Millionaire retirees: Here’s what’s even better than saving $1 million

Becoming a millionaire may not be such a big deal after all.

Two-thirds of retirees with at least $1 million in assets say that crossing that threshold made them more confident about their financial situation, according to new data from Ameriprise Financial. But 40 percent of millionaire retirees said amassing a seven-figure net worth was “not that big a deal” — and only 6 percent cited it as their most important financial milestone.

The survey focused on 432 millionaire retirees, from a larger base of 1,305 adults queried for the Pay Yourself in Retirement report released earlier this year.

“The message is, the money itself isn’t as important as what it helps them do,” said Marcy Keckler, vice president of financial advice strategy for Ameriprise. “It’s more important that it lets them retire, or pay off their mortgage.”

Of those millionaire retirees, 70 percent told Ameriprise they don’t consider themselves wealthy. At what point might they? Nearly half think you need at least $5 million.

The ranks of millionaires have been swelling. Last year, a record 10.4 million Americans had assets of $1 million or more, not including their primary residence, according to market research firm Spectrem Group. That’s up 3 percent from the previous year. Data from Fidelity found that the ranks of 401(k) millionaires nearly doubled from 2012 to 2014.

It’s not unusual to feel ho-hum about becoming a millionaire, said Kevin Meehan, a certified financial planner based in Itasca, Illinois.

“One million is historically a target that people have in mind, but sometimes when people get to that target, they don’t feel like they have accomplished as much,” he said.

It’s all about your perspective, and the demands on that money. Someone expecting to retire early, live long and spend big — or even just do one of those three — may need more than $1 million, Keckler said. Health costs and expectations of leaving a financial legacy can also affect the magic number.

Someone who has gotten used to a frugal lifestyle, in contrast, may not need even that much.

“For some, $1 million is plenty, for others even half a million is plenty,” said Meehan.

With that in mind, it’s important to do a realistic assessment of your needs in retirement instead of settling on an arbitrary number, he said. Then take steps to bring your habits into line to grow and stretch savings.

“The options aren’t magical,” Meehan said. “Spend less, save more, work longer.”

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