What Will You Make of Your Millions?

$5.8 million.

This is the number that you can expect to earn in a lifetime according to these conditions:

Starting salary: $80,000

Age: 26

Retirement age: 65

% annual increase in income: 3%

Of course, these numbers will vary WIDELY depending on your situation.  Change any of these variables, and you will have different results. When it comes to your income, rarely does it ever follow a straight trajectory. Realistically throughout your career, you’ll see your income going up, down, and plateauing at different points. 

However, when it’s all said and done…..

Adding up your income over a span of decades DOES lead to some eye-popping numbers.With a professional degree, you should be hitting 7 figures in your lifetime.  Maybe even 8 figures if you are a very high income earner, you have multiple sources of income, and/or if you’re calculating household income rather than your income alone.

The question is: What will you have to show for it all?


First of all, where did this term even come from?

Even with a background in veterinary medicine, I didn’t realize that this term originated from the practice of farmers placing eggs (both real and fake) in their hens’ nests in order to encourage them to lay more eggs (I think it’s obvious that I did not have a farming background).

Anyway, what we traditionally think of as our nest egg is the accumulation of our savings for retirement. Setting some money aside for your nest egg is one of the many responsibilities we should be taking on as working adults.

The problem is that retirement savings can be tricky. First of all, there’s the lack of urgency in saving for retirement when you’re just starting out. It feels so very far away, and there are usually more pressing financial issues to deal with, such as paying down debt, affording housing and transportation, and generally keeping up with all of your bills. 

Secondly, even when people want to start saving for retirement, they don’t quite know how. There’s a lack of basic financial literacy when it comes to learning about investments, and if you have already dedicated a good portion of your life to specializing in a field that does not have an emphasis in business or finance, then it can be intimidating.

However, with a little bit of financial know-how under your belt, one can easily start building that nest egg sooner rather than later. What you’re really aiming for is to build wealth over time.


Here’s a BIG reminder: A high income does not equate to being wealthy. 

Have you seen those stories of lottery winners and celebrities who are filing for bankruptcy? It is very possible to earn an incredibly high income and STILL end up in a financially bad place. 

But you don’t have to go to the extremes of filing for bankruptcy to feel some pain. Living paycheck to paycheck, getting stressed because you’re not sure you can cover all of your bills, or having this nagging feeling that you’re not saving enough for the future can all cause financial anxiety and worry. 

It’s important to take a step back and figure out how to actually build wealth so that you can ease your financial worries and pad that nest egg. Here are the 4 components to wealth building:


This part sounds obvious, but there can be no wealth building if you don’t have some source of income. This can be your salary, bonuses, 1099 income, passive income, etc. The period that you’re earning income during your working years is referred to as the wealth accumulation phase. Eventually, your nest egg will be producing enough income for you so that you no longer have to actively make money- this is when people typically retire. This can also be referred to as your FI (financial independence) number.

Don’t limit yourself when it comes to earning income. People have gotten very creative about different ways in which they can earn income, both within and outside the traditional workplace. Pick up some extra tips about increasing your income here.


With the money that you’re making, any that you’re paying towards your debt cannot be used towards saving/investing for the future. Remember, each dollar you earn has a job, and you are the one responsible for telling your money what you want it to do for you.

Becoming debt-free is a common goal for those who are building wealth. However, one common pitfall is when people use every spare penny they earn and immediately pay that towards their debt, regardless of the type of debt they carry. This may sound like a good plan initially, but before you rapidly pay off your debt, you will want to consider multiple variables (you can read this blog post for more info).

As a general rule, you don’t want to be too extreme with your finances. Being financially healthy means that you need to have some sort of balance between paying off debt and using that money for other purposes.


Your savings rate will be key to building wealth. The higher your savings rate, the faster you will build your nest egg. This is especially true for those who want to be retire optional sooner rather than later.

Rather than thinking of savings as a chore, think of it as building opportunity. You are gifting yourself options and freedom by prioritizing your savings.

How do you calculate your savings rate? It sounds relatively simple: you would think that it’s your savings divided by your income. But defining “savings” and “income” can be a little tricky, so I recommend that you check out this ChooseFI savings rate calculator to get your most accurate savings rate.


Pure savings, such as in a savings account, is valuable. But building wealth requires this last crucial step- investing. 

Remember that inflation is working against you. If the inflation rate is 2% per year, and your money in a savings account is earning 1%, then you’re actually losing 1% every year. This is NOT how you build wealth. This liquid savings should be for your emergency fund and for short term savings goals. But in order to actually BUILD wealth, you’re going to have to rely on investing, which is a supercharged version of savings because you’re looking to get better rates of return.

However, you can’t get a higher return without some risk. And this risk is what scares many people away from investing. They would rather hold their money as cash than invest any of it.

As I said, going to extremes is not the way to go. Smart investing doesn’t mean that you have to be an excellent stock picker, hoping to strike it rich. It means that you invest according to your risk tolerance, and you ensure that you are properly diversifying your investments. Again, you need balance here in order to be a good investor.

Your reward for taking on a little extra risk is that your money will start to grow. Remember that compound interest and time are your dearest friends when it comes to investing. If you keep putting off this step, then you will have to understand that your savings rate will need to be substantially higher to make up some lost ground. A sad possibility is that your savings rate may never be high enough to make up this gap if you wait too long. 


So what will you have to show for your lifetime earnings of 7-figures?

Will you have a healthy nest egg that will comfortably allow you to stop working? Or will you need to continue working longer than you’d like because you didn’t understand these wealth building steps?

Don’t make this more complicated than it has to be. Earn money. Don’t spend all of it. Set some aside for liquid savings, but also set some aside for smart investing and building wealth.  The amount you set aside will depend on your circumstances and your personal goals, but of course, the higher the percentage relative to your income, the more financial freedom you’ll have.

The money that you earn in your lifetime will be substantial. Make sure you make the most of this money so that you have something you can show for all that hard work!

Do you have any wealth building tips/strategies you’d like to add? Comment below!


  1. Steveark on August 12, 2020 at 4:20 pm

    $5.8 million sounds like a ton of money, and it is. But in today’s dollars it’s only worth $1.8 million when you discount it back over a 39 year career. Still it is nothing to sneeze at and more than enough for a comfortable retirement if you save and invest aggressively.

    • RLDVM on August 13, 2020 at 4:50 pm

      Yup- should be more than enough!

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