How Long Will The Average Person Take To Earn $1 Million Around The World?

The Economist put out an interesting chart highlighting how long it takes the median household income to earn one million dollars before tax. Have a look.

How long does it take to earn one million dollars around the world

Given the median US household income is roughly $68,000 in 2021, it will take roughly 14.7 years for the typical household to earn $1 million gross. That's pretty good if you think about it. Let's say you graduate college at age 22. By the time you are 37, you could have earned over a million bucks gross!

But as we know in personal finance, it's not what you make, it's what you keep. If the typical household saves 10% of their gross earnings, then one can expect a $100,000 – $200,000 net worth by the time the head of household is 41 years old. Not bad, but certainly no million bucks!

Strategies For Earning One Million Dollars

If you want to earn one million in your lifetime or in a year, follow these suggestions. You will be the average time it takes for the average person to make one million dollars.

1) Work in a developed country. Despite higher cost of living, one should aim to work in developed countries like the US, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, Denmark, and Canada. Once you've earned and hopefully saved more than you could elsewhere, then relocate to a cheaper country to retire such as Mexico, Turkey, or Romania. My bias is towards Mexico given the weather, the amazing diving, the food, the proximity to the US, and the friendly people.

2) Move to the wealthiest parts of developed countries. As we saw from the top income earners by state, there's a huge difference in income generation potential across the United States. Go where the money is. The money is currently being earned and hoarded in the Northeast, Virginia, North Dakota, Texas, Wyoming, and California.

3) Avoid certain countries for work. If you live in Chile, Turkey, Bulgaria, Mexico, and Romania, it takes well over 100 years to earn $1 million in gross income. Given the life expectancy nowadays is still under 90, chances are high you will never earn $1 million in your lifetime living in these countries. I'd skip Portugal too.

4) Marry a foreigner. If you're scraping the bottom of the chart above, it's prudent to strategically target foreigners at the top of the chart. Perhaps go on a study abroad program and fall in love. Or definitely target a top 10 country to vacation every single year to increase your chances of meeting someone from a wealthier nation. Of course not everyone from a top 10 country is rich. The average is just richer than the average of your country. Related: How To Get A Rich Man To Be Your Husband

5) Becoming a millionaire takes longer than you think. Thanks to taxes and varying money habits, it takes much longer to become a millionaire. A person saving 50% of their median household net income after paying a 25% effective tax rate could be able to amass roughly $375,000 after 19.3 years excluding any investment performance. In other words, it's not good enough to just save. You've got to invest your money as well.

The Economist's chart is not comprehensive. They should include countries like China and India with well over a billion population, each. The per capital GDP in China is $6,800 a year. Therefore, a typical Chinese citizen will take roughly 147 years to earn $1 million.

Meanwhile, the per capita GDP in India is only $1,500. The typical citizen will take a whopping 667 to earn $1 million! I've been to India for a couple weeks on two occasions, and I must say that India's poverty is immense. The different between the haves and the have nots is the widest I've ever seen.

Related: The First Million Might Be The Easiest: How To Become A Millionaire By 30

Everybody In America Is Relatively Lucky

Now that we realize America is sitting in pole position on our way to earning $1 million gross, I hope Americans realize how lucky we are to live and work here. The same goes for readers from Australia, who already have the world's leading inheritance amount at $500,000+. The same goes for readers from England, Canada, and other English-speaking countries.

There is so much opportunity out there. Imagine if we tried a little bit harder than the standard 40 hours a week. Then we saved more money until it begins to hurt every month and invested smartly. Surely we could reach $1 million in gross earnings before 19.3 years no problem!

How many years did it take you to earn $1 million gross income?

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Related: How Long Will It Take You To Become A 401(k) Millionaire

Earn More Passive Income Through Real Estate

Achieve Financial Freedom Through Real Estate

Real estate is by far my favorite way to achieving financial freedom. Even better than making $1 million in your career is making money passively. That's where real estate comes in.

In 2016, I started diversifying into heartland real estate to take advantage of lower valuations and higher cap rates. I did so by investing $810,000 with real estate crowdfunding platforms. With interest rates down, the value of cash flow is up.

Take a look at my two favorite real estate crowdfunding platforms. Both are free to sign up and explore.

Fundrise: A way for accredited and non-accredited investors to diversify into real estate through private eFunds. Fundrise has been around since 2012 and has consistently generated steady returns, no matter what the stock market is doing. For most people, investing in a diversified eREIT is the way to go. 

CrowdStreet: A way for accredited investors to invest in individual real estate opportunities mostly in 18-hour cities. 18-hour cities are secondary cities with lower valuations, higher rental yields, and higher growth due to demographic trends. If you have a lot more capital, you can build you own diversified real estate portfolio. 

Manage Your Finances In One Place

One of the best way to become financially independent and protect yourself is to get a handle on your finances by signing up with Empower. They are a free online platform which aggregates all your financial accounts in one place. This way, you can better optimize your money.

Before Empower, I had to log into eight different systems to track 25+ to manage my finances on an Excel spreadsheet. Now, I can just log into Personal Capital to see how all my accounts are doing, including my net worth. I can also see how much I’m spending and saving every month through their cash flow tool.

The best feature is their Portfolio Fee Analyzer. It runs your investment portfolio(s) through its software in a click of a button to see what you are paying. I found out I was paying $1,700 a year in portfolio fees I had no idea I was hemorrhaging!

They've also come out with their incredible Retirement Planning Calculator. It uses your linked accounts to run a Monte Carlo simulation to figure out your financial future. You can input various income and expense variables to see the outcomes.

Retirement Planning Calculator
Sample retirement planning calculator results

Invest In Private Growth Companies

Finally, millionaires build businesses and invest in private businesses. Therefore, consider diversifying into private growth companies through an open venture capital fund. Companies are staying private for longer, as a result, more gains are accruing to private company investors. Finding the next Google or Apple before going public can be a life-changing investment. 

Check out the Innovation Fund, which invests in the following five sectors:

  • Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning
  • Modern Data Infrastructure
  • Development Operations (DevOps)
  • Financial Technology (FinTech)
  • Real Estate & Property Technology (PropTech)

Roughly 35% of the Innovation Fund is invested in artificial intelligence, which I'm extremely bullish about. In 20 years, I don't want my kids wondering why I didn't invest in AI or work in AI!

The investment minimum is also only $10. Most venture capital funds have a $250,000+ minimum. In addition, you can see what the Innovation Fund is holding before deciding to invest and how much. Traditional venture capital funds require capital commitment first and then hope the general partners will find great investments.

64 thoughts on “How Long Will The Average Person Take To Earn $1 Million Around The World?”

  1. This article is addressing how long it takes for people to EARN a million dollars not SAVE a million dollars. Why are so many people referencing what they’ve saved? If you started making $50,000 after college and you get consistent raises and bonuses you will have earned a million dollars well before 20 years.

  2. I am indian and would like to inform that India is changing pretty fast. India will be truly developed place in just few more years. I have lived in Bay area and in india cities like Hyderabad are best place to live. There is a good housing and infrastructure build in Hyderabad. Mumbai is not the only city in India and places like Hyderabad are very cost effective. You can surely live as or more luxurious than in bay area in some areas in India.

    Regarding people migrating back to india i see a different picture in next 10 years. You would see lot of indians from bay area migrate back to india after attaining 35 to 40 years. New young engineers keep coming to bay area in the age group of 22 to 28. The facilities and infrastructure are taking rapid changes in india and i see a totally different picture in next 10 years.

    But i would like to say i liked your article very much.

  3. I live in Brazil, which didn’t even make the chart (but I guess we would do poorly :). At 24 I’m doing better than most of my friends but still a long way from that million.

    You make an interesting point about moving to a developed country, and in fact I have been toying with the idea of relocating to Denmark. My main motivation is actually for quality of life, with less violence and better healthcare. I did fall in love with a foreigner, but he’s not rich (bummer) and I have no intention of moving to his country, so I guess I have to keep looking ;)

  4. Hi – Just a quick question; is the pole about how long it will take you to earn it? or how long it would take you to save it? shows I have exceeded 1.5M in my working life -but I haven’t ‘saved’ 1M :)

    Let me know.


  5. Natalie @ Financegirl

    This is so interesting! I’m not actually that surprised. We know how to make money here. Honestly, as capitalist as we are, that’s how it should be. However, I might trade some of my living space and material things (lower standard of living) for more time off and travel like they do in other countries.

  6. Interesting chart. I don’t have the data but I’m sure I hit $1M somewhere in my 30s. Benefits of working tech in silicon valley.

    I’m glad you pointed out the benefits of working in high cost of living areas to maximize your savings. I’d much rather save 40% of $150,000 than of $80,000. For my next trick, I’m going to transfer to a lower cost of living state and keep my silicon valley salary.

    At least that’s the plan…

  7. Interesting chart, I guess I’m glad I migrated to US from India almost 20 years ago!
    I’ve been reading your articles for a couple of months now, and going back reading some of your older articles. Would it be possible for you to show the date of when the article was posted (unless its there and I’m completely blind)? Without the date its hard to tie the article to the situation and perspective of when it was written.

  8. Adam @

    I wonder what chart looks like net of average tax rates. Another adjustment could be adding back in services provided (such as free health care).

    I haven’t hit that million yet, but I’m close. Not yet 30, so not too bad.

  9. Sorted through my tax returns to answer this question. In fact it took somewhere between 7 to 8 years for me to earn a million.

    In terms of saving $1M is when I’d publish a 10000 words blog post. Wait for it!

  10. I’m just $200k away, seem so far away, considering I only entered the work force for 9 years, net worth is almost the same as grossing thanks to investments and housing appreciation.

    It’s interesting that you say go to where the money goes, like California. Most Californian I know don’t own a house, they rent an tiny apartment and own a shiny new car, with iphone in there pocket, go out all weekend, and work their but off the rest of the week to make end meet. (Some are lucky to end up inherit some money from mommy and daddy).

    I was going to move there, for my profession, they paid 10% more! and house cost 2-3 times more.

    I think it’s all come dome to house much you can save relative to where you will be in your retirement to determine when you can retire. Most of us are shooting for that 25x your yearly spend.

    Also, even though I made more than my parents, but it seems like they were wayyyyyy wealth off in their time, and I just feel like a little fish in the ocean, just trying to tread the water. I feel like They were like upper middle class or 1% and I only fell like I’m in the lower end of the middle class thanks to inflation.

  11. I smiled at 4. You forgot to add

    4b. ‘never divorce a man until after he made millions’

    Jokes aside, I found the key is in the savings and investments. Automatically you will try to earn more once you see the magic of that – and how it compounds. Money makes money.

  12. Interesting to see that Norway, Denmark and Switzerland on the top of the list as these countries are not the cheapest out there and people in these countries generally get paid more. Are these numbers in the chart pre-tax or after-tax?

    1. The higher income countries naturally lead to higher cost of living. These countries also have much higher tax rates than the US, and are also the happiest countries in the world as well.

      Numbers are gross.

  13. People living in developed countries are indeed lucky. I’d be more interested in why certain countries, just as with individuals, are rich and stay rich while other countries tend to stay poor. Is it due to societal cultural differences, inherent genetic differences among its people, different economic systems, societal corruption, work ethic of people among the different countries?

    1. All those factors play a part. Developed countries have strong legal and government infrastructure, as well as conducive public works.

      A lot of getting ahead is work ethic, and some cultures emphasize work, money, life, enjoyment much differently e.g. Germany vs. Greece, Hong Kong vs. Malaysia, New York vs. Hawaii. Kind of different!

  14. I doubt I ever earn $1M in my life–I plan to retire before I ever need to earn that much. And I work in high finance in Manhattan. Much more important to make less money earlier rather than more money later.


    1. Are you confusing earning $1MM with saving a $1MM? Just curious, if you live in Manhattan and work in high-finance, I would assume you would earn a $1MM relatively quickly.

    2. Surely you can Eric, working in finance in Manhattan. This chart talks about how long it takes to earn a CUMULATIVE $1 million gross income.

      But, that’s cool you have a target age of retirement of 29! How old are you now?

      1. The Alchemist

        Wait— what exactly is meant by “cumulative $1 million gross income”? You mean you’re not talking Net Worth?

        It would be hard to calculate cumuluative gross income accurately, unless you have a record of exactly how much income you’ve made every year. I think my annual salary when I first started working a few decades back was something in the ballpark of $20k; now, of course, it is a LOT bigger.

        So I know how long it’s taken me to amass $1m in net worth, but I have no idea at what point my income total (regardless of $ spent) actually hit $1m earned.

          1. Gen Y Finance Guy

            At what age do you start getting a social security statement? I have never gotten one.


            1. Uh oh, maybe you don’t really exist if you’ve never got a SS statement?? Check online! They stopped sending statements a couple years ago I believe.

              Maybe the government has been FICA taxing you all this time without planning on giving you and return, ever!

            2. Gen Y Finance Guy


              I actually just went and signed up for an account to see my benefits info…assuming there is anything there when I get to “retirement” age.

              Social Security is not something I am counting on

          2. You may want to note that SS statements only reflect earned income subject to SS and Medicare tax. Unearned income and most passive earnings such as interest and investment returns, Realestate rental income, and business profit earnings through schedule K are not subject to SS and or Medicare tax and thus not shown on your SS statements. If you have had such passive earnings, the SS statements alone will give you an inaccurate and skewed version of your actual lifetime earnings.

  15. Dang! I studied in Norway for a summer back in college and didn’t nab myself a husband. Sigh. Ah, well, wasn’t meant to be. Guess I’ll have to find one in the US (and change my opinion on marriage). :D

    On a more serious note, even if I don’t reach $1M, I want to get myself to a financially independent position where I can go live in one of those other countries lower on the list and maybe spend 40 hours a week volunteering my time instead to make their community a better, richer (not necessarily monetarily) place. Maybe the poverty wouldn’t be felt so hard then? I don’t know, that’s just me being idealistic and positive. I’m a drop in the ocean.

    1. DOH! Maybe next life yeah?

      The ability to retire in a cheaper country is what keeps hope alive for many people who feel they haven’t saved enough. I’ve lived overseas for 14 years and studied abroad for six months and overseas living is an amazing adventure that is often times so much cheaper.

      I think you’ll enjoy it!

  16. Even Steven

    I think it rings true it’s not what you earn but what you keep, but in theory the more you earn the more you should be able to keep, but for some societal keeping up with the Jones’ it doesn’t seem to happen that way was often as it should.

  17. Nishanth Muralidhar

    And a comment from an Indian guy living in the States…Sam , what you said about India is true , but things are improving much more than usual and India is growing very fast…India is actually where USA was in 1940s and 50s , and hopefully will be a much more developed nation in the next 20-30 years. I intend to follow what you said in the above article , earn and save my money in dollars here , invest the same in India and when I go back , lead a good standard of living.

    1. Sounds good Nishanth. Do you think you will really go back though? I’ve spoken to many of my Indian friends in the Bay Area, and they want to stay right here as it’s more comfortable, despite the higher cost of living. Although, Mumbai is crazy expensive now.

  18. I’d forgo a million to live a decent Chilean life! I actually talked to my wife about moving the kids there for 3-6 months. There’s no education like living abroad!

  19. Very interesting chart for sure. It paints a clear picture of the benefits of retiring abroad which I feel has been a hot topic as of late to move up a person’s retirement age and enable them to travel as well.

    1. Justin Williams

      Retiring to San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua at 41. Rent for a 2 bedroom/1 bath house = $425

      1. Send pictures! My good friend (doubles partner) has a GF in Nicaragua and has been going back multiple times a year. Says it’s amazing, and a place to buy real estate on the ocean right now. Would you agree?

  20. Since I actually live in Romania, I thought I’d chime in :P.
    First, my husband and I are nowhere near the 1 million mark in net worth. But also, we’re not that worse off as it might seem from that chart. Take a look at this link:
    It’s actually quite accurate, you really do earn 5 times the average salary as a software developer in Romania. And with the average prices so low, it means you get to live the good life while also being able to save.
    My husband and I stash away about 35000 dollars each year. That means that if we only work for 30 more years, we’re good to go :). Luckily for us, we’re only planning on working for another decade and then quit work altogether, travel the world and enjoy life. Since life in Romania is so cheap, that should be enough. And we don’t really have to up-root our entire life to get the benefits of low cost of living.
    I guess what I’m trying to say is that actually, it doesn’t really matter where you live as much as what you do and how much you are paid for it. You can make 1 million dollars in Romania, even from your day job.

    1. I feel I’ve finally made it with FS to have Romanian readers! :) Is your husband also from Romania? Would do you think about my strategy of finding a spouse from one of the top 5 countries in the chart and bringing him home to a lower cost of living country?

      Are you currently living in Romania right now? I was thinking maybe a good strategies is for all Americans to just retire in Romania. But then that would drive up costs for locals and we’d be the most hated people.

      1. Nope, my husband and I are both Romanians :).

        Yes, we’re living in Romania right now, in the beautiful city of Cluj-Napoca. Come visit if you get the chance, we’ll take you out for a beer :). I doubt we’ll see such a big influx of Americans that we’ll end up hating you, but Cluj already has a few expats. They’re mostly here for work though.

        1. I have been reading your site for over 2 years now, so you’ve made it a long time ago :).

          Regarding finding spouses from the top 5 countries, I consider the basis for a good marriage to be good understanding between spouses, common values and goals and mutual respect. The place you come from can be an added bonus, but it would never rank very high in what I look for in a partner.

        2. OK! I’m coming to Cluj-Napoca to see you two! Not just for a beer, but for the best Romanian food there is! My treat. I’ve never been and plan to check out more European countries during the Summer and Fall.

          Regarding finding spouses in the top 5 countries, I know it sounds very calculated and cold and kinda a joke statement I made, but trust me when I say there are a lot of nice people with common values and goals and mutual respect in America, Norway, etc as well!

          1. “but trust me when I say there are a lot of nice people with common values and goals and mutual respect in America, Norway, etc as well!”

            I’m sure there are, but I’m off the market :P. Found my man, made my gold so to speak.

            And if you’re coming to Cluj let me know, we’ll show you around.

            1. Felix Money

              Just wanted to say hi, Raluca, and Financial Samurai! I’m a new reader and new blogger. I’m from Romania too, lived in Cluj for a few years before immigrating to America about 9 years ago. Went to Babes-Bolyai ;) Looking forward to reading your blog more, Financial Samurai! And best of luck, Raluca!

  21. Gen Y Finance Guy

    It took us a little over 7-years to make our first million. Actually, the end of 2014 marked the finish line to our first million dollars.

    I hope the things we are putting in place now will bring the next million even faster. Right now if nothing changes and we stay on track we will earn about $1.4M over the next 7-years.

    If we were a little smarter with our money early on I think we could had made our first million in 5 years, but hindsight is always 20/20.

    Interesting post. Couldn’t imagine living in India making $1,500 a year, we are very lucky here in the US.


  22. My wife and I are about 200K off. I’ve been working for 7 years and she’s been working for 5 years. We should hit it by the time we are both 30. My wife is Norwegian so maybe that’s why!

  23. Very interesting chart. The way they separate between exchange rate and purchasing power shows that not only is the US leading the chart in achieving gross income of $1,000,000, but more importantly to have a lifestyle as if you have a gross income of $1,000,000 in the US, would take even more time in other developed countries.

    Really put things into perspective for how fortunate people in the US are.

    1. You are so wrong is laughable..You DO NOT realize how high the cost of living is in the US. The U.S. is the only major/developed/industrialized country without universal healthcare for one thought its one of the main reasons why so many people in the US are at or below the poverty level etc.

      We have the highest crime rate per citizens, illiteracy rates are high, near a million homeless, 40+ million struggling with hunger another 40+ million living at or below the poverty level and due to the rescission and housing crash in 2008 we are the foreclosure capital the list is nearly endless.

      Yeah the US may not be like a war zone or like most impoverished countries. BUT this is the so called US of A remember? Reality is most have made a over a million BUT due to cost of living etc most will never have a million saved..

      Most Americans do NOT have very stable futures, most live paycheck to paycheck. It is NOT like the movies or like the US political and media propaganda BS makes it out to be. The US has so much BS and problems that I am moving my family back to my native Japan.

      Again don’t believe the hype.

  24. Interesting that Norway is number 2 on the list. They have such a different philosophy about the role of government and capitalism… seems to not have hurt their citizen’s economic prospects!

    Haven’t hit a cumulative million bucks yet, but it’s not that far off. The neater part is thinking about (current net worth / lifetime earnings). We’re well above 50% there, and by the time 2017 rolls around we should be at 100% (thanks to investments and property appreciation). Kind of wild to think we’re going to end up with more saved than we’ve ever earned through normal jobs.

    1. Norway has a very small, closed, homogeneous society. Somewhat of an out liar. There philosophy is more difficult to replicate in larger more diverse societies.

          1. Adam @

            Norway at least has also been able to rely on oil revenue for a very small population, which they’ve used more intelligently than any other country I’m aware of, with their sovereign wealth fund.

    2. Norway (and some of the other North Sea adjacent areas) have substantial state-owned energy projects and a massive public fund somewhere in the ~$800 billion (USD equivalent) range. For a population of 5 million, that’s somewhere ~160k per person on average in ASSETS.

      I think they are one of the top sovereign funds in the global equity markets.

      ANyway, not to take anything away from them. The Norwegian govt did an incredible job of managing their black gold and investing it wisely rather than squandering it.

    3. Mostly white, non jewish , deceloped countries urge for better quality education , health care and income. Dont count the US as a standard, as its not white european owned in the area of finance.

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