Average US Retirement Savings Is $168K, Survey Says — Who’s Ahead, Who’s Behind, and What Assets Should You Depend On?

couple looking forward to the future and contemplating their retirement age and social security

Ask any five financial experts how much money you should have saved for retirement by a certain age and you’re likely to get five different answers. The one thing most agree on overall, though, is that Americans don’t save as much as they should.

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There have been positive developments, however. Recent studies show that younger Americans have greater access to and higher participation in retirement plans than previous generations, according to a new survey from ConsumerAffairs, a for-profit company that provides consumer guides and information. It cited one study showing that millennials had higher balances in their 401(k)s than Gen Xers did at the same age.

The ConsumerAffairs survey of 1,000 Americans (including 205 retirees) found that the average retirement savings among respondents is $167,944. That’s a much higher figure than you’ll find in other analyses — including a 2017 report from the Government Accountability Office, which said that the median retirement savings was just more than $107,000 for Americans between the ages of 55 and 64.

By generation, retirement savings provided by ConsumerAffairs respondents broke down as follows:

  • Boomers: $404,664
  • Gen X: $184,861
  • Millennials: $90,648
  • Gen Z: $35,570

Those figures stack up pretty well against the average savings computed by other sources. A November 2021 article on the Synchrony Bank website, citing data from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, said the median savings for Americans in their 20s is $16,000. Other age cohorts broke down as follows: Americans in their 30s had $45,000 saved up; those in their 40s had $63,000; those in their 50s had $117,000; and those in their 60s had $172,000.

Retire Comfortably

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One rule of thumb cited by Synchrony is that Americans in their 30s should have one to two times their annual salary saved for retirement. Those in their 40s should have three to four times their annual salary; those in their 50s should have six to seven times their annual salary; and those in their 60s should have eight to 10 times their annual salary.

Although the ConsumerAffairs respondents seem to be better positioned for retirement than people surveyed in other polls, many respondents still believe they are behind financially. For example, only 14% of retirees believe they’ve achieved their dream retirement situation, while 26% remain very worried about money.

Gen Xers were the least confident (40%) that they are on track to retire at their desired age. They were nearly evenly split between wanting to retire at 61 or older (52%) and at 60 or younger (48%). In contrast, about two-thirds (66%) of Gen Z respondents said they wanted to retire at or before 60, and 56% were confident they’d be able to retire when they want.

Nearly six in 10 respondents said they plan to keep working after retirement to earn extra income. Gen Z had the highest percentage of respondents (64%) saying they’ll keep working post-retirement. Only 12% of respondents overall said they wouldn’t continue working after retiring.

Retire Comfortably

In terms of what kinds of assets Americans are using to fund their retirements, here is what the ConsumerAffairs study found:

  • 71% plan to depend on savings outside of retirement funds in retirement
  • 64% plan to depend on employer-sponsored retirement plans
  • 48% plan to depend on retirement funds outside of work
  • 40% plan to depend on stocks
  • 36% plan to depend on real estate

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.

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