3 Steps to Retire Rich Without Relying on Social Security

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Retire without social securitySocial Security is in serious financial jeopardy. Right now, the program is:

  • expected to pay out $45 billion more than it takes in as tax revenue this year,
  • projecting that its Trust Fund will completely evaporate by 2036, and
  • at risk of not making payments next month if the debt ceiling impasse is not resolved.

Even if Social Security weren't falling apart, the average retiree benefits from Social Security essentially amount to about what you'd earn working full time at a minimum wage job. That's hardly the retirement lifestyle of the rich and famous.

If you're looking for anything resembling a comfortable retirement, you'll have to look well beyond what Social Security will provide.

The Plan That'll Get You There

Fortunately, there's a straightforward, three-step plan that will enable you to retire comfortably without having to rely on Social Security. In fact, if you start it early enough in your career, it could even let you retire downright rich. All you need to do is:

Step 1: Spend less than you earn.
Step 2: Invest the rest.
Step 3: Repeat.

It's not rocket science, but it does take the discipline to both save aggressively and keep at it for years -- perhaps even a few decades. You don't even need to be all that great at investing if you put enough cash toward it for a long enough period of time.

The table below shows the number of years it'll take to amass $1 million, based on a handful of potential annual return rates and monthly contributions.

Monthly Contribution

10% Annual Returns

8% Annual Returns

6% Annual Returns

4% Annual Returns

2% Annual Returns

What That Monthly Amount Means

$1,791.66

17.4

19.5

22.3

26.3

32.9

Max out 401(k) + IRA for people under 50

$1,375.00

19.6

22.2

25.6

30.8

39.7

Max out 401(k) for people under 50

$1,000.00

22.4

25.5

29.9

36.7

49.1

$500.00

28.8

33.4

40.1

51.0

73.4

$416.66

30.6

35.5

42.9

55.0

80.5

Max out IRA for people under 50

$250.00

35.5

41.6

50.9

66.7

101.9

$100.00

44.5

52.9

65.7

88.6

143.7


What should jump out at you right away is that the amount you invest each month matters at least as much as the rate of return you earn when it comes to reaching that $1 million milestone. If you sock away enough cash each month, even long run 2% returns can make you a millionaire within the span of a typical career. On the flip side, if you're only able to turn up $100 a month, it'll be significantly tougher to pass that millionaire threshold within your working life.

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This is really good news if you've been watching the market's behavior over the past decade or so and wondering if it'll ever consistently provide decent returns. Indeed, it means the toughest part of your long-run investing success is really figuring out how to arrange your lifestyle to enable you to routinely make those significant investments.

D.I.G. Deep

That said, one strategy to consider is one based on the three fundamental principles of D.I.G.:

  • Diversification: owning companies across a broad swath of the economy. This helps protect your overall portfolio from problems that wind up sinking any one industry.
  • Income: owning companies that pay decent dividends. This provides you with current cash to either spend or reinvest, and it enforces discipline on the company's managers.
  • Growth: owning companies that not only grow their business but are willing to share that growth directly with their shareholders in the form of increased dividends. This enables your own wealth to potentially grow over time while providing a measure of inflation protection on that dividend income stream.

When you put it all together, you get companies like these:

Company

Industry

Current Yield

Smallest Dividend Increase, Past 5 Years

ExxonMobil (XOM)

Energy

2.3%

4.8%

PepsiCo (PEP)

Consumer Staples

3%

5.9%

Medtronic (MDT)

Health Care

2.6%

9.3%

Blackrock (BLK)

Financials

3%

7.6%

Target (TGT)

Consumer Discretionary

2.3%

6.2%

Norfolk Southern (NSC)

Industrials

2.1%

7.1%

Automatic Data Processing (ADP)

Information Technology

2.7%

4.5%

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard and Poor's.


With a broad swath of business lines, you get the portfolio protecting benefits of diversification. With dividend yields above 2%, you're getting decent levels of cash as direct rewards for your investing risks, while helping to enforce financial discipline among your companies' managers. And with dividends that have grown at least 4% per year over the past five years, you're sharing in your companies' growth while protecting your dividend income from inflation.

It's not a strategy that's destined to light the world on fire, but it is one that has the benefits of being both straightforward and reasonable to follow through good times and bad. When all is said and done, that's what really matters if you're looking to make the consistent, significant investments over time that it'll take to retire rich.


At the time of publication, Motley Fool contributor Chuck Saletta did not own shares of any company mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of PepsiCo and Medtronic. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of PepsiCo, BlackRock, and Automatic Data Processing as well as creating a diagonal call position on PepsiCo.

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