How To Squeak By On $5 Million

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Still life of stacks of one hundred US dollars
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Would your financial worries be solved if you just had more money -- say, $1 million?

Maybe. But according to a recent study by the folks at UBS (UBS), even millionaires -- multimillionaires, in fact -- fret over things like making ends meet and having enough to achieve their life goals.

The news from Wealthville is rather surprising. Researchers found that only 31 percent of millionaires consider themselves wealthy. Even among those with $5 million or more, only 64 percent of them are confident that they'll meet their own goals.

For anyone having a hard time making ends meet on their income -- no matter whether you're in the middle class or the upper class (or extreme upper, upper class) -- there are ways that you can improve your financial condition.

Don't Let Your Cash Sit Around and Languish
Whether you have $5,000 or $5 million in the bank, it's important to think sensibly about your cash.

It makes sense to keep some of your assets in cash, especially in the form of an emergency fund. But according to the UBS study, at least 47 percent of those surveyed say that "It's important to me to have cash because that's money I know I am extremely unlikely to lose."

Whoa, back up. That's dangerous thinking that shows these folks haven't considered the effect of inflation.

While the conventional way to think of inflation is as an increase in prices over time, the smarter way to think about it is that inflation is the erosion of your purchasing power over time -- historically, about 3 percent annually.

Here's what that means: If you sock away $1,000 for 20 years during which inflation averages 3 percent, it will end up only able to buy you $554 worth of things (in today's dollars). To have $1,000 worth of buying power in 20 years, you'll need to sock away about $1,800. (Play around with different scenarios with this inflation calculator.)

So while nearly half of those surveyed see cash as a risk reducer (that preserves their wealth), they're actually exposing their money to even more risk (shrinking over time). The lesson for all is this: Don't keep much more than you need to in cash. Instead, seek out long-term wealth-growing assets.

Smart Saving/Spending Strategies for All Walks of Life
Too many people have not saved enough for retirement, and even those with a million dollars socked away may be in for a rude awakening. Fortunately, even if a million dollars (or $10 million, depending on your goals) seems far away, you can get closer to it, or even surpass it, with a little planning. Here are some strategies that can be put into play no matter what income level you're at:
  • Live below your means. If your $4.5 million mortgage on your $5 million home is costing you around $30,000 per month when you bring in just $35,000 per month, you're cutting it way too close. It's the same with a $2,000 monthly obligation, if that has you living paycheck to paycheck.
  • Funnel your raises or bonuses into savings instead of spending them. So if your salary goes from $2 million annually to $2.4 million, put that $400,000 into savings and investments. (And, OK, even if your raise or bonus this year amounts to "just" $4,000, save that, too. Small sums can add up and be quite powerful over time.)
  • Rein in your spending. You don't have to resort to making salads from yard trimmings, but by cutting out three fancy $4 coffees each week, you can save $624 in a year. Cut out a daily $6 pack of cigarettes and you're looking at an extra $2,200 per year! Thinking about buying a $1.5 million yacht? Consider whether an $800,000 one will do. You can do a lot with that $700,000 difference.
  • Boost your total savings. You can do this in several ways. You might, for example, take on a second job, even for just a year. Ten extra hours per week earning just $15 per hour will amount to $7,800. If you're able to collect $450 per hour, as some lawyers and others do, you're looking at an additional $234,000! You might also work at your one job for a few more years than you originally planned. That can deliver several years of significant income, while permitting you to delay tapping your retirement savings, too.
  • Be smart and strategic. If you're not contributing to an IRA, look into doing so. If your employer matches your 401(k) contributions, take maximum advantage of that.
It's hard to believe that anyone with millions in net worth feels financially insecure, but that seems to be the case. The good news is that we can all make ourselves more secure.

Motley Fool contributor Selena Maranjian, whom you can follow on Twitter, has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned.


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