10 Ways To Make $1 Million
Kiplinger's Personal Finance|May 2016

Our smart strategies will help you reach (or surpass) the seven-figure milestone.

Sandra Block

1. START A BUSINESS

Maggie Cook, 37, had no business experience when she founded Maggie’s Salsa in 2004. Born in Mexico to American parents who ran an orphanage, she had developed a knack for making salsa. “The only thing I knew how to do was chop salsa ingredients into a bowl,” says Cook. But friends at the University of Charleston, in Charleston, W.Va., raved about her recipe, so she decided to enter it in a contest at Charleston’s Capitol Market, a year-round farmer’s market. She won.

At the time, Cook was working full-time at an interior-design firm. With an $800 investment, she started making salsa in her kitchen. Her first two customers were stores in the Capitol Market; as her business grew, she rented commercial kitchens in Charleston and nearby Huntington, W.Va. Her big break came in 2007, when she cold-called Whole Foods. After a store representative expressed interest in her product, she loaded up her Honda Civic with salsa and drove 360 miles to Hyattsville, Md. The meeting led to a contract for 10,000 pounds of salsa a week, which enabled Cook to quit her interior-design job and focus on her business. She expanded her product line to include several kinds of dips and salsas and landed contracts with Kroger and Walmart. In 2014, Cook sold her business to Garden Fresh Gourmet, a national salsa manufacturer. (Cook declined to disclose the terms of the deal, but at the time, she was bringing in revenues of more than $1 million a year.) In 2015, Campbell Soup bought Garden Fresh for $231 million.

Starting a successful business can make you a millionaire (or even a billionaire, if you create the next Facebook), but the risks are high. About half of all new businesses fail within the first five years. Your chances of success are greater if you start with a well-thought-out business plan that outlines your competitive strategies and your goals. You should also have a plan in place to scale up—which usually means being bought out by a larger company, selling franchises or licensing your product. Keep good records, create an operations manual and develop a diverse group of customers. Not only will your business be more likely to succeed, you’ll also make your business more attractive to deep-pocketed buyers. You can get free advice from more than 11,000 small business volunteers through Score (www.score.org), a nonprofit organization supported by the Small Business Administration.

Cook, who briefly lived in her car because she couldn’t afford rent, credits her success to her willingness to ride out the difficult times. “The biggest thing I’ve had is perseverance,” she says.

Self-starters who want a template for their business can purchase a franchise. A franchisee typically acquires the right to use a franchise’s name and business system for a specified period of time. Franchisors may also provide training, advertising and help finding a location. Start-up costs typically range from $50,000 to $200,000, depending on the franchise; fees are much higher for well-known chains.

For example, the minimum startup fee for a Visiting Angels franchise, which provides home care for seniors, is about $69,000; franchisees must also have between $40,950 and $48,950 in cash and a net worth of at least $100,000. In addition, you’ll probably have to fork over a percentage of your monthly gross revenue. Successful franchisees often have more than one store. Several websites rate franchises, including Franchise Business Review (www .franchisebusinessreview.com).

2. SAVE EARLY AND OFTEN

A portfolio worth $1 million  is the gold standard for many new retirees. Depending on where you live and how much you can count on from guaranteed sources of income, it’s often enough for a secure retirement.

Employer-provided retirement plans offer the best route to success. Contributions to a 401(k) are pretax, which lowers your taxable income. Money inside the account grows unfettered by taxes, which boosts your annual return.

The sooner you start saving, the more likely you’ll reach your goal, but you must be willing to increase your contributions. Nearly 60% of companies with 401(k) plans automatically enroll new employees, usually at a 3% contribution rate. But that will leave you short of your goal. For example, if a 30-year-old makes $60,000 a year and contributes 3% a year, he’ll have about $367,000 by the time he’s 65 (that assumes a 3% annual raise and a 7% rate of return). But if he bumps up his contributions to 10%, he’ll end up with $1.2 million.

If your employer matches contributions (and the vast majority of large companies do), you’ll have an even better shot at reaching the million-dollar milestone. If the same 30-year-old earns $60,000 and contributes 10% of his salary to a 401(k) plan with a 50% company match of up to 6% of pay, by age 65 he will have nearly $1.6 million.

3. LET YOUR BOSS HELP

Some employers provide valuable benefits that can help you reach your $1 million goal. For example, about 18% of private workers and more than 80% of public workers are eligible for a traditional pension. And restricted stock units—shares given to employees after a vesting date—can be lucrative if your company’s stock performs well, as any number of Silicon Valley millionaires can attest. For example, a Google employee with 1,400 restricted stock units would have a nest egg valued at more than $1 million.

Another benefit that could be worth a lot more than you think: a health savings account. To qualify for an HSA, you must sign up for a high-deductible health insurance plan. In 2016, you can contribute up to $3,350 to an individual HSA or $6,750 to a family plan. Over time, contributions to an HSA can add up because HSAs offer a triple tax advantage: Contributions are sheltered from income taxes, the money grows tax-deferred, and funds can be withdrawn tax-free in any year for medical expenses. About half of large companies match contributions to an HSA; the average employer match is about $900.

To truly tap the power of an HSA, use money outside of the account to pay medical bills and let the money in the account grow. After you sign up for Medicare (when contributions to an HSA are no longer allowed), you can reimburse yourself for any eligible expenses you incurred after you first opened the HSA, plus pay for retirement health expenses—including long-term care.

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