Starting this weekend, hordes of Trekkies, Fanboys/Fangirls, and Cosplayers will descend upon Southern California like a swarm of collectible-hungry locusts. For those not familiar with what I’m referring to, this is the SuperBowl of San Diego’s tourism industry. This… is Comic-Con.
While it may seem like superpowers are a thing of comics and the movies, I believe we all have a superpower when it comes to becoming our elevated Millionaire selves. Spoiler alert: it all comes down to a famous quote from the Mac Daddy, Daddy Mac superhero of hockey.
Comic-Con, superheroes, hockey… were you about to ask me how I plan on tying all this together with personal finance? Well, allow me to back that “ask” up.
My origin story
Like any origin story, I was overlooked and underestimated… at least, in the world of personal finance.
Back in 2015, I produced an educational video for my agency’s monthly online newsletter called, “How To Retire as a Multimillionaire.” The video took a Toastmasters speech I’d given and repurposed it for a larger audience. The main point of the speech (and video) was to assure my fellow government employees that they’re probably better prepared for retirement than they realize, and I related it to a common analogy used by financial planners. See, having multiple streams of income in retirement is often described as a stool.
And no, not that kind of stool…
See, the goal is to sit down and rest in retirement, right? So, rather than rely on income from just one source, this traditional model proposed having a retiree be supported by the sum total of three legs of the stool. That old-school (outdated) stool for retired American workers had three “legs”: social security payments, a company pension, and personal savings of some type.
For most Americans today, however, pensions are a thing of the past and social security is predicted to run out of money around the year 2035. That leaves the only reliable source of financial support for our later years coming from us: our own personal savings. However, in the model I described for a government retiree, it should have inspired more optimism. That three-legged stool, which I recommended to reach multimillionaire status to my coworkers, was this: our government pension (which is the equivalent of around $1M paying out 3-4% in interest), $1M from carefully chosen real estate income, and $1M from the money we’ll have saved in the Thrift Savings Plan [the 401(k) for government employees].
And those were conservative numbers, because they didn’t even factor in the full extent of our retirement benefits, like unemployment benefits (for law enforcement officers) or the FERS annuity supplement. (Lesson to the kids at home: government jobs are the bomb!) Nonetheless, my video attracted some haters.
Despite my efforts to comfort and inspire my coworkers, there was an outspoken few who threw shade at me for having the audacity to put out the video. They’d ask, “Can I get a loan, Moneybags?” Or ask, “How much do you have in your TSP?” to imply that I should not be giving out retirement advice, being someone so early in my career.
What they didn’t understand was that I didn’t have to have a million dollars right now, because I knew my 401(k) was projected to grow to more than $1 Million dollars by the time I was eligible to retire. What… you don’t believe me?
Okay, quick side note for government employees. If you aren’t familiar with where to find the retirement account projections I’m talking about, it’s pretty easy:
Log on to myEPP
Click the “Benefits Statement” hyperlink in the left navigation
3. In the PDF that opens for you, look to the top-left corner of PAGE 3
Discovering my superpower
I imagine most people underestimate their potential to achieve their retirement goals. Similarly, I’m sure there’s plenty of haters rolling their eyes for me of all people blogging about personal finance.
“How are you qualified to talk about money?” … “What’s your experience?” … “Are you even a millionaire yourself?”
You see, one of my superpowers to stay focused on my financial goals is to not look at where I am right now. That’s not very inspiring. I like to look to where I’m going! By using Excel spreadsheets with basic formulas that factor in the growth of 8% compound interest, it’s possible for anyone to predict their future net worth to $1,000,000… and beyond!
And THAT is how I believe I’ve been able to get myself motivated to be laser-focused, make the needed lifestyle changes, increase my savings rate, and ultimately, create a better future for myself. Here’s how you can get do the same…
Calculate your current net worth
Some people like writing things out on paper. Me: I like to hit the “Easy” button and let an online service like Mint.com do the heavy lifting for me. Because Mint is owned by Intuit, the same company that makes TurboTax, I trust them with my financial info.
To quickly calculate your net worth in three steps, you can:
Set up your free Mint account.
Then, link your various accounts to the website, being sure to include all debts and assets. There’s even options to add things like vehicles, which will automatically pull their Kelley Blue Book value. Note: for real estate, the website may import an estimate from Zillow, which is often an inflated number. I prefer using Redfin for my estimates and will manually input the Redfin Estimate into the website for my real estate assets.
Lastly, from the Mint homepage, click Trends, Net Worth, and then the black dot. Be sure not to click on the green bar: that figure will represent your assets. By clicking the black dot, it will subtract your debts from your assets, to give you the most accurate estimate of your net worth.
Now, estimate your future net worth
Below are some rough numbers I pulled together in Excel leading up to the year I turn 55, my minimum retirement age. This takes into account the assets I have from everything: real estate equity, 401(k), Roth IRA, checking accounts, savings accounts, vehicles, etc. Then, I assume that everything will grow an average of 8% every year. That’s a ballpark estimate that I think can apply to everything in my net worth (except my $5,000 vehicle, of course).
Next up, I’ll show you how to create a similar spreadsheet for your numbers.
|YR||Net Worth with 8% growth||Extra savings added|
If you’d like to estimate your own net worth, click the following links to download the Excel file or CSV file version of my spreadsheet above. Once you download and open the Excel file on your own computer, you can update it with your own numbers in just a couple steps:
Input your current net worth in the green cell (Note: the colors you see in the screenshot below will only be in the Excel file). Again, if you don’t already know your net worth, you can use an app like Mint or Personal Capital to sync all your assets into one place to do the heavy lifting for you, which are covered in the earlier steps above.
2. In column C, insert your estimated savings for the rest of this year and for future years until you plan to retire. If you have a 401(k) with an employer match, be sure to include the amount your employer is adding to your savings each year. Assuming you won’t continue adding to your savings accounts in retirement, you can enter $0 for all of the blue cells for the years after you have retired.
And that’s it! Did it help your retirement goals feel more attainable after seeing the numbers mapped out into the future?
The moral of the story…
We may not all be millionaires, but we can all be future millionaires with a little Hustle, Own, Money, and Opulence. So, the next time you come face-to-face with the evil minions of financial waste, remember your superpower. Remember the gold that awaits in your evolving origin story, and take ownership of your Gretzky Greatness!
Warning: after following the steps above, side effects may include: renewed confidence, peace, and joy. And when you feel that, embrace it! Whether you find yourself at the San Diego Convention Center for Comic-Con or just the cubicle farm of your office, take heart that you’re on the right track and work the hallway like a runway, queen!