Do you ever see people who are living their retirement dreams and wonder, What the heck did they do to get there? There’s joy in their voices as they talk about their plans to travel the world or be outrageously generous. And it’s contagious!
So, how did they do it? First off, they’re probably not financial wizards—they’ve just been retirement savvy. They didn’t have some secret formula for retiring well. They didn’t watch the stock market every minute of every day or have crazy complex portfolios either.
Are you ready to hear what they did? It’ll blow your mind. Get this: They put money in their retirement accounts every single month, year after year. Gasp! They kept their spending in check and made saving a priority. And they used the help of an investment pro along the way. That’s it! Not that complicated at all. Anyone can do it.
But what does that look like in everyday life? Let’s check out some things people do (and you can too) to be successful in retirement.
1. They understand their income is their biggest wealth-building tool.
Smart investors take advantage of their most effective and reliable way to build wealth: their income. That’s right! No matter how large or how small their household income is, they give every dollar a purpose. They also steer clear of debt because they know living debt-free gives them the freedom to do more with their money—like plan for the future. According to The National Study of Millionaires, we learned that nearly three-quarters of millionaires never carried a credit card balance in their life—how can you save for retirement when you’re constantly giving your hard-earned money to the bank?
2. They make a monthly budget—and stick to it.
Retirement-savvy people know how much they spend on groceries, eating out and new clothes. And if they run out of coffee money before payday, they drive past the coffee shop to avoid busting the budget—even if it’s just a couple of bucks we’re talking about here. Why? Because every dollar adds up. They know that small, everyday choices make the biggest difference in the long run.
3. They invest 15% of their household income in retirement.
After they pay off all their debt (except the mortgage) and save three to six months of expenses, smart investors save 15% of their household income in retirement (Baby Step 4). In fact, almost half of millionaires (48%) said they saved 16% or more of their income each month!1
In his latest book, Baby Steps Millionaires, Dave Ramsey found that folks who follow the Baby Steps and invest 15% of their income in tax-advantaged retirement accounts reach the million-dollar mark on average in less than 20 years! And by investing that amount, they’re able to make real progress toward a solid retirement while still working toward other important financial goals—like saving for their kids’ college and paying off their mortgage early. Talk about a plan for your money!
4. They have a long-term vision for investing.
Retirement-savvy folks know investing is a marathon, not a sprint. They don’t jump from one investment to another because of stock market ups and downs. That’s because they have a long-term vision when it comes to investing. They know mutual funds with a solid history of growth are a great investment choice to stick with for the long haul. So, stay focused on the future and keep the long game in mind!
5. They live below their means.
You won’t find retirement-savvy people spending more money than they make. Nope! According to The National Study of Millionaires, 94% of millionaires live on less than they make. They buy modest houses and pay cash for vehicles and vacations. This leaves enough money to stash away for retirement.
They don’t need the latest and greatest gadgets, because they don’t care about keeping up with the Joneses. Oh, and guess what? The study also found that 93% of millionaires use coupons too.2 They know how to score a deal, are content with what they have, and stay focused on their financial goals. All of that helps keep their priorities in check month after month.
6. They keep their hands off their 401(k) plans.
This is a big one. Borrowing from your 401(k) account might seem like a great way to come up with some cash for an unexpected expense now. But successful long-term investors know a 401(k) loan comes with high risks like taxes and penalties if you can’t repay the debt. Even worse, the loss of long-term compound growth on the money you borrow could add up to thousands. The bottom line? Don’t do it! It just isn’t worth it.
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Retirement-minded people make sure they have a solid emergency fund in place to take care of unexpected expenses that life throws their way. That way, they can leave their retirement savings alone. Your investments need time to grow, and pulling from them too soon won’t do you any favors.
7. They stay away from get-rich-quick investments.
People focused on funding their long-term retirement goals don’t waste their time chasing get-rich-quick investments. They know better than to fall for investment trends with a lot of hype and very little proven results to show for it (cryptocurrency, anyone?).
Retirement-savvy folks don’t take big, unnecessary risks with their money. They don’t bet it all on single stocks, and they definitely don’t empty out their bank accounts to “invest” in Dogecoin. Instead, they stick with investments and strategies that have helped millions of Americans build wealth the right way—and so should you.
8. They have a plan, and they update it when they need to.
People who are good with investing know where their money is going and how much it’s growing. They keep tabs on their investments by having annual check-ins with an investment professional. They also meet with their pro after big life changes—like a new baby, job transition or family move—to look over the impact those changes could have on their savings plan.
Now, remember, we said they keep tabs on things—not that they check their investments every hour on the hour. Don’t do that! You’ll just end up driving yourself crazy and be more tempted to make rash, reckless decisions with your investments. Be proactive and patient!
9. They work together with their spouse (if they’re married).
Couples who are on the same page when it comes to money are more likely to win with investments. They work as a team and win as a team, deciding together on their money goals and how they’ll reach them. And a lot of couples aren’t just focused on getting ahead—they’re also fueled by a shared desire to be generous with their money too.
Hey, if you’re single or newly single, you’re not off the hook! Find an accountability partner—maybe a close friend or trusted family member—who will encourage you and keep you focused on reaching your financial goals. Don’t do this all alone. You need someone in your corner cheering you on!
10. They meet regularly with an investment professional.
Smart investors know that a skilled professional is worth their weight in gold. In fact, 68% of the millionaires we talked to in The National Study of Millionaires said they worked with a financial advisor or investment professional to make their millionaire net worth a reality.
Having someone in your corner to help you choose the right mutual funds makes a huge difference. Saving for retirement is way too important to do on your own, folks.
Are you ready to get started and get some guidance from a top-notch investment professional? Don’t let another day go by—reach out to a SmartVestor Pro in your area to start planning for your future now!
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This article provides general guidelines about investing topics. Your situation may be unique. If you have questions, connect with a SmartVestor Pro. Ramsey Solutions is a paid, non-client promoter of participating Pros.