Saving for retirement is something that many people put off until it becomes difficult for them to make up for lost time (and money). In order to avoid finding out that you do not have enough to get by (or simply maintain your standard of living) in your “golden years,” it is important to know exactly where you stand and where you should be financially in order to make any necessary changes as early as possible. By taking the time now to find out how much you will need to have saved and figure out what you have to do to get there, you can have peace of mind that your financial future is as secure as possible.
In This Guide
- Average Savings by Age
- Income Example
- How Much Do You Need to Retire?
- How to Improve Your Retirement Savings
- Life After Retirement
Average Retirement Savings by Age
Income and savings can be taboo subjects that many people avoid asking about or discussing. This can make it difficult figure out if you’re on the right track or even in the right ballpark. Thankfully, there are organizations that research and analyze anonymous financial data to determine and report on and the state of salaries, expenditures, savings, etc. It is important to note that the following statistics represent the current state of workers’ retirement savings and do not represent the ideal or target level of savings for each age group.
The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) publishes an annual report of their findings from their Retirement Confidence Survey. The survey came to two main conclusions: that Americans are living longer on average and that they don’t have anywhere close enough saved up for retirement.
According to the 2012 report, the average savings by age group are as follows:
• Workers younger than 35 have an average of $6,000 in savings
• Individuals between 35 and 44 have about $22,500
• Workers between the ages of 45 and 54 have slightly less than $44,000
• Those aged 55 and 64 (the baby boomers), have saved around $65,000
• People over the age of 65 have about $56,000
If you look at things from the standpoint of their savings accounts, it is obvious that most baby boomers will not have a large enough nest egg to even meet basic expenses (if they expect to live anywhere near 15 years after retirement). Of course pensions and Social Security are two other primary sources of retirement income, but both have seen shrinkage in the last few years. Even when these factors are considered, the statistics suggest most people should save more to ensure that they will still be able to enjoy their senior years. Add to this that the life expectancy for someone retiring this year could be as high as 85 for men and 87 for women (currently 79 and 81 respectively) and you have an additional 6 years of retirement you might need to save for. It might be helpful to note that the average retirement age is currently 62 and a typical length of retirement is 18 years.
For example, even if a senior was to retire with $100,000 in savings, retired at 65 and lived until they were 85, which would only average out to $5,000 a year (not taking inflation or today’s negligible interest rates into account). Add to that a private pension of $10,000 and average monthly social security benefit of $1,230 ($14,760 per year) in 2012 (according to the U.S. Social Security Administration), this adds up to $29,760 which is considerably less than the average household income in the US of $50,054 in 2011.
Overall, the EBRI survey found that 57% report having less than $25,000 in household investments and savings (not counting home and pension benefits). Older individuals had more saved up, but this average much lower than it should be. In fact, the percentage of those reported having saved anything for retirement is at 66% which is down from 75% in 2009. Another recent study by Fidelity Investments predicts that baby boomers will fall about 44% short on average of the requirement income they require.
What is even more shocking is that many people actually believe that they are saving enough for their retirement according to a 2006 survey by Allstate Insurance. The reason for this belief probably stems from the fact that many of them never actually sat down and calculated their retirement finances. In fact, the EBRI reported that only 46% of those surveyed said that they and/or their spouse have calculated how much they need to have saved up in order to live comfortably during retirement.
How Much do You Need to Retire?
If you are anywhere near the average for your age group, then you are not saving enough and you need to rethink your strategy to ensure that you have at least the minimum recommended amount. That said, there is no target amount that is right (and attainable) for everyone. There are number of different factors that can affect how much you need to save (these are questions you should ask yourself while planning). What age do you plan to retire? What will your lifestyle be? Do you want to travel? What will the cost of living be in that area? How much debt do you have? Do you want to leave money to your children? Now add to that random variables such as unexpected healthcare and emergency expenses, how long you will live, the inflation rate and the return you get on your investments and you can see how complicated the calculations can get.
According to experts, a good rule is to plan to have enough to provide 65% to 75% of your current annual income per year. Aon Hewitt (an international consulting firm) say 11 times your final salary level (in addition to Social Security) is a good target to aim for to retire at 65 and maintain the same standard of living. It takes into consideration future medical costs and inflation. This income can come from a combination of many sources including Social Security, working part time, pension, individual retirement account (IRA), a savings account and investments such as bonds and dividend paying stocks. When doing this calculation, don’t forget to factor in an average inflation rate of 3% or so for every year. To do this, multiply your yearly salary by 1.03 and take 65-75% of that number. For the year after that, you’ll have to multiply the original result of yearly salary times 1.03 by another 1.03 and take 65-75% of that number and add it to the total. There are a number of calculators available online to help you do this.
How to Get Your Retirement Savings above Average
The best way to start improving your retirement savings is simply to cut down on your expenses and save the difference. Depending on your situation, you may need make some sacrifices to find ways to cut your expenses. In some cases, you may simply need to reduce your amount of vacation time or the amount you spend on hobbies.
Never raid your retirement fund, as it can be difficult to make up lost savings. Of course, one cannot always predict what direction life will take, so it is good to have a separate emergency fund to take care of unexpected expenses.
Check to see what types of plans your employer offers. Investments plans like 401K are great because they protect your dividends from taxes and they provide good interest rates. Some employers may even match your savings up to a specified percentage of your salary. Other good alternatives to a 401K are a retirement accounts like IRAs or mutual funds.
Adjust the allocation of your assets. Young people should invest in opportunities that are higher risk, higher return, but everyone should adjust to lower risk, lower return vehicles as they get older.
Delay retirement for 1 or 2 years (or more). This can make a huge difference because the benefits are two-fold. First, it brings in a year or two worth of salary. Second, it reduces the number of years you will have to rely on your retirement savings. Working part time during retirement is another option that has the same (but relatively smaller) effect.
Increase contributions as you age. As you get older, your financial responsibilities slowly disappear. The kids move out, you pay off your mortgage (finally), you only need one vehicle instead of two, etc. This is a great chance to increase the amount you put away using this extra money instead of using it on vacations, new cars, etc.
Downsize your home/lifestyle. Unless your area was hit hard by the real estate decline, consider selling your home, using a portion to buy a smaller, less expensive house (in an area with lower taxes) and investing the remainder in your retirement.
Generally, you should be careful about how much money you put in stocks because you can never tell when the market will swing in a negative direction. However, a healthy investment portfolio should have at least a small portion in stocks and they are great way to diversify your finances. For reduced risk and recurring income, buy stocks that pay dividends on an annual or semi-annual basis.
Life after Retirement
If you plan well and are able to meet the cost of living after retirement, then you can focus on enjoying all that those years have to offer. Generally, it is up to the individual to have the right attitude in order to find the potential, sense of purpose and enjoyment in retired life.
Many people fail to make the adjustment because they have become too set in their ways. Some steps that they can take to adapt to the next stage of their lives include:
Finding new interests – Try new things to figure out what is that you want to do with your free time. If you are unable to follow your old pursuits, then find new ones that interest you. For example, think about taking up ballroom dancing, curling, bowling or swimming as these activities can help you and your spouse stay healthy while providing plenty of fun in the process.
Help others – One of the most satisfying ways to spend one’s retirement is giving back to the community. Think about helping the poor, the homeless, children, animals and the sick. There are so many ways you can use your time and effort to help those in need. You may feel more purpose in life than you ever did before by giving back.
Become a teacher, mentor or coach – Pass on your experience and knowledge to the younger generation.
Start a small business – Make some extra money and use up some mental and physical energy in the process. This could involve anything from selling products online, dog walking, babysitting, gardening, writing or painting.
If reading this as stressed you out, just sit back, take a deep breath and go back through this guide (taking notes this time) and bring up these points when you’re developing a plan with your spouse/family and a certified financial planner. No matter where you’re at with your savings or what your current financial position is, there is still time to turn things around. Talk to a financial advisor and they will work with you to create a realistic and attainable plan for getting your retirement savings back on track. Don’t put it off. Get started today.
Please note that the statistics and advice in this guide is for informational purposes only and should not take the place of professional financial advice.
What are your thoughts on the current state of retirement savings? How do you save for retirement and how much do you have saved?