean you can stop working. A millionaire at 75 can sit back and enjoy the fruit of their labor. A millionaire at 35 still has many more years of life expenses in front of them that one million dollars may not cover entirely.

Becoming a millionaire is both easy and hard. That may seem contradictory. How can something be both easy and hard? As you can see from the following graphs, the contradictory nature of that statement can best be viewed through three variables:

time, income and choices.

Becoming a Millionaire by Age 65 in Visuals

When looking at becoming a millionaire, the age of 65 is where all the attention is focused. Why? Because generally speaking, that is (or is near) the age of retirement. Given that the average life expectancy is increasing it’s seen as important to have enough money to fund all the expenses that come in one’s later stages of life.

A $1,000,000 net worth seems like a staggering number. It seems so high that many would dismiss it as impossible? But is it really?

When faced with a lofty goal, sometimes the best thing to do is break it down into smaller pieces. As you can see from this chart from the money section of Business Insider, when we focus on the smaller details instead of the big picture, we get a different perspective.


The numbers in the chart above are based on a person starting with no money. The numbers don’t account for taxes and assume your investments pull in an annual return of 12% (which is doable but a bit high).

The good folks at Yahoo Finance took these same numbers and developed their own chart showing how much you’d need to save each day based on lower annual returns:


So obviously the greater the return on your money the greater chance you have of becoming a millionaire.

However, what the charts should also demonstrate is that anyone could become a millionaire based on a combination of any two of these three variables: time, income and choices.

Scenarios to Becoming a Millionaire

Of course the easiest path to becoming a millionaire by 65 is to have enough time, have enough income and have the sense to make the right financial choices. Put all three of those variables together and the path to a million dollars could practically be assured (barring any catastrophic life calamity).

But what if one of those variables is missing? What if you make some poor choices along the way? Or what if your income is below average? What if you start the process too late in life? Could you still reach millionaire status with only two variables?

I’d say, “Yes, you still can.” Let’s look at three possible scenarios on how this could happen.

The Easier Scenario: Time Plus Income

Variable Missing: Good Choices

If you have enough time and if you have sufficient income, millionaire status is well within reach by age 65. A 22-year-old single, college graduate with no debt should be able to make it. So should the dual-income family in their mid-30s who make $80k a year. So could the late-blooming entrepreneur who started a business at age 50 and saw it explode to a $100,000/yr. net profit.

The variable missing in this scenario – choices – is an important one. What a person chooses to spend money on and what they choose to use it for will go a long way in determining how wealthy they could become. However, I’d argue that a sufficient amount of time and income would be able to overcome some poor choices along the way.

The key word there was “some.” Someone with a continual pattern of poor choices will be less likely to make it. But enough money and enough time would certainly be able to cover up a few financial sins.

Related Content: Confessing a Really Stupid Money Mistake

A More Difficult Scenario: Income Plus Choices

Variable Missing: Time

Time is such a crucial variable in the financial equation. Have it and the prospects look promising. Don’t have it and the goals get more and more daunting. Removing it makes your prospects of reaching a million dollar net worth by 65 a lot more difficult.

As the charts show, a 20-year-old has significantly less to invest per month at all percentage return levels than someone who is older. The older you get, the more you have to invest on a yearly basis in order to reach the goal by age 65. A 50-year-old making $50k who decides to start investing isn’t going to make it given that current income level. There simply isn’t enough time no matter if he or she makes all the right financial choices from then on.

Related Content: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Investing Money the Right Way

What would be needed to make up the difference is an increase in income. If income can be increased and more money invested, then the time factor can be minimized.

But, depending on your age, an income increase can be hard to come by. It’s certainly doable but the challenges associated with a significant income bump remain great. It may mean a career change. It may mean working more hours or finding a second job that takes you away from family. Or it may mean cutting your lifestyle to the bare bones. For those reasons, I place it below Time Plus Income on level of difficulty.

Related Content: 5 Practical Steps to Consider When Making a Career Change

The Toughest Scenario: Time Plus Choices

Variable Missing: Income

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. If you have no income you have no money to invest and no chance at becoming a self-made millionaire by 65.

However, if are making the right choices about life and career you have a job.

So for this scenario, I’m assuming the income from the job is insufficient. When I say, “Income is insufficient” I’m saying the person is just scraping by. There is only enough to cover the necessities of life.

Therefore, without additional income to pour into investments, a million dollar net worth will be out of reach no matter the time left or the choices made.

But let’s hold on for just a second. When I think about people in tough financial situations, like the 30-year-old single mom with three kids, could she still make it? Is a million dollar net worth by age 65 within her reach? Could she save $2,500 per year and depending on the rate of return potentially hit her goal?

Mathematically the answer is yes. That’s the good news that comes out of even the most difficult scenario.

What it would boil down to is the mental, emotional and physical make-up of that person – which is why this is the toughest one-variable-missing scenario in my mind. Could she or someone like her in a tough financial situation maintain the discipline and stamina for 35 or more years to meet the needs of her family while still trying to improve her financial future?

I believe there are really strong-willed people out there who could balance this kind of life, make the difficult choices and eventually become a millionaire. And in the end, this group may experience the most personal satisfaction with reaching millionaire status.


Wherever you find yourself, there is a scenario where you could become a millionaire by age 65. Some paths may be easier than others. However, it’s definitely doable based on the time you have, the income you bring in and the choices you make.

Leave a Comment or Answer a Question Below: What do you think about the different scenarios to becoming a millionaire? Would you put these scenarios in a different order? If so, why? Do you think having a million dollar net worth by age 65 is even important? What choices/sacrifices are you making now to insure your financial future is a bright one?

Image courtesy of Enkhtuvsnin at Flickr Creative Commons

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  1. Kenneth McPherson says

    Hey Sir. this is great news but I believe I missed the boat. Retired military ( Navy) I’m 61 now, You know all my life I was just taught to just WORK. nothing about investments , now that I have been doing some reading and finding so much information I wanted to see if this would be possible for me, But I see that it would not be because I’m missing to two variables time , and income. my plan was by the time I retire I would like to have at least 500,000, this is depressing because from the information I have gotten from reading I have lost so much time. but do you think this is doable. I don’t know nothing about investing but I do know about compound interest now lololol. do you know where i can go to to get started or get more info. thank you for your article

    • Hey Kenneth, thanks for commenting. I run into this a lot with people who are nearing retirement age and haven’t invested yet. They do feel defeated and don’t see the point in starting. The truth is, we all need to plan so that we can support ourselves into our 90s. So for you that’s another 30 years. That’s still a long investing time horizon. So I guess I’m saying it is not too late to start. Without knowing the other details of your financial life, I can’t say whether you could grow a portfolio of investments to 500k by retirement. It will probably depend on how much you are currently earning and what your other debts are. But generally speaking, investments double in value every 7 years. The best beginner money book out there is The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. It’s a comprehensive look at money management, which will include investing and preparing for retirement. Best of luck! If you have any other questions, connect with me through my Contact Form.

  2. As a 26 year old, I must say that chart is very inspiring! Now I’ve just gotta find an investment that will return 3-5% regularly… ah there’s the hard part 😉

  3. It’s very challenging to become a millionaire by the age of 65 years. Now, I have a list of strategies in how I can be someday. I am glad that there are ways that guarantee results but it still varies depending on situation of each person. So, I think they have to discover it themselves and find their own way to become a millionaire.

  4. Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank says

    The chart is really helpful, Brian, which made me realize that smaller amount of money is really helpful and a big factor in achieving our goals and in becoming a millionaire someday.

  5. Great post about compounding, and even better because you broke down the factors that contribute to the end goal, and looked at the possible scenarios.

    Compounding definitely seems to be a concept that only a minority of people can grasp.

  6. And even if you don’t become a millionaire, *ANY* savings is better than none!

  7. Hey Brian –
    Good job presenting the scenarios. I recently read an article about saving a million dollars which said most people don’t understand the power of compound interest. In my opinion it’s more like most people ignore the power of compound interest. They think savings can wait, and before they know it, a decade or two has passed, and it’s difficult to make up for lost time.

    • Great point Groovy. Compound interest is a huge factor in making wealth accumulation happen. And like you said you can’t make up (the time) for that. Once it’s gone it’s gone. (Note to 20-somethings…get started now!)

  8. Love this! I’m glad you broke it down and talked about other variables that can affect these charts.

  9. Lance @ HealthyWealthyIncome says

    It is interesting that the only thing equal to all people is time. We all have the same time. We may not have the same income but we’ll all have 24 hours a day and it will likely take time to be rich. It’s amazing how powerful early investing is even with nominal amounts. I just try to tell folks to not complicate the process. Save early, keep saving and investing and watch it grow! The satisfaction of watching your money grow is greater than any purchase you can make.

    • “…the only thing equal to all people is time.” Great insight Lance! It’s just how we take advantage of the time we are given that matters.

  10. Good information. Thanks for sharing that it’s not always easy. I think many often paint a rosy picture or try to put a cookie-cutter approach in place, when in fact everybody’s circumstances will vary.

    • “…everybody’s circumstances will vary.” That’s a good point. Some people will definitely have it easier/harder than others based on their life situation.

  11. It is important to build wealth. You need to be prepared for whatever you want to do in your future, when you not longer want to work or are unable too. Saving money early, consistently and being actively involved are the best things you can do.

    • Consistency really is a big issue Brian. I think many people are challenged with that. They get fired up about it, go for a time, but then get disrupted for some reason. Got to fight against getting distracted and thrown off course.

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