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How to grow your retirement plan to $1 million

  • Be sure to take full advantage of any available company match.
  • Work with a financial advisor to improve savings habits, goals.
  • Don't dip into savings, and avoid "spending creep" as you earn more.

I meet with families from many different walks of life. They have different goals, values and dreams. However, one thing is common among them: $1 million is a bogey that many aspire to accumulate in retirement savings. Want to grow your retirement plan to $1 million or more? This article is for you.

Why is the million-dollar goal so common? For many, the thought of being a millionaire seems like the entrance into an elite club. Others believe this is the magic number to reach in order to retire comfortably.

Some savers believe that $1 million is the magic number to reach in order to retire comfortably.
Glow Images | Getty Images
Some savers believe that $1 million is the magic number to reach in order to retire comfortably.

Fact is, there are many variables to consider when trying to plan for retirement. One million dollars may be enough for some, too much for some and not enough for others. However, having a goal is a fantastic start to your financial planning. One million dollars is a lot of money and is attainable. Here's how:

Maximize your company match

If you have a company match, you'd better be contributing at least enough to receive the full match. Not contributing that amount is like giving up free money. At a minimum, you should save 10 percent of your pay for retirement. This may seem hard but it is doable. If it isn't doable for you, then you need to take a long look at your budgeting.

We need to make saving for retirement a much bigger priority. Most of us won't be lucky enough to have the pensions our parents and grandparents enjoy. The onus is on us to save for our retirement, and 10 percent is a great starting point.

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Keep it simple

Don't overthink it. You don't need to have Warren Buffett's investing acumen to save up $1 million. Work with a financial advisor to help you. He or she can help you establish an investment policy based on your risk tolerance, total household assets and goals. Stick to this policy and track your progress. Do not listen to the talking heads on cable channels. They are simultaneously giving you inappropriate advice and trying to drive ratings.

Stay consistent

Make saving for retirement a priority. It needs to become a "must do" for you, not a "will do when I can." Don't save what remains after monthly expenses and leisure spending. Save first and your fun money should be what is left over. Treat saving as a bill. As I touched on earlier, start with the goal of 10 percent of your income and try to build upon that. Keep it up. Get momentum. Don't waver. This is a long-term goal. It will only happen if you invest early and often.

Don't be a creep

Okay, not you. You can be a creep all you want (if that's your thing). But when it comes to your lifestyle, don't creep. What does this mean? If you get a 5 percent raise, don't then say: "I can now afford to trade in my Ford Fusion for a Bimmer." Lifestyle creep is when you consume more because you are starting to earn more.

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Sure, a little bit is all right. Sometimes it is important to treat yourself. Just be smart about it. If you get a 5 percent raise, try something new. Increase your retirement contributions by 2 percent to 3 percent. Look at the rest as your "actual" raise. You still have more money in your pocket, but you are also force-feeding your nest egg.

Don't dip into it

Your retirement plan is not a bowl of guacamole, so stop dipping into it. If you find yourself needing to use the money often, then you need to reevaluate your budget. You should have an emergency fund that you use when you need cash in a pinch. Keep the emergency fund apart from your normal checking account so that you aren't tempted to use it for everyday purchases. Use this account when your car breaks down or your basement floods. Do not use it for gifts and vacations. Again, use it only for emergencies. Do not tap into your retirement plan unless you have no other options.

So you want a million-dollar nest egg, huh? It's a great goal and is attainable. Is it easy? Heck, no. It takes great discipline and commitment. Use these tips to help you on your journey to $1 million. I believe in you.

(Editor's Note: This story originally appeared at Investopedia.com.)

— By Nick Vail, financial advisor at Integrity Wealth Advisors

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