6 Actionable Steps To Becoming A 401(K) Millionaire

Feb 25, 2024

For many employees and entrepreneurs, the idea of becoming a millionaire may seem like a distant dream. 

However, over 350,000 individuals have shown us how the power of a well-managed 401(K) can turn this dream into a reality.

In this post, we'll explore how strategic planning, combined with the exposure and elimination of unnecessary fees, can transform an average worker's retirement savings into a million-dollar nest egg.

You’ll also pickup online resources that can transform any employee into what we call a “401kFeeHero”, saving millions in fees over the long term, for the whole organization.

Planning w/ Pre-Tax-Compounding Magic

Building on the longstanding “Start Early and Contribute Continuously” approach, one of the most effective strategies in the arsenal of retirement savings is the magic of pre-tax-compounding. The longer your money stays invested without having paid taxes, since there’s more to invest from day 1, the more it has the opportunity to grow exponentially. The bigger the seed, the bigger the harvest!

According to historical stock market returns, the average annual return is around 7% after adjusting for fees and inflation. But by cutting fees a measly 1%, and making consistent contributions over time, employees can harness the power of an 8% compounded growth to turn even modest contributions into substantial wealth, over the long term.

Consider this scenario: A 25-year-old employee starts contributing $300 per month to their 401(k) and continues this practice until they retire at 65. If we assume an 8% annual return, they would amass over $1.5 million (in today’s dollars, and would have contributed a total of $271,000) by the time they retire. This illustrates the remarkable impact of interest compounding, consistent contributions, and the long-term growth potential of a well-managed 401(k). 

If fees are not optimized and a 7% return is to be assumed, the same timeframe would result in less than $1.2 million, shaving off approximately a third (-32.8%) of the return on investment.

An 8% ROI for me, please!


Exposing and Eliminating Unnecessary Fees

While compounding is a powerful ally, you can see that unnecessary fees act as silent wealth destroyers. According to a study by the Center for American Progress, a 1% increase in fees over a 35-year period could reduce a worker's retirement savings by nearly 28%. This highlights the critical importance of understanding fees, to maximize the growth potential of a 401(k).

Actionable Step 1: Understand Your 401(k) Fees

The first step in eliminating unnecessary fees is understanding them. “A recent study conducted by the Consumer Financial Bureau cited that more than 70% of employees who have a 401(K) don’t realize that they are paying fees, which is why we created The 401(K) Watchdog and The 401(K) Fee Challenge, so employees can easily protect themselves from being overcharged”, said Amir Shah, ChFC President of NetWellth, Employee Benefits Optimized. 

Actionable Step 2: Opt for Low-Cost Investment Options

Once you've reviewed your fees, take a closer look at your investment options. Many 401(k) plans offer a variety of investment funds, each with its own expense ratio. For now, opt for low-cost index funds and ETFs, which often have lower costs compared to actively managed funds. Research shows that over a 10-year period, low-cost index funds have outperformed higher-cost alternatives, leaving investors with significantly more wealth. However, you should consult with a financial professional before making any investment decisions. Find and consultant.

Actionable Step 3: Advocate for Fee Transparency

If you discover excessive fees within your 401(k) plan, don't be afraid to advocate for change. You can use the Fee Comparison Report from 401kfeechallenge.com to discuss your concerns with your employer or HR department, and inquire about the possibility of negotiating lower fees or exploring alternative, more cost-efficient investment options. Knowledge is key, and by intelligently engaging with your employer, you contribute not only to your financial well-being but also to the overall financial wellness of the entire workforce.

Actionable Step 4: Annually Compare Investment Returns: Your 401(K) vs. S+P 500

For individuals with more than 10 years until retirement, underperformance relative to the S+P 500 should indicate a need for an investment allocation change.

Annually benchmarking 401(k) investment returns against the S&P 500 is a critical strategy for ensuring long-term financial health and retirement readiness.

Why is this annual comparison so important?

  • Performance Assessment: By comparing your 401(k) returns to the S&P 500, you can gauge how well your investments are performing relative to a broad segment of the U.S. equity market. This helps identify if your investment choices are on par with, outperforming, or underperforming the broader market, which is crucial for long-term growth.

  • Risk Management: This benchmarking process aids in assessing the risk level of your portfolio. If your 401(K) significantly underperforms the S&P 500 over a prolonged period, it might indicate poor asset allocation. Conversely, consistent outperformance, though rare, might suggest taking on excessive risk, which could be concerning if the market drops, as you approach retirement.

Remember, the goal is not just to match the S&P 500 but to ensure that your investment strategy is aligned with your time horizon, risk tolerance, and retirement objectives.

Actionable Step #5

  • Long-Term Perspective: You might think this is obvious, but patience and a long-term perspective are fundamental to the success of 401(K) millionaires. They understand that market fluctuations are inevitable and remain steadfast with their contributions and commitment to their investment strategies, even during periods of volatility.

Actionable Step #6

  • Get Interested in Financial Literacy and Education: 401(k) millionaires prioritize financial literacy and seek out opportunities for ongoing education, professional guidance, and intelligent exchanges. They stay informed about tax-advantaged retirement planning and investment strategies, empowering themselves to make informed decisions about their financial futures.

Turning Dreams into Reality

By taking these actionable steps, employees and entrepreneurs can set the stage for turning their 401(K)'s into vehicles for millionaire status. The numbers don't lie—the combination of consistent contributions, compounding, and a fee-conscious approach can pave the way to substantial wealth accumulation over time.


Consider this: If you manage to save $500 per month in your 401(K) from the age of 25, with an average annual return of 8%, you could potentially accumulate over $2 million by the time you reach 65. That's the power of engineering your own financial future!

For more about his topic, see: 401(K) The Podcast, Episode 5, How To Become a 401(K) Millionaire - Now available on Spotify and YouTube

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