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How long until you’re a 401(k) millionaire? Check this chart

MarketWatch logo MarketWatch 2/2/2018 Shawn Langlois

Video by CBS New York

The desire to impress on social media combined with soaring stock prices has given rise to an odd trend lately: People are posting snapshots of their retirement accounts online to celebrate how they’ve become 401(k) millionaires!

What a time to be alive.

Of course, such boasts are bound to lead to internet envy, especially since only about 54 million American workers put money into a 401(k) plan in 2015. According to Vanguard, the average 401(k) plan balance was about $100,000 in 2017 and the median balance was around $27,000.

The Financial Samurai blog crunched the numbers to show the time it would take, using various strategies, to reach millionaire status when starting from scratch. This exercise assumes maxed out contributions and average historical performance.

Portfolio allocationHistorical returnTime to 401(k) millionaire
100% equity10.2%18 years
80% equity/20% fixed income9.5%19.5 years
70% equity/30% fixed income9.1%19.7 years
60% equity/40% fixed income8.7%20.5 years
50% equity/50% fixed income7.8%21 years
40% equity/60% fixed income7.2%21.5 years
30% equity/70% fixed income6.6%22.2 years
20% equity/80% fixed income6.6%23 years
100% fixed income5.4%25.5 years
100% cash1% 44 years

“Historical returns can’t guarantee future returns, but after a 10-20 year period of investing in your 401(k), your average annual portfolio return will likely begin to mimic the historical averages,” Financial Samurai’s Sam Dogen wrote. 

He also offered up this roadmap of savings targets:

a screenshot of a cell phone © Provided by Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

If the bull market keeps chugging along, you’ll get there in no time. But, needless to say, if/when the bull market finally dies, it could take a lot longer to reach your goals.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA)  and S&P 500 index (SPX)  have been on a string of record runs of late, but volatility has picked up this week... prompting many market watchers to warn investors that it isn’t a matter of if/when, but simply when.

Either way, the key is to get started, choose a strategy, stay the course and, for the love of Warren Buffett, don’t tweet out your financial details when you hit your number.


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