The U.S. has a record number of millionaires living inside its borders. According to a study from the Spectrem Group, American households worth $1 million or more increased by 3% in the past year. That growth signifies that the markets are doing well and people are capitalizing on that increase.

The Findings

Even though the survey showed 3% growth in millionaires over the past year, that number was less than the previous increase of 5%. Still, the number of millionaires in the country has returned - and exceeded - the number there were before the recession. “The stock and real estate markets have done well during President Obama's term, especially since the financial crisis,” said compliance analyst John Schneider of Debt Free Guys. (For more, see: How Millionaires Say They'll Invest in 2016.)

The study revealed that since the recession the biggest growth in U.S. homes has been in even higher circles. The number of U.S. families worth $25 million or more has grown 73% while those worth $1 million only grew by 54%.

Schneider believes that the rise of millionaires only exacerbates the current income disparity in the country. “The middle class has been shrinking with more people joining the bottom rung of the economic ladder,” he said. “While the economy is a not zero-sum game, this sort of squeeze is bad for long-term prospects and can't continue forever.”

Those who are not currently millionaires can take a page from their books. Real estate and investing in the stock market are what have shaped the high-net-worths of this top echelon and it’s something every American has access to. (For more, see: 6 Investing Mistakes That the Ultra Wealthy Don't Make.)

Financial coach Rocky Lalvani of Richer Soul said that he expects more people in America should be millionaires. Since the amount of money it takes to retire successfully is close to a million or more, Lalvani believes more Americans should reach this status. “What is really sad is that with the level of abundance there are not more millionaires in the USA,” he said. “The statistics also show that the average age is 62 meaning that it takes a lifetime of work to reach this status.”

For Americans hoping to reach that stage earlier, there are several things they can do. Passive income through rental properties is one popular way that many millionaires have built their wealth. Investing in the stock market through employer-sponsored 401(k) or IRAs are other ways to ensure that your nest egg is sufficient enough for retirement. (For more, see: A Look at How the Ultra-Wealthy Invest.)

It’s also important to save between 10-15% of your income for retirement. You should also aim to max out any of your retirement funds or at least contribute enough to get any matching from your employer. That may not be enough to guarantee millionaire status, but it can secure your future retirement.

The Bottom Line

The growth of millionaires can be seen in two ways - the U.S. economy is continuing to do well and it’s also continuing to force a greater wealth gap between Americans. Rising student loan debt and a burgeoning housing market may make it harder for Millennials to reach millionaire status.

Becoming a millionaire requires discipline, knowledge and hard work. The road is simple - contribute enough money into growth securities and continue to live below your means. But that may seem easier than it looks. Stagnating wages and competing interests threaten people’s desires and abilities to save consistently. Still, this study shows that if people have the resources to invest, the stock market is there to help them. (For more, see: Wealth Management: How the Billionaires Do It.)