What Will $1,000,000 Look Like in 2050?
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What Will $1,000,000 Look Like in 2050?

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We get up and grind for that seven-digit salvation, but with increasing inflation rates, how much can we rely on a million dollars to carry us in the future?


Chances are you read that line with a certain flow and cadence in mind. If you’re like me, it was the rich tones of Regis Philbin, the first host of the immensely popular game show series of the same name as its famous catchline.


At that show’s inception, I would have been 8 years old. Back then I remember sensing the enormity of what a million dollars was and could be. Enough money probably to last your entire life! I would think, though this would be debunked by my father, suggesting that, without luck and a smart plan, $1,000,000 had great, but limited utility, especially if you expected it to hold up an entire family.

Five years before Who Wants to Be a Millionaire hit the air, American comedy Blank Check released by Walt Disney Pictures, chronicling a young boy’s extravagant run-in with wealth, when he fell backwards into $1,000,000 by finding a blank check and then successfully cashing it in for the big bucks, surprising even to him (little did he know that money was attached to recent criminal activity, a plot point that emerges later in the film). Using this opportunity to his advantage, our main character purchases a mansion, a limousine service, and otherwise hemorrhages money indiscriminately on toys, gadgets, and whatever amusing whim crosses his pre-adolescent brain.

In other words, the film (especially the first half) treated a million dollars the same way a child might imagine it: as an invincible, endless font of green. There was nothing you couldn’t buy, and all novelties were yours for the taking.

Between Blank Check and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, I’d enjoyed a brief window of my youth believing that a seven-digit bank account was tantamount to financial godhood.

Oh, how things have changed.

In this article we’re going to explore how inflation has not only affected the power of a million dollars since the 90’s when those things aired, but how far you can expect it to carry you into the future. Is a million dollars really all it’s chalked up to be anymore? What about 30 years from now?

Let’s talk.

In 2000, Coca Cola cost 25 cents for a 12 ounce can, then increased to 75 cents by 2020.
A 16 ounce can cost 99 cents in 2020, and now costs $2.25 in Los Angeles. Following a steady inflation chart, in 2030, that same 16 oz. will cost $3 in 2030, $4 in 2040 and $5.50 in 2050.
If this is what soda will end up costing, you can just imagine how much everything else will cost when you retire.
Use AdvisorCheck to research and compare financial advisors to get you on track.

So, you have $1,000,000 in 2023. Nice.

So, you have $1,000,000 in 2023. Nice.

Or, not so nice. Sure, a number with six zeros after it certainly isn’t nothing, and could go a long way to changing your life, especially if you’re struggling to get by, but is it the end-all-be-all of financial victories?

We won’t spend a ton of time analyzing the power of a million dollars in the present day, because we really want to focus on the future, but it’s worth calling attention to some arenas of thought. And, for sake of this hypothetical, let’s assume you don’t have $1,000,000 in excess or otherwise cannot/do not invest it. If this were real, we’d very definitely encourage investment, but humor us for a bit.

Using one of the fastest growing cities in the United States as our chief example, in Austin, TX the median listing for a home price is $600,000 as of December 2022. When Blank Check aired in 1995, that median was $105,000. In other words, it has nearly sextupled in the last three decades.

That million dollars is already looking pretty fragile, isn’t it?

What about health insurance? In Texas, a standard family of four can expect to pay their way to relative safety for approximately $1,882 a month, with some fluctuation allowed for different types of plans. That’s $22,584 a year. In 1995, it would have been about $720 a month, or $8,640 per year. Assuming you paid for literally nothing else, ever, that means you’d blow through your full $1,000,000 in 44 years, not accounting for kids that fall off insurance plans or inflation over the course of that window.

Oh, but we need to account for inflation, don’t we? Of course, that’s what we’re here for, to see the value of a million dollars after it has suffered the damage of inflation.

So let’s move forward to the not-so-distant future of 2050 and see how our million fairs after 27 years of rising costs.

Retiring in 20 years? Due to inflation, you may need upwards of $2.6 million to maintain your existing lifestyle.
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How Much Will $1,000,000 Be Worth in 2050

How Much Will $1,000,000 Be Worth in 2050

2050. I can imagine it now: everything is more expensive, I probably still don’t own a home, Pokemon is still the biggest money-making intellectual property in the world, our phones are literally built into our bodies, and the Vikings still haven’t won a Super Bowl.

Sorry Vikings fans. I’m not saying anything you don’t already know in your heart.

Let’s shed some light on what $1,000,000 is likely to get us in 2050, focusing on several key categories drawn from the everyday life of an Austin resident. For the sake of this thought experiment, just assume that, magically, you’ve woken up on January 1st of 2050 with exactly a million dollars to your name.

And per the US Inflation Calculator, the last three years of inflation rates (averaged per year) are as follows:

  • 2022 - 8.0%
  • 2021 - 4.7%
  • 2020 - 1.2%

2021 and 2022 have seen substantially higher inflation rates compared to the preceding years. COVID-19 is mostly responsible for this, but it bleeds down into factors like increased government spending, reduced labor supply from lockdowns and restrictions imposed on businesses, international trade network disruptions, greater commodity prices due to supply shortages and elevated consumer demand from those stockpiling goods during pandemic years.

With that in mind, it’s hard to say with accuracy how inflation will look going forward, so we’re going to use two estimates: 3% and 6% for 2050.

McDonalds - Obviously everyone’s orders are different, but for this example we’re going to work with a $9 order.

  • 3% will be $20
  • 6% will be $43

A Gallon of Milk - At the time of this writing, in Austin, TX, a gallon of milk goes for $4.

  • 3% will be $9
  • 6% will be $19

Tennis Shoes - I recently bought a solid, relatively modest pair of tennis shoes for $45.

  • 3% will be $100
  • 6% will be $217

Gasoline - Gas is a little bit trickier to quantify, since it fluctuates so much on a month-by-month basis. However, right now I pay $2.98 per gallon, which I know from recent travels is actually not too bad. A full tank is $47.

  • 3% will be $104
  • 6% will be $227

A Car - Using a brand new, common model of car is probably the best approach to this, so we’ll take the Honda Civic, which currently runs for $26,000.

  • 3% will be $57,754
  • 6% will be $125,381

Car Payments - The average American car payment is approximately $615 per month.

  • 3% will be $1,366
  • 6% will be $2,966

Car Insurance - The average American’s car insurance is $1,630 per year.

  • 3% will be $3,621
  • 6% will be $7,860

Rent - In Austin, the average 1B1B goes for about $1,800.

  • 3% will be $3,998
  • 6% will be $8,680

Homes - In Austin, TX the current average for a house is $600,000.

  • 3% will be $1,332,773
  • 6% will be $2,893,408

Mortgage - In Austin, TX, the current average for a mortgage payment is $2,122.

  • 3% will be $4,714
  • 6% will be $10,233

Phone - The average American phone bill is $114 per month.

  • 3% will be $253
  • 6% will be $550

Utilities - Average cost of utilities in Austin, TX is $150.

  • 3% will be $333
  • 6% will be $723

Internet - Average cost of a normal Spectrum plan is $35.

  • 3% will be $78
  • 6% will be $169

Restaurants - One of my favorite restaurants in Austin, TX is Ramen Tatsuya. An entree, side, and drink usually land me around $25.

  • 3% will be $56
  • 6% will be $121

Dental Insurance - Average dental insurance without any assistance provided by an employer lands around $47 a month.

  • 3% will be $104
  • 6% will be $227

Health Insurance - Average health insurance without any assistance provided by an employer lands around $456 a month.

  • 3% will be $1,013
  • 6% will be $2,199

Vision Insurance - Average vision insurance lands around $15 a month.

  • 3% will be $33
  • 6% will be $72

Life Insurance - The average cost of life insurance is $26 a month.

  • 3% will be $58
  • 6% will be $125

Long Term Care Insurance - For an Average 55-year-old American, they can expect a long term care insurance premium of about $2,220 a year.

  • 3% will be $4,931
  • 6% will be $10,706

Digital Subscriptions (Hulu, Disney+, Netflix, Spotify, etc.) - At the time of this writing, a standard Netflix plan runs at $16, Disney+ is $10, Hulu is $8, and Spotify is $10. Since people usually have several subscriptions active, let’s take these four together for a total of $44.

  • 3% will be $98
  • 6% will be $212

Pet food and supplies - I have a corgi. A bag of dog food, snacks, and a couple toys tends to land me around $65.

  • 3% will be $144
  • 6% will be $313

Haircut - Since this is typically a larger expense for women, we’re going to focus on their hair cuts. An average women’s haircut at local salon “Urban Betty,” which is “run by women, for women,” is listed at $79.

  • 3% will be $175
  • 6% will be $381

Trip to the Movies - If you want to catch the release of a new film on opening weekend, you can expect to pay about $17 for a show.

  • 3% will be $38
  • 6% will be $82

Now…it’s hard to determine exactly how long $1,000,000 would last, because some things are paid out daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly, plus you’d (probably) be making income in the meantime that corresponded to these increased prices. Not too many people buy a house outright.

However, for the sake of this experiment, we’ll take the more conservative (and more hopeful) of these calculations and use them to estimate approximately how long your million dollars would last.

After accounting for a month of groceries, a mortgage, all your subscriptions, pet food, internet, insurance, and other costs (not accounting for any student loans or other debt you may have), we estimate that in 2050 you’ll pay $8,681 per month. That’s at the conservative 3% compound interest rate to factor in an annual inflation rate of 3%. At 6%, it’d be $18,846.

The average household spends $804 a year on their pet. In 2030, those costs will increase to $1,080, $1,452 in 2040 and $1,951 in 2050.
Your other costs will increase at the same rate as well. Is your retirement account prepared to handle those additional costs? It might be time to use AdvisorCheck to research and compare financial advisors to ensure you are on track to hitting your retirement plans.

In other words, your one million dollars would disappear in about 9.5 years (108 months) at best, or 4.4 years (53 months) at worst. You wouldn’t even make it half a decade. All of this is assuming you peacefully pass on a predictable timeline, which of course, if you’re healthy and determined to live as long as possible, isn’t necessarily the case. If you live to 95, your retirement income will need to be prepared to handle those additional years.

Again, that is just an estimate, but even so…a million dollars is NOT the boon it was once considered, and definitely won’t be in the future.

Let’s assume you were hoping to retire in 2050. If you wanted to maintain the standard of living we’ve used up until now, here’s how much you’d need your retirement income to be for 20 years:

  • At 3%, you’d need to have at least $2,083,440.
  • At 6%, you’d need to have at least $4,523,040.

Business Insider wanted to know how much money people had in their 401k’s, one of the most common retirement plans. They looked to Vanguard, who analyzed the data of five million accounts, and learned that the average amount saved for retirement is $129,000. However, that’s a bit deceptive, since it misrepresents how many people are far, far below that number. The median balance is $33,000, and thus more accurately represents how much Americans have saved for retirement. That’s far less than the standard 7% of yearly income over the course of your career. Let’s say you make 60K a year starting at 25, by the time you retire 40 years later your 401K should have at least $168,000, assuming you didn’t get any raises or new, better-paid jobs. That is the minimum, and neither the average, nor the median reflect that.

Here’s the thing, though. People are already realizing that even a million probably won’t cut it. CNBC reports that, according to a Northwestern Mutual study, a lot of people think they need about $1.25 million to retire. As we’ve discussed, that’s woefully low if they want to maintain a good standard of living, but it’s also accounting for today’s prices.

Hold On. Did You Say Over Four Million Dollars…

Hold On. Did You Say Over Four Million Dollars…

Yes, you read that correctly. There is a very real possibility that if you’re hoping to retire around 2050, you’ll need upwards of 4M in your retirement account. We aren’t psychic and can’t see the future, so we may be wrong, but it’s far from impossible. Regardless, we are very confident that a million dollars is not the godsend you think it is.

Please don’t think this is us trying to paint a hopeless situation. We don’t think this is hopeless. We simply believe that if your goal is to save up a million dollars for retirement—as is the goal of many—you will need to reconsider your trajectory and your path to reaching it.

You can’t be expected to make every required change right this minute, but it is wise to start modifying your lifestyle to save for your eventual retirement, with these numbers in mind.

According to a report from CNBC, 34% of all Millennials fear that they have fallen short of their retirement needs. Gen X and Boomers are also feeling the heat, with many in the latter retiring, but not all of them retiring with enough savings to stay out of the workforce.

If you’ve internalized the need for change, good. That’s step one. Too many people overlook inflation, and so they don’t think they need to save more for retirement. Bringing up the concerns you have with a financial advisor is the next step you want to take to start down the right path. They can show you what inflation is going to be, and grant you the insight and guidance needed to gather the resources you’ll need to make it.

Do you already have a financial advisor helping you on your way? We love to hear it. Make sure they’re on your side by keeping up with their professional conduct through our free AdvisorCheck membership. If you don’t have an advisor of your own yet, you can easily find one of your own by utilizing our search tool

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Written by Cooper Barham

Fact checked by Billy Quirk

Reviewed by KJ Kim

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