2 Good Ways (and 2 Not-So-Good Ways) to Grow $100,000 into $1 Million for Retirement Savings

So you have $100,000 and you want to grow it into $1 million for retirement — what a fine goal! There are multiple ways to do it (or try to do it), though not all of them are advisable. For example, here are two suboptimal ideas, one pretty good one, and one great one.

1. Save $100,000 per year for 10 years

This path to $1 million is fairly foolproof, but it’s almost a joke to put it on this list. It’ll take 10 years, which isn’t bad, but the kicker is you’ll need to have $100,000 each year to add to your growing pot. If you amass this cash hoard in a bank savings account, you might earn an interest rate of around 0.50% or so, and actually end up with a bit more than $1 million by the end of a decade.

Clearly, this isn’t an ideal plan. If you’re even able to pull together $100,000 per year, you may be doing so by depriving yourself of being able to pay for other expenses, such as your kids’ college educations. So let’s look for a better plan.

Image source: Getty Images.

2. Buy 100,000 lottery tickets

Here’s a very different way to get to a million dollars with $100,000: Buy 100,000 lottery tickets. Since 100,000 tickets (or 50,000 tickets, if you’re buying $2 ones) is a lot of tickets, it can seem like you’ve increased your chances of hitting it big. But this plan isn’t as promising as it might seem. For one thing, it can take a long time to buy that many tickets, especially if you’re choosing particular numbers to play. It can also take a long time to check each one to see if you won.

Here’s the main reason to dispense with this plan, though: the odds. If you’re after a Powerball jackpot, you’re looking at odds of 1 in 292,201,338 for a ticket to win. That’s more than 292 million. So 50,000 tickets costing $2 apiece are far from likely to get you a jackpot.

Worse still, assuming you don’t win the jackpot, you’ll be out that $100,000 — or most of it, as you will probably have won some lesser sums. (The odds of winning $100, for example, are 1 in 14,494.)

3. Invest it and wait

Here’s a much better plan: Take your $100,000 and invest it. A good place for long-term money is a low-cost index fund, such as one that tracks the S&P 500, which has averaged annual returns of close to 10% over long periods.

You might not average 10% in your particular investing period, though, so don’t assume you will. Hope for the best, but plan for below-average returns, just to be more conservative. The table shows you how long it will take you to reach $1 million at different average annual rates of growth:

Average Annual Growth Rate

Approximate Years to Reach $1 Million

6%

40 years

7%

34 years

8%

30 years

9%

27 years

10%

24 years

11%

22 years

12%

20 years

Data source: Calculations by author.

It’s likely, if you’re investing over 20 or more years, that an S&P 500 index-based fund will average a return somewhere between 6% and 12%, so it’s likely that it will take you between 20 and 40 years to amass that $1 million.

Having to wait for several decades might not be music to your ears, though. Fortunately, there’s an even better (and faster) way to get to your million.

Image source: Getty Images.

4. Save and invest more

The best way to reach $1 million is to take your $100,000 and invest it, as in the step above — but then to keep adding to that investment account. Keep saving and investing additional sums. Here’s how it can work, assuming an 8% average annual growth rate:

Starting with $100,000 and investing $5,000 annually: You’ll reach $1 million in about 24 years.
Starting with $100,000 and investing $10,000 annually: You’ll reach $1 million in about 20.5 years.
Starting with $100,000 and investing $15,000 annually: You’ll reach $1 million in about 18 years.
Starting with $100,000 and investing $20,000 annually: You’ll reach $1 million in about 16 years.
Starting with $100,000 and investing $25,000 annually: You’ll reach $1 million in about 14.5 years.

What if you don’t have $100,000?

Here’s one last set of numbers, for the many people out there who don’t have $100,000 sitting around, ready to invest. The table below shows what you might amass, and how long it will take to reach $1 million, if you start with $0 and just invest some meaningful sums every year:

Growing at 8% for

$10,000 Invested Annually

$15,000 Invested Annually

$20,000 Invested Annually

5 years

$63,359

$95,039

$126,718

10 years

$156,455

$234,683

$312,910

15 years

$293,243

$439,865

$586,486

20 years

$494,229

$741,344

$988,458

20.5 years

$518,914

$778,371

$1,037,828

23.5 years

$688,744

$1,033,115

$1,377,487

25 years

$789,544

$1,184,316

$1,579,088

28 years

$1,029,659

$1,544,489

$2,059,319

30 years

$1,223,459

$1,835,189

$2,446,918

Data source: Calculations by author.

There are plenty of other ways to reach $1 million, too, such as by climbing certain career ladders and earning higher and higher incomes — or building something like a podcast or YouTube channel or app that goes viral.

Most of us do need to build a hefty nest egg for our retirements, so however you do it, be sure you’re amassing as much money as you’ll need in the future.

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