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The lessons I learned in college during the summer vacation months have proved more valuable than the hard-earned academic ones.

While working in the evenings and Saturday mornings at my uncle's small marketing company in Miami, my cousin and I were fortunate to spend the days at the beach. Having grown up with a very fiscally conservative family in the Pennsylvania countryside, the fast life and glamour of Miami really took me by surprise!

Fancy cars, speedboats, yachts and massive homes immediately caught my attention. It was truly mad money, and to top it off, some of these folks never seemed to work.

While some were my uncle's friends who owned this or that company, some of the over-the-top lifestyles really seemed to have arisen from out of thin air -- in other words, from dubious sources.

Fascinated by what I was seeing, I naively asked my uncle whether most people in that area were millionaires.

He chuckled. "While there are very successful people around, many of them are fakers," he said.

Fakers? What did he mean?

He explained to my overly impressed self that many of the cars, boats and even houses were leveraged to the hilt and that the people using them were one missed payment away from bankruptcy. They were spending everything on the image of being a millionaire rather than living the reality.

I learned that outside of an inheritance or very fortunate occurrence, much of the flashy wealth was indeed nothing but smoke and mirrors. This is particularly true with young people with what used to be exclusively millionaires' toys and homes. I was struck by that trend when I learned of a guy who was actually selling off the equipment on his boat just to be able to afford the monthly payments.

These things added up to a valuable lesson in the reality of money. I learned that, provided the desire, it's easy to fake the appearance of wealth. However, faking it is a never-ending hamster exercise wheel of stress and discontent. Someone will always have a nicer car or bigger house or boat or whatever. While being a millionaire may have meant more back in the 1980s than it does today, actually having a million dollars remains an impressive and worthwhile goal.

My Miami-based uncle explained that many of these smoke and mirror millionaires could actually save a million dollars by just cutting out some of the extravagant lifestyle and properly investing the money. He did it with real estate investing, but the stock market is another highly effective method.

This revelation struck a chord with me, so I set out to find out just what it would take to save a million bucks by retirement age. I was certain that outside of a big financial score, it would take forgoing most luxuries and living like a pauper, only to have a fat bank account in your elderly years.

Boy was I wrong. Depending at what age you start at, saving a million dollars by age 65 can be as easy as not buying that BMW or boat but buying used or less costly toys and investing the savings. In other words, by buying right and investing the difference, you can have a nice lifestyle and build up to millionaire status by retirement age.

Here's How It Works
Obviously, the earlier you start saving and investing, the easier it is to have a million dollars by age 65.


For example, let's assume an 8% annual return. By starting at age 35 and investing $735 per month, you'll earn about $1 million by 65. Starting at 40, this number jumps to about $1,135 per month.

If you are able to maintain a 10% return, the amount needed drops to $506 at 35 and $850 at 40.

As you can see, merely spending less and investing instead can be all it takes. Here's an excellent, easy-to-use calculator to determine exactly what it will take for you to reach $1 million. In addition, if your employer offers matching savings accounts such as a 401(k), be sure to max out your contributions. Over time, this can really add up.

Action to Take --> As you can see, being a real millionaire in retirement isn't as difficult as you might have thought. All it takes is cutting back on spending and wisely investing the savings. The time and the magic of compound interest can go a long way toward taking care of the rest

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