One out of every 6 people retire as millionaires — here are 8 things you can do now to make sure you're one of them

  • One out of every six retirees in America is a millionaire, according to a report from United Income.
  • Handling finances for retirement can be difficult — the median level of wealth for retired Americans is about $200,000 — but people are living longer and costs are increasing.
  • United Income CEO Matt Fellowes recommends creating an emergency fund and investing in index funds if you want to retire as a millionaire.

One out of every six retired Americans is a millionaire.

This is according to a report by online investing company United Income, which analyzed data from multiple sources, including the Federal Reserve Board and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, to find out how retirees are faring now compared to previous generations. 

Average wealth for American retirees is $752,000 — which has more than doubled since 1989, the report found. Likewise, the rate of retired millionaires has more than doubled in the last 30 years. Fewer people are retiring in poverty and relying on minimum wage than ever before. The report says "the percentage of retirees living on the minimum wage or less dropped in half over the past 30 years."

Still, the median wealth for retirees is just over $200,000 — and people are living longer and costs are increasing. Many retirees end up relying on their monthly Social Security retirement benefits, about $1,400 on average. The Social Security Administration says the benefits account for one-third of retirees' income.

Retiring as a millionaire may seem like a difficult goal to accomplish. However, there are tricks that can help you get over the line so you can enjoy seven digit wealth when you stop working.

Matt Fellowes, the CEO of United Income shared his tips on how to retire a millionaire with Business Insider. Below are the eight best pieces of advice from Fellowes on how to be wealthy when you stop working.  

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1. Save

One of the most common financial mistakes is not saving any money or not saving enough. Fellowes said that increasing your savings rate is "the single biggest thing you can do to increase the size of your nest egg in retirement."

Many factors can determine how much you should be saving, but it should be a significant amount if you expect to retire comfortably.

Fellowes said that the "optimal savings rates vary depending on your income, expected returns, retirement date, and desired lifestyle in retirement, but most people need to save 10-20% of their income for a comfortable retirement." 

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2. Invest the stock market

Investing obviously has a huge impact on future earnings and can be a major source of income in retirement. Finding the right investment mix is crucial to balance the right amount of risk with promise of high returns.

Fellowes recommends an investment portfolio weighted more in stocks than bonds. He notes that stocks have more risk, but by looking at the entire asset allocation and not just a single account, investors can use stocks to earn higher returns for retirement. 

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3. Build an emergency savings fund

One of the most common pieces of financial advice — for people of any age or goal — is to create an emergency fund. Fellowes agrees.

He says that to retire as a millionaire, people should "build an emergency savings fund with enough money to sustain a car breakdown, illness, or three months of no income."

Fellowes notes that having an emergency fund helps prevent early withdrawals from 401(k)s and IRAs which lead to tax penalties of as much as 10%. 

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4. Take advantage of tax-advantaged accounts

Since the highest income tax bracket is 37%, prudent investors should take advantage of tax savings by using the right accounts.

"If you think your income will be higher in retirement than it is right now, you should contribute to a Roth IRA/401(k), which allows you to pay taxes up front and withdraw tax-free later," Fellowes said.

He continued: "If you think your income will be lower in retirement, you should contribute to a traditional IRA/401(k), in which you don't pay taxes on contributions, but instead pay them on withdrawals in retirement." 

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5. Maximize employer contribution match

Retirement accounts like 401(k)s can be very important to retire as a millionaire. A common mistake employees make is not realizing that the company will match your contributions up to a certain point.

Fellowes said "it almost always pays to contribute up to the full match." 

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6. Don't try to beat the market

"Buy an index fund," Fellowes said.

Investing can be a major part of a robust retirement plan, but actively trying to outperform the market can spell trouble. Fellowes mentioned that from 2012-2017, 84% of professional money managers didn't outperform their benchmark indices.

For him, index funds are a good way to grow your finances with the market without the headache of actively trading. 

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7. Automate your savings

"Make inertia work in your favor by setting up automatic transfers to your retirement accounts that coincide with your paychecks," Fellowes said.

This simple one-time task will turn into easy savings come every paycheck. Fellowes said that "you're virtually guaranteed to save more this way, as the task of deciding when and how much to save each month has been shown to be a major deterrent to saving at all."  

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8. Make a budget

This piece of advice is the backbone of financial planning and can help anybody at any age or stage.

Fellowes said budgeting is "a very effective way to identify and reduce unnecessary spending, and deciding on a savings rate is much easier with the 10,000-foot view of a yearly budget than the street-level view of a paycheck."

Budgeting will help you retire as a millionaire because "you'll find money you didn't know you had, and your future retirement account balance will thank you," Fellowes said. 

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