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Of course, to save in a 401(k) over a period of 45 years generally would require a person to begin as soon as they get into the workforce. But if you’re willing to make your long-term savings a priority, you may find that millionaire status at retirement is a goal within reach.

2. Always contribute enough to claim your full employer match

Getting free money in your 401(k) is a good way to help your wealth increase. To that end, always contribute at least enough of your paycheck to snag your employer match in full. Consider this scenario: If your employer contributes $1,500 a year to your 401(k) over 45 years, assuming the 7% annualized rate of return we used earlier, those extra matching dollars alone could add about $429,000 to your total balance.

3. Invest aggressively

Playing it too safe with your 401(k) could cost you. If you want a shot at that 7% average annualized return we keep referencing, you’ll need to load up on stocks. Now you won’t find individual stocks in a 401(k), so you’ll need to choose funds that are stock-based.

But to highlight the difference between a stock-heavy strategy and a more conservative one, if you were to go the latter route, your 401(k) might be less volatile in the short term, but in the long term, deliver only a 4% average yearly return instead of 7%. Apply that to our example above in which you contribute $300 a month for 45 years, and you would accrue an ending balance of about $436,000 — well shy of the just over $1 million you’d end up with by sticking largely to stock funds.



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