Trying to Save $1 Million? Outside Influences May Slow You Down

Since I’ve been a bit MIA lately when it comes to visiting some of my favorite personal finance blogs, I took some time on Sunday evening to catch up. A comment on one blog post that discussed how living below your means allows you to save more money (sound, sound advice) struck me — the commenter mentioned s/he had accrued $1 million before turning 30. As I’m now 31, it really made me stop and think about why I hadn’t reached that milestone myself.

It comes down to one main issue: I moved out on my own at 19. It took working 2-3 jobs at a time (one full-time, two part-time). For as long as I could remember, I’ve been an independent person. So when the opportunity arose, I grabbed the bull by the horns and made it a reality.

I remember having about $1,500 to my name — after a $500 security deposit and $500 for the first month’s rent, I had a whopping $500 left, which I thought would be plenty as an emergency fund (I would freak out if I were in that position today, knowing what I know now). Each month, I would be left with about $20 after paying my bills. It was pretty interesting — I was living paycheck to paycheck — but I made it work.

The Cost of Renting

Before Mr. Saver and I bought our home last June, I had spent ELEVEN YEARS renting apartments — sometimes shouldering the entire rent myself, other times splitting it with a significant other (I never had an actual roommate). The grand total spent on rent in that time? Nearly $86,000 — PLUS utilities. Seeing that number computed for the first time ever is insanity. Over the years I was able to save up a good chunk of money that we used toward our 20% down payment, but that $86,000 could have been a nice investment, but my independence was worth a majority of the cost.

I can’t go and change the past, but that $86,000 would have been a nice addition to my net worth — that’s 8.6% of a million bucks!


Other Influences Stopping You From Saving Your First Million

For me, rent was the big money-suck. I know I want Mr. Saver and I to have a nice cushion for retirement, although I have yet to arrive at a specific number — $2 million for both of us sounds reasonable, but I still need to sit down and do the math. Is it feasible? That’s another issue, as is the knowledge that inflation will make that $2 million worth less than it is today. But that million-dollar mark is mainly a mental milestone.

Sure, there are people who just can’t save money at all — they spend what they earn (or even more), rack up credit card debt and don’t put anything toward retirement. They can’t see the forest for the trees. I’ve never been like that, but I do know there are times when life gets in the way of saving for a lot of people. Some of the more common issues that put a damper on saving:

  • Babies. Those things are expensive! Your savings become their savings, too.
  • Income. If you make $40,000 a year, you have a harder time saving money for a rainy day than you would if you made $100,000 yearly.
  • Illness. Medical insurance is expensive. Getting sick is also costly. If you don’t have insurance, you’re doubly screwed.



Saving money is important. I don’t think I’ll ever get to see seven figures in my bank account, but I’m hoping our total net worth reaches $2 million by the time we’re 65, thanks to the magic of compound interest and wise investments. Right now, we’re only about 8% of the way there, but it’s a start.

Have you reached that mythical $1 million mark? How did you do it? If not, do you think it’s an achievable goal?

13 comments to Trying to Save $1 Million? Outside Influences May Slow You Down

  • i have not hit the $1 million mark and i am 30. i think it can definitely be done but you would need to have a job that was paying over $150k per year and have the ability to save the majority of that money.

    on the average i would say that most people have not saved/made $1million until at least 50. So keep your head up and save where you can/make yourself super valuable so you get the highest wage possible.

  • I too moved out young – 17, to be precise. That’s definitely cost me a lot financially.

  • I think the $1 million mark is an achieveable goal easily if you start young and invest a substantial portion of your income. Probably why most people don’t achieve it! Starting later the only way I could see it happening is starting a highly profitable business or having a high income.

    • Nicole

      Sure, that would make it “easier” to achieve, but as I said, life tends to get in the way for a lot of folks — lower incomes can’t support a roof over your head, food on the table, clothes on your backs AND the investments needed to reach $1 million, no matter how much you scrimp and save on everything else.

  • Howdy Nicole – The $86,000 is not money down the drain, b/c you would have spent the same amount or so if you had bought a place 11 years ago.

    If I didn’t buy my house 6 years ago, I would have over $1million in cash. I don’t count my 401K or anything as part of savings b/c I see all those things as illusions which may not be here when I retire. It’s just all about cash.

    But, what’s the use of cash if you aren’t using it for something to improve the quality of your life?



  • Babies are quite expensive, but there are some benefits right?!?

    I’d manage the Amish families are so large because maintaining a farm on your own would be pretty hard and child labor laws don’t apply if their your own.

    Or in seriousness, think of what will happen in old age. You’re investing in babies now so they will be invested in you later on. All those childless adults will have to hire outside help once they get to a certain age.

    • Nicole

      @FinEngr: There are definite benefits to having children, things that money can’t buy. And I think every parent hopes that their children will be there to help them in their old age, as they were cared for in their youth by their parents.

  • I completely agree with your points here. I moved out as well when I was 18 and have been completely financially independent for years now (I’m a wee bit older than you are :)). The one thing that has really sucked up most of my money has been rent, and I had plenty of roommates through the years before moving in with my husband over 10 years ago. Another expense that someday will hopefully pay off is owning your own business. My husband has now owned his business for many years, but there are costs associated with owning a business. I could list many other reasons why I am no where near that cool million, but I’ll stop myself now!

  • Things always get in the way, but if you stay focused things “seem to work out.”

    I agree with your general assesment that saving to a Mil seems near imposible if you are making $40K, but when the WSJ picks you up you’ll get there in 3.5 years!

  • We’re not close to $1 million yet, but we are aiming for $2 million in our retirement accounts and my husband’s full pension when we are 52 (25 years from now).

    We don’t have or plan to have kids, we have okay medical insurance and wouldn’t go broke if something happened, and we make $78,000 a year jointly but live on about 55% of that.

    It’s a little overwhelming to think about since we only have about $50,000 right now in retirement accounts (nw of about $130,000 including the house), but I think it’s attainable.

    • Nicole

      Sounds like we have similar finances. We would like children, but are also rational and realize that they would make it that much harder to reach our retirement goals.

  • Babies are definitely expensive (especially now that I have a tween and teen)! I can boldly say this is a big factor in the reason I don’t have 7 figures in the bank. Sweet thought if I did. 😉

    But I am with you…trying to hit the $2mil mark by 65…well, hoping for 55.

    • Nicole

      I’m also hoping for 55 rather than 65! And I’ll be greedy and also hope that Social Security still exists by then…