Dear DTA, 

Hi. Just curious about something. I know a million dollars doesn’t go as far as it used to, but I’m just wondering how fast I can get there. I’m 30. Make about $50,000 per year. Pretty close to zero right now. But I’m willing to learn and work hard. How fast could I become a millionaire? 

-Bill A. 

Hi, Bill.

Thanks for writing in. It’s always such a pleasure to hear from our readers.

You sound ready to dig in. You’re clearly hungry.

I like the positive attitude!

You’re in a good spot, making a solid income at a young age.

With your hunger and attitude, I’m sure you’ll be making even more money very soon.

But you’re starting from zero.

However, it won’t take you long to move that needle.

I’m going to give you some information that I believe can help you move that needle very quickly.

Keep in mind, this is coming from someone who moved that same needle much faster than most people.

In fact, I went from below broke to financially independent and retired in just six years.

I started out at 27 years old. And found myself done with jobs forever at only 33.

I lay out exactly how I did that in my Early Retirement Blueprint.

Now, your goal is a bit different than mine. I wasn’t aiming for a particular net worth or sum of money. My goal all along was to exceed expenses with passive income.

A different destination, but the journey is remarkably similar.

It comes down to saving and investing as much as possible, as soon as possible. 

It might be surprising to learn that the former is arguably even more important than the latter.

I’ll put it another way.

Being an extraordinary saver can be more beneficial than being an extraordinary investor.

That isn’t to say that investing isn’t important. It’s incredibly important.

However, people tend to focus too heavily on investing, almost completely ignoring saving in the process. You can’t invest what you don’t have.

Coming up with a substantial amount of capital is imperative. This capital will naturally come from your savings.

My Blueprint discusses a number of lifestyle changes that can lead to a lot of excess capital with which to invest.

If you want to become a millionaire quickly, you’ll almost certainly have to make lifestyle adjustments in order to make that happen.

I would personally target a savings rate of 50%.

That means saving 50% or more of your net income.

I know that sounds extreme.

But becoming a millionaire ASAP is extreme.

Extreme output requires extreme input. 

Once you’re saving half (or more) of your income, you have to put it to work.

There are a lot of ways to go about that.

There’s probably a different investment strategy for every man, woman, and child alive.

The strategy I’ve personally used to get to where I am in life – wealthy and retired decades before almost everyone else – is dividend growth investing.

Fellow contributor Dave Van Knapp put together a fantastic educational resource on what this strategy is, why it’s so effective, and how to use it to your advantage.

Check out his Dividend Growth Investing Lessons for more.

I’ll show you what DGI looks like in real life. With real money.

My FIRE Fund is my personal six-figure dividend growth stock portfolio.

Jason Fieber's Dividend Growth PortfolioIt generates the five-figure passive dividend income I need to cover my essential expenses.

I built this by saving more than 50% of my net income and investing that capital into high-quality dividend growth stocks – stocks you can find on the Dividend Champions, Contenders, and Challengers list.

And I had a very middle-class job, Bill.

I worked at a car dealership, earning an income that was very similar to your own.

Let’s now get to the question you asked.

How fast can you become a millionaire?

I don’t know your exact tax situation. But I’ll assume you can net 85% of your gross income.

I’m then going to assume you can save 50% of that.

This is $1,770 per month.

Then you invest that into high-quality dividend growth stocks and earn a return that modestly beats the broader market.

If I didn’t think DGI could beat the market, I’d just tell you to buy the S&P 500.

There’s a treasure trove of data that shows that high-quality stocks that initiate, pay, and grow dividends tend to beat the broader market over the long run.

That’s not surprising since reinvested dividends account for the majority of the market’s returns over the long term.

This is undoubtedly a big reason behind Warren Buffett’s big bets on some of the highest-quality dividend growth stocks out there.

You’ll never be short on dividend growth stock ideas, Bill.

I personally highlight compelling long-term opportunities every Sunday.

Through the Undervalued Dividend Growth Stock of the Week series, I provide the investment community with what appears to be high-quality dividend growth stocks trading at appealing valuations.

Undervalued Dividend Growth Stock of the Week by Jason FieberThe broader market has returned almost 10% annually over the last 100 years.

I’m going to factor in 10.5% per year for you, which could be quite conservative if you’re as hungry to learn and succeed as you say you are.

I’m looking at you as an extraordinary saver and a rather ordinary investor, as it’s much easier to knock it out of the park with savings than to absolutely crush it as an investor. You have much more control with your lifestyle and savings than you do market conditions.

But just look at this as an area where you have even more upside.

Using a simple compounding calculator, investing $1,770 per month at a 10.5% compound annual return results in 1,009,075.09 in 17.1 years.

That makes you a millionaire at just 47 years old.

Starting from zero, I think that’s impressive.

However, you could probably do a lot better than this, Bill.

I assumed static savings.

As I noted earlier, though, I’m sure you’ll be earning a lot more money in no time.

If you can keep your lifestyle in check, that extra income could drop right down to the bottom line and increasing your saving/investing rate.

Also, taking up some kind of side hustle or extra work could dramatically decrease the time line to millionaire status.

You can see what I did in just six years. And I quit my job five years ago. If I hadn’t have done that, I would have probably been able to save and invest another $250,000 – or more. I’d be nearing a million right now. But I gave up more money in favor of more time and freedom.

With that in mind, I’ll just quickly say that you should really think hard on what really adds value to your life.

If you want a million because it’s some round number that society promotes, be careful.

But if you want a million because that represents certain personal values and freedoms, go for it.

Either way, I’m confident you can get there in less than 15 years, Bill.

And that would be a phenomenal accomplishment, especially when we all know what the average American is working with.

But the key is to get started immediately. 

I wish you luck and success.

Jason Fieber

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Disclaimer: Jason Fieber is not a licensed financial advisor, tax professional, or stock broker. Please consult with a licensed investment professional before investing any of your money. If your money is not FDIC insured, it may decline in value. To protect the privacy of our readers, any names published in this article are under aliases. In addition, text may be edited, omitted or paraphrased for grammar or length.