A class at the University of Alabama at Birmingham is teaching students how to become a millionaire without answering a single question from Regis Philbin.

The university is offering the "How to Become a Millionaire" class as part of its special studies program. The one-day class teaches students how to save and invest their money, so they can retire with at least $1 million. Says instructor John Pelham, "You need $1 million to retire comfortably. Most people don't have a good handle on what they're going to need to retire comfortably."

Pelham, who is an assistant managing director at the Birmingham financial planning firm of Nowlin & Associates, uses the classroom to teach financial planning skills necessary to help people retire comfortably. This includes lessons on investing in the stock market, the concept of compound interest and the effect of inflation, he said.

Many people are capable of retiring with $1 million with the proper planning, said Pelham, who has taught the class for three years.

A key consideration is inflation, because as time goes by the purchasing power of a dollar becomes less and less.

For example, a 26-year-old interested in retiring at age 60 with enough savings and investments to create a $100,000-a-year income needs to follow a financial plan to eventually create a $379,000 income stream, he said.

This is because by the time the 26-year-old retires, $379,000 will be the equivalent of $100,000 in today's economy, once a 4 percent inflation rate is considered.

It will take about $8.5 million in investments and savings to achieve this goal, Pelham said.

It's staggering figures such as these that help Pelham drive home the most important point of the class.

"I try to get across that to be a millionaire you have to start early," he said. "You need to start young."

But people of all ages can benefit from the financial advice and tips on how to improve their financial situation for retirement, he said.

About 18 students typically sign up for the class when it is offered, and they come in a wide variety of ages, Pelham said.

People have become more interested in financial planning after hearing the stock market success stories of other investors, agreed Robert McLeod, a University of Alabama finance professor. Planning for retirement has become more critical because people are living longer and they want to maintain the lifestyle they had when they were working.

"The expectations of retirement have been (raised) up," he said.