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I Saved 7 Figures for Retirement at 48 – Here’s How

  • Tanya Taylor, 50, is a New York-based CPA and financial coach.
  • She set a goal to save $1 million for her retirement and reached her goal two years early at age 48.
  • Taylor says maximizing her 401(k) contributions and learning how to manage her own investments were key.

I spent more than 20 years of my career working in major banks and insurance companies. At 48, I’ve reached $1 million in my retirement savings, nearly three decades after I made it a goal. It wasn’t an easy task, but being passionate about personal finance and wealth building and following specific habits helped me get there.

When I was 16 and had just graduated from high school, I left my entire family in Jamaica with big dreams and only $100 in my name. For a poor girl like me, moving to New York was a unique opportunity that I intended to use to break the cycle of poverty in my family.

I couldn’t immediately go to college because I was undocumented, so I went back to high school to graduate from a US public school and also got a part-time job at a restaurant local who was earning $75 a week.

I carefully budgeted every dollar I earned and paid a weekly stipend for meals and lodging to family friends I lived with. I spent the rest on college savings, daily necessities, and sending to my family in Jamaica.

When I was 24, I set a goal of having $1 million in my retirement account by age 50. To make this goal a reality, I made a plan and set guidelines for myself. Here are five things I did.

1. I lived below my means and budgeted carefully

By age 32, I was making over $100,000 and living on just $50,000 a year after taxes while saving the rest. Whenever my income increased or circumstances changed, such as when I got married or had children, I reviewed my budget, made adjustments and continued to save for my retirement goal.

Some of the ways we were living below our means included buying a two-family house to rent half of it to a tenant to cover part of our mortgage, buying used cars only, shopping sales, happily accepting second-hand clothes for our children, and only giving gifts once a year.

2. I have always made the maximum contribution to my workplace pension plan

As I progressed in my career and changed jobs, I always contributed as much as possible to my employer’s pension plan.

For example, when I worked as a word processor in my early twenties, I invested about 5% of my $40,000 salary in my 401(k). After graduating from college, I got a job as an auditor with Deloitte and contributed about $7,000 a year to my 401(k) plan.

Some years it was difficult to contribute the maximum, especially when I got married and had two children in three years. But even when expenses changed, I continued to contribute the maximum amount I could, no matter how difficult it was.

3. I contributed to a Roth IRA every year until I reached the income threshold

Around the age of 27, I opened a Roth IRA with a brokerage firm and set up automatic transfers of every paycheck to that account. Each month, the funds in this account were used to purchase the same mutual fund. I contributed about $8,000 over five years until I hit the income threshold at age 32. I later converted this account from mutual funds to stocks which did quite well, and this account now has about $40,000.

The IRS has rules in place that once your income exceeds a certain dollar amount, you cannot contribute to a Roth IRA. For example, in 2022, if you are single and earn more than $144,000, you cannot contribute to a Roth IRA.

4. I I developed my knowledge of the stock market through books, investing events and being part of an investment club

One of the first books I read when I started my financial journey was “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” which helped me shift my mindset towards wealth building. Two other books that were instrumental in my journey as an investor were “One Up On Wall Street” by Peter Lynch and “The Intelligent Investor” by Benjamin Graham.

I slowly developed my knowledge of the stock market and investing by auditing pension plans and mutual funds while working at Deloitte and attending investment seminars and conferences. I also followed personal finance websites like Kiplinger, CNBC, Forbes, and Money.

After college, I also co-founded a stock market investment club with a few friends. As a group, using resources like Bloomberg and Morningstar, we researched individual stocks and industries to make at least one “buy” recommendation at each monthly meeting. We have also invited guest speakers to help us deepen our knowledge of the stock market.

Although the investments from this club went towards my children’s college funds rather than my retirement, the knowledge I gained helped me grow my retirement portfolio.

5. I transferred my retirement plan to a brokerage firm and invested it in individual stocks

As my investment knowledge grew, I decided I wanted to have more control over how my retirement funds were invested. I also wanted to avoid the annual administration fee charged by my employer, so around age 30, I transferred my 401(k) to a brokerage where I could invest in a wider variety of funds and individual stocks.

Since I was still young enough to take on more risk, I followed the stock market closely and bought stocks that were underperforming but that I thought would eventually rise in the long run.

Although I think my work as a CPA and auditor helped my investment decisions, most of what I learned was self-taught and came from a pure desire to learn more about personal finance and

money management

. It is information that can be learned by anyone who is ready and willing to learn.

A million dollars may seem like a daunting number, but regardless of your wealth or income, it is truly achievable if you have the right mindset. Make a solid plan, adjust your budget as your income increases, and always put savings first.

Tanya Taylor is the founder of Grow Your Wealth, a financial coaching company where she helps clients eliminate bad debt and create six- and seven-figure retirement income. Find out more on its website.

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