How to Save $1 Million(ish) as Fast as Possible

By Grant Lancaster on Friday, May 14, 2021

While the advice is as simple as "save your money," we know it's not that easy. The following tips, tricks and tools are here to help you start now, so you can enjoy the spoils of your financially responsible habits as an adult!

Every major stage of your life, whether it’s buying a car, signing a lease or starting your own business, is going to require money. Money can be a barrier, but also a tool, if you use it right, and the most fundamental concept behind making money work for you is saving.

But how do you save hundreds or thousands if you’re not making much? Long-term goals are daunting, but you have to start saving early and know the tricks to building wealth.

The Basics

Start with a bank account. Get a checking account and at least one linked savings account so you can move money between accounts. A checking account lets you get paychecks through direct deposit and spend with a debit card.

Some banks even offer benefits to teens setting up bank accounts. For example, Simmons Bank offers a Save10 Youth Savings Account for people under 17, and will match your first $10 saved, give you small bonuses for making A’s in school and even pay you $100 when you turn 18.

You won’t earn much interest on these accounts, but the point is to have your first tool for saving.

Emergency Funds

Before you confront long-term goals or fun purchases, you need money stashed in case something bad happens—an injury, a job loss or another unexpected expense. That’s your emergency fund.

Try to save enough to cover three to six months of expenses; a couple thousand dollars would get you out of a tight spot. Budget money from each paycheck to the fund, and don’t forget to refill it when you spend some.

Financial adviser Sarah Catherine Gutierrez, founder and CEO of Aptus Financial, thinks the biggest pitfall people encounter with an emergency fund is spending it on non-emergencies. Create a separate savings account for non-emergencies—for your long-term goals, travel and fun purchases.

“If I had spent my (emergency fund) like that, I never would have started my business,” Gutierrez said.

Saving Tactics That Really Work

“Society teaches us to spend first and save what’s leftover,” Gutierrez said. “That’s a recipe for disaster.”

You should do the opposite, saving first and spending what you have left. Some people call this paying yourself first, because you save money before paying for anything else.

Gutierrez outlined a four-step money management plan you can apply to your paychecks:

1. Pay long-term expenses: “Pay” into your savings account and/or retirement fund, and pay off credit card or student loan debt. You don’t have to pay it all off at once, but dedicate a certain percent of your paycheck to tackling those expenses.

2. Pay short-term expenses: If you used money from your emergency fund or you’re saving to make a car payment, take a portion of your income and put it toward those costs.

3. Pay bills and monthly expenses: check out How to Create a Budget for a list of what these might be.

4. Spend the rest: After saving and paying your bills, anything left is yours to spend! It might seem like this is where you get paid, but remember that this money goes to other people - restaurants, hairdressers, shoe stores. If you end up with a lot of money here, consider upping your savings or debt payments.

You may need to adjust your savings based on your living expenses, but it’s important to save something and to make it a priority.

Make Saving Easy

With online shopping and apps like PayPal and Venmo, it’s extremely convenient to spend money. Your goal is to make a system that makes it convenient to save money, Gutierrez said.

Michelle Rogers, market retail manager for Simmons Bank’s Central Arkansas Market, suggests that young adults look into automated savings and rewards programs at their banks to make saving easy.

One way to pinch pennies is automated round-up saving for checking accounts, meaning that if you spend $4.25 on a coffee, banks like Simmons will automatically round the purchase up to $5, putting the extra 75 cents in your savings. This won’t seem like much, but 50 cents here and there adds up.

If your bank doesn’t offer a similar service, apps like Acorns can do the same thing, giving you the flexibility to adjust the amount it saves automatically.

Another way to save, is to get your money to grow itself. Lauren Steel is the Principal of The Firmament Group, a private equity firm, which helps small businesses grow.

“The most important advice that I would give to someone looking to build wealth, which is the advice given to me years ago, is to be an owner,” says Lauren. “Own equity in your business. Own your house, own your car and invest. Your salary, even for top tier earners, will never compare to the wealth you can build through ownership of good businesses over time. Secondly, be a generous person. Give of yourself, your time and your money for causes that don’t directly benefit you.”

Retirement

You might have been surprised that Gutierrez listed retirement as the first saving goal, especially at your age. It just doesn’t seem like a priority, especially if money is tight!

But making a habit of saving now and setting up a retirement account at your first serious job is super important. Gutierrez recommends that you save 10% of every paycheck for retirement.

Saving money now isn’t just delaying gratification until you’re older, Gutierrez said, it’s making it easier on yourself a few years down the road. If you save 10% now, you won’t have to save 15% to catch up to your goals when you’re in your 30s. You’re saving yourself money down the road.

For retirement savings, you’ll hear about Roth IRAs and 401(k)s. An IRA is an individual retirement account, something you manage yourself through another company, whereas a 401(k) is an employer-sponsored retirement plan.

You should try to join your company’s retirement plan if they have one, Gutierrez said. If they don’t, or they require employees to work for a certain time before joining, you should look into an IRA. With 401(k)s, you can arrange for a certain percentage of your paycheck to be automatically placed in your retirement savings—it’s that easy. With an IRA, you can do the same thing, but you’ll have to set it up through a financial company.

Don’t be intimidated! Gutierrez said that’s the biggest barrier to young adults starting retirement accounts. Rogers thinks that young people often don’t ask enough questions about their banking.

“The younger you start, the easier it is—it becomes a habit,” Rogers said.


Celebs Who Save

These millionaire stars want to stay that way forever, so they have made the choice to save, save, save!

1. Miami Heat legend Dwyane Wade has made over $196 million during his career, but he still meets with his financial planner every quarter to budget for his retirement.

2. Kristen Bell has a net worth of $20 million, but Bell is known for her frugal fashion choices, even rocking a $45 dress from Target at one event.

3. NFL great Marshawn Lynch famously chose to live off his endorsement money, saving 100% of his football salary—close to $60 million sits in a bank account awaiting his retirement.

4. Leonardo DiCaprio has a net worth of about $260 million, but he only has one vehicle: a Toyota Prius. He also chooses to fly commercial instead of on private planes to save money and protect the environment from pollution. His main purpose for saving is charitable giving.

5. Zooey Deschanel has a net worth of $25 million, but has a monthly budget of $2,000 for clothes, $800 for utilities, another $300 for cell phone and internet services, and $1,500 per month for charity. She also has three credit cards in her name—all with zero balances.

6. Super Bowl champion Rob Gronkowski famously retired after nine seasons, never touching his $62 million NFL earnings. Gronkowski has re-entered the NFL and says he lives “simple” and only off endorsement deals, buying what he needs to be comfortable—nothing more.