3 Steps to Retire Rich Without Relying on Social Security

Retire without social securitySocial Security is in serious financial jeopardy. Right now, the program is:

  • expected to pay out $45 billion more than it takes in as tax revenue this year,
  • projecting that its Trust Fund will completely evaporate by 2036, and
  • at risk of not making payments next month if the debt ceiling impasse is not resolved.

Even if Social Security weren't falling apart, the average retiree benefits from Social Security essentially amount to about what you'd earn working full time at a minimum wage job. That's hardly the retirement lifestyle of the rich and famous.

If you're looking for anything resembling a comfortable retirement, you'll have to look well beyond what Social Security will provide.

The Plan That'll Get You There

Fortunately, there's a straightforward, three-step plan that will enable you to retire comfortably without having to rely on Social Security. In fact, if you start it early enough in your career, it could even let you retire downright rich. All you need to do is:

Step 1: Spend less than you earn.
Step 2: Invest the rest.
Step 3: Repeat.

It's not rocket science, but it does take the discipline to both save aggressively and keep at it for years -- perhaps even a few decades. You don't even need to be all that great at investing if you put enough cash toward it for a long enough period of time.

The table below shows the number of years it'll take to amass $1 million, based on a handful of potential annual return rates and monthly contributions.

Monthly Contribution

10% Annual Returns

8% Annual Returns

6% Annual Returns

4% Annual Returns

2% Annual Returns

What That Monthly Amount Means

$1,791.66

17.4

19.5

22.3

26.3

32.9

Max out 401(k) + IRA for people under 50

$1,375.00

19.6

22.2

25.6

30.8

39.7

Max out 401(k) for people under 50

$1,000.00

22.4

25.5

29.9

36.7

49.1

$500.00

28.8

33.4

40.1

51.0

73.4

$416.66

30.6

35.5

42.9

55.0

80.5

Max out IRA for people under 50

$250.00

35.5

41.6

50.9

66.7

101.9

$100.00

44.5

52.9

65.7

88.6

143.7


What should jump out at you right away is that the amount you invest each month matters at least as much as the rate of return you earn when it comes to reaching that $1 million milestone. If you sock away enough cash each month, even long run 2% returns can make you a millionaire within the span of a typical career. On the flip side, if you're only able to turn up $100 a month, it'll be significantly tougher to pass that millionaire threshold within your working life.

This is really good news if you've been watching the market's behavior over the past decade or so and wondering if it'll ever consistently provide decent returns. Indeed, it means the toughest part of your long-run investing success is really figuring out how to arrange your lifestyle to enable you to routinely make those significant investments.

D.I.G. Deep

That said, one strategy to consider is one based on the three fundamental principles of D.I.G.:

  • Diversification: owning companies across a broad swath of the economy. This helps protect your overall portfolio from problems that wind up sinking any one industry.
  • Income: owning companies that pay decent dividends. This provides you with current cash to either spend or reinvest, and it enforces discipline on the company's managers.
  • Growth: owning companies that not only grow their business but are willing to share that growth directly with their shareholders in the form of increased dividends. This enables your own wealth to potentially grow over time while providing a measure of inflation protection on that dividend income stream.

When you put it all together, you get companies like these:

Company

Industry

Current Yield

Smallest Dividend Increase, Past 5 Years

ExxonMobil (XOM)

Energy

2.3%

4.8%

PepsiCo (PEP)

Consumer Staples

3%

5.9%

Medtronic (MDT)

Health Care

2.6%

9.3%

Blackrock (BLK)

Financials

3%

7.6%

Target (TGT)

Consumer Discretionary

2.3%

6.2%

Norfolk Southern (NSC)

Industrials

2.1%

7.1%

Automatic Data Processing (ADP)

Information Technology

2.7%

4.5%

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard and Poor's.


With a broad swath of business lines, you get the portfolio protecting benefits of diversification. With dividend yields above 2%, you're getting decent levels of cash as direct rewards for your investing risks, while helping to enforce financial discipline among your companies' managers. And with dividends that have grown at least 4% per year over the past five years, you're sharing in your companies' growth while protecting your dividend income from inflation.

It's not a strategy that's destined to light the world on fire, but it is one that has the benefits of being both straightforward and reasonable to follow through good times and bad. When all is said and done, that's what really matters if you're looking to make the consistent, significant investments over time that it'll take to retire rich.


At the time of publication, Motley Fool contributor Chuck Saletta did not own shares of any company mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of PepsiCo and Medtronic. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of PepsiCo, BlackRock, and Automatic Data Processing as well as creating a diagonal call position on PepsiCo.


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228 Comments

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David

Believe half of what you read and even less of what you hear. Who is this author and why should I believe him?

December 29 2011 at 12:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rolando4rocks

What NO ONE seems to UNDERSTAND here is that many people have been paying into SS for 30,40 even 50 years in some cases and to get NOTHING???...thats not tough luck,thats a CRIME,and the people who have some GUTS and are PISSED off enough are NOT GOING TO SETTLE for it.Should all of this transpire,I believe you will see a MOVEMENT against the government like none before.Pay that much $ into a system all of your life and get NOTHING? I don't think so.There will be a TAX revolt.People will stop paying any taxes.The threat of NO TAX money from a HUGE part of the populus will FORCE the government to act in ways you never thought they could.Just imagine the faces of the MILITARY chiefs of staff when they see their WEAPONS bills cut to 0.Yeah,folks,its gonna be a WING-DING...

December 29 2011 at 5:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
terryrn2

If you are middle class as usual you're screwed! :/

December 15 2011 at 9:41 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to terryrn2's comment
vbbuds

No, if you whine and don't plan you are screwed. Too many live beyond their means without thought of the future. The government ain't your momma.

December 21 2011 at 3:16 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Kenbeach

OUR SOCIAL SECURITY IS IN DOWNWARD SITUATION. IN PAST THE GOVERNMENT WERE TAKING THE SOCIAL SECUEITY FUND AND USING ELSE WHERE, THEREFORE ITS UP TO OUR GOVERNMENT TO REPLACE THE SOCIAL SECURITY FUND WHY WE MUST SUFFER WHEN OUR GOVERNMENT DIP INTO THE SOCIAL SECURITY FUND.

December 15 2011 at 9:09 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Vicky

Did anyone else notice that this 'scare tactic' article includes an ad for financial services?

December 15 2011 at 7:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Vicky's comment
Eep²

Nope, but I use Firefox with Adblock Plus so I hardly see any ads. ;)

December 29 2011 at 2:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
cduhon1

There are people out there that is getting S.S.I. for just having dylexia and they are getting 743.00 a month people like that are abusing this system. The people that can work shouldn't be able to get S.S.I. There are people out there that are just to lazy to work so they won't free money so they apply for S.S.I and they get it and this is WRONG. there are people that can't work do to injury at work, and they get S.S.I and only get 489.00 and this person work since she was 19 years old and do to a accident at work she was unable to work again. Thank God that she is Married

December 15 2011 at 5:21 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
sjpxmas

SOCIAL SECURITY MONEY
WAS MENT TO BE USED ONLY FOR SOCIAL SECURITY, IT WAS NOT MENT TO BE USED TO
RUN THE COUNTRY. THE SO.SEC SYSTEM HAS PLENTY OF MONEY WHEN LEFT FOR THE INTENDED PURPOSE OF BENIFITS OF SO.SEC.

December 15 2011 at 4:40 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to sjpxmas's comment
campy1969

Short and to the point. Politicians have always used S/S to support their personal political financial deals and bills, then scream to the AARP that they are trying to save S/S when they are just trying to save their A.s.

December 15 2011 at 10:24 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
krayerd

Social Security could have been a good thing for all, but our illustrius Politicians have constantly helped thenselves to it time after time and therefor it is now facing insolvancy.
If our Politicians would want Social Security to continue they would not have helped thenselves.and to prove that it is going down, our Politicians do not look to Social security for thier pensions but have a nice one for themselves paid for by the American jackasses. They also have helped themselves to a golden parachute retirement the likes of which makes wall street tycoons jealous. How about full pay and benefits when your retire? Does that sound good to you? If so run for office, the American people are easy to manipulate and you will be rich beyond your wildest dreams.

December 15 2011 at 4:13 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
tlisa19

We Americans have a lot of patience. We let the millionaires have all the benefits, while the middle class works hard to provide them what they want. Probably, the whole of America needs what is happening at Wall Street now.

December 15 2011 at 4:04 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
tjm1410

We can solve the issue in one year. Stop all foreign aid for one year and put that money in the trust fund. no more problem.....

December 15 2011 at 3:59 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply