Your First Million Dollars

For most of us, becoming wealthy is not something that happens to us when we wake up one morning. In fact, a very small percentage of rich people in America got that way from inheritance or some other stroke of luck. According to Stanley’s, The Millionaire Next Door, some 80% of wealthy Americans are self-made millionaires that accumulated wealth one dollar at a time. And many of the people that fall into this group do not have a so-called high income. They are just good with money.To plan to be rich, it takes just that . . . planning. Becoming rich is hard work that requires a great deal of self discipline, basic money management skills, goal setting, focus and diligence. I believe the goal setting part is very important. If you are willing to hold yourself accountable to reaching those goals, the rest of the attributes will follow.

The great news is that making a million dollars is completely doable, and is a good place to start, and here’s why:

  • Setting a goal “to become wealthy” is too abstract.
  • It is completely feasible for a person to start from scratch and make a million dollars in a lifetime.
  • Once you make your first million, the laws of compounding interest kick in and you can make your next million at a much faster rate.
  • $1M on a 10% return from an investment will pay you $100,000 a year.

Let’s break this down.

Setting a goal “to become wealthy” is too abstract:

If you are committed to becoming rich, you must set goals, goals for reaching those goals, and goals for what you want to do once you reach those goals. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Think Big.” Thinking big is an excellent way to dream, visualize yourself in a situation and to have high expectations – so keep thinking big thoughts. In the same time, however, set specific, measurable goals.

If you have a big dream, and you set your achievement bar too high, t can be very difficult to motivate yourself over a period of several years to reach your goal. Setting specifics, however, makes it more of a systematic process that your brain can handle. For example, you can train yourself (or just make it automatic) to put x dollars from your paycheck in an investment account every two weeks if you know that it will eventually turn into a million dollars, which will then quickly turn into two million dollars, then four million, etc. Your big dream, however, is a good reminder as to why you have these goals.

Secondly, if you aspire “to become wealthy,” with no end goal, you will never be satisfied with your accomplishments. There is no sense of achievement, or an “I made it!” experience. So, along the way to making your first million, remember to set little goals – weekly, monthly, annually – and reward yourself for staying on task.

It is completely feasible for a person to start from scratch and make a million dollars in a lifetime:

Remember that 80% of the millionaires in the U.S. are self-made. They did not receive a massive inheritance, college education support, or any handouts for that matter. They were simply determined.

Look at this data from a July 2007 article published by The Motley Fool entitled, Your First Million Is the Toughest, which illustrates how quickly you can obtain a million dollars:

Go From $0 to $1 Million

Monthly Contribution

8% Return

9% Return

10% Return

11% Return


52.9 years 48.3 years 44.5 years 41.4 years


41.6 38.3 35.5 33.1


33.4 30.9 28.8 27.


25.5 23.9 22.4 21.2


22.8 21.4 20.2 19.1

$1 Million to $2 Million

Monthly Contribution

8% Return

9% Return

10% Return

11% Return


8.6 years 7.7 years 6.9 years 6.3 years


8.5 7.5 6.8 6.2


8.2 7.4 6.7 6.1


7.8 7.1 6.4 5.9


7.6 6.9 6.3 5.7

$2 Million to $3 Million

Monthly Contribution

8% Return

9% Return

10% Return

11% Return


5.1 years 4.5 years 4.1 years 3.7 years


5.0 4.5 4.0 3.7


4.9 4.4 4.0 3.6


4.8 4.3 3.9 3.5


4.7 4.2 3.8 3.5

I imagine since most people are not wealthy, they do not think like wealthy people and will probably say, “I don’t have $1,300 to contribute a month.” Wealthy-minded people, however, think things like, “How can I make an extra $1,300 a month? What if I kick that up to $2,600 a month? Once I make my first million I can make another million in a third of the time!” This chart should either motivate you to re-evaluate your spending habits or bring out the entrepreneurial spirit in you.

Start slow with any contribution you can make to your millionaire fund, and increase your deposits as you can. Even if you can only find $10 a month to contribute, it is much more important to develop the habit. Once you have the habit and the discipline your mind will open up to seeing opportunities.

Once you make your first million, the laws of compounding interest kick in and you can make your next million at a much faster rate:

Notice from the chart above that making your first million dollars takes 20 years at 10% with a $1,300 monthly contribution. Making the same contribution when you have two million dollars takes less then four years! See why the rich get richer?

10% on a $1M investment will return $100,000 a year:

Could you live comfortably off of a $100,000 salary without having to work another day in your life? That’s what your return on investment would be if you were making 10% on your money, which is very doable. This is where I like to start to dream and think big. Let’s see . . . $10 million at 10% is $1 million a year just in interest from my investment. Now that’s money working for you!

I get that most people cannot just simply shovel away $1,300 a month, or even in a year. Set your goals with whatever you can right now – even if it is only $10 a month. The important thing is to take action and develop the habit. Focus on making your first $100, 000, your first $100, whatever. Then reward yourself periodically for reaching your goal.

Post the chart above somewhere where you will see it every day, and set your goal to reach you million dollars in x years. If you hold yourself accountable, the craziest things will happen – you will find places to cut expenses, get a better job, become a better shopper, start a business, and stumble on business opportunities. Most importantly, you will develop sound money management habits that will get you there one way or another.

If you are fortunate enough to already have made your first million, congratulations! Now it’s time to have some real fun and see how long it will take you to make $100 million. That would gross you 10 million dollars a year just from the interest paid to you from your money sitting in an investment account.

54 Responses to Your First Million Dollars

  1. Dan says:

    So basically if you max out your 401k every year, you’ll be a millionaire in less than 20 years!

  2. Fubek says:

    Where do you get all these %% from? How is 10% very very doable?

    Look at the recen Warren Buffet letter to his shareholders. The DOW made less than 6% in the last century plus 2% dividends. And that is before taxes. So you’d be much better off calculating with 4% overall if you take fees and taxes into account as well as a margin of safety. If you look at the 4% and take into account price increases at approx. 3%, you have a whole different picture.

  3. Ryan says:


    That is a good point. Taxes and fees certainly need to be taken into consideration when calculating returns and deciding on your investment vehicle. These can be minimized or eliminated through retirement accounts, zero brokerage fee trading with Zecco, and large account balances.

    The point of the article is to demonstrate that creating wealth and making a million dollars may be easier than perceived by most people.

    Warren Buffett’s company has an almost 15% average return to his shareholders over the past 5 years, so the returns are doable for the average investor.

  4. Studenomist says:

    This information is amazing, thank you for the highly valuable post

  5. Trying to get there Finally says:

    I found thisto be real exciting and potentially helpful and very
    useful information. However, I am a bit confused on how and where
    you would find returns starting and or going into 8, 9, 10 or even
    more percentages. If you are talking about money markets they only
    seem to be in the low percentages like 2 or 3 so can you please
    share or let me know where and what types of places and investments
    offer such higher returns on your money. Thank you so much for all
    of your help and wise insight. Im having problems ACCESSING MY
    sight thyat would be great . Thank you once again, Ttgt

  6. Good information. Thanks for sharing. I’m looking forward to putting this chart to use.

  7. Janani Ramakrishnan says:

    Now..that’s interesting..thanks for the Boost!!

  8. Raj Ghool says:

    hi i know of some tips that can help become a million dollar man with out having a million dollar and making a million dollar from it, I should know that’s how I got rich and now i owned a bisness.

  9. WhoKnewGuru says:

    Great information! Keeping your money in the bank is critical to increasing your wealth. I am not even 30 yet and have made a million without having any money in the bank. Sounds confusing right? Check out my blog for some ideas! You will not be sorry! Thanks

  10. Jacque says:

    Help, I’mm 55 years old, on a monthly SSI disability check and have no money. What and how should I start to save? Am I doomed?
    Thanks for any ‘postive’ comments!

  11. KEN ALLEN says:

    I have found that if you take 1.00 and flip it 21 times you will have made a little over 1 million dollars , i was told this by some wealthy guy that was giving advise at a college group meeting , but he would not give me the answer to what to do between flipping that dollar . example 1,2 4,8,16,32,64,128,256,512,1024,2048 etc. the question is what are you doing to turn that 256 dollars to 512 dollars in a week.

  12. Yogesh Chauhan says:

    This is the very best and motivative article i have read before, Really the basic of first million dollar works a lot and the main thing is first you set your goal, and saving habits towards the goal of first million,
    Now this articles helps us lot to manage the expenses and take initiative for first million.

  13. KH says:

    This is really good ! I am motivated to get started right now & I just finished reading this. Maybe the trick to the dollar is while it’s flipping around you are creating your millionaire dreams right there. I don’t know that’s my thought though. Start some small goals & plan & see how long it takes me getting there.

  14. azgari mowmita says:

    I just moved to Bangladesh from Naples Florida. Here the banks offer 3 month or longer fixed deposit accounts with a 12% monthly return. taxes and fees add up to 2%. If you are depositing less then a hundred thousand dollars then your money is hundred % safe. I just started a fix deposit account and am putting away 500 dollars per month ! Foreign investments have a much higher rate of return then the US. :)

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