Most Americans Have Less Than $50K in Retirement Savings — Here’s What You Should Have

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How much you need to have saved for retirement depends on your age and your individual circumstances, but even taking this into consideration, most Americans are not where they need to be. A recent GOBankingRates survey found that most Americans have less than $50,000 saved for retirement — the majority (36%) have less than $10,000 saved and an additional 27% have between $10,000 and $50,000.

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Here’s a look at how much Americans typically have saved at every age, and what to do to catch up if you’re behind where you need to be.

The Majority of Americans of All Ages Have Less Than $10K in Retirement Savings

One would hope that older Americans are much less likely to have $10,000 or less in retirement savings than younger folks, but this, unfortunately, is not the case. The survey found that the majority of Americans fall into this savings range, regardless of age. However, the percentage is slightly less for seniors than for other age groups.

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The survey found that those ages 25 to 34 are the most likely to have $10,000 or less saved for retirement, with 38% of this age group reporting that their retirement savings fell into this range. Among those ages 35 to 44 and 55 to 64, 37% have $10,000 or less; 36% of Americans ages 18 to 24 have $10,000 or less; 35% of Americans ages 45 to 54 have $10,000 or less; and 31% of those ages 65 and older have $10,000 or less.

On the plus side, those ages 65 and up were the most likely to have more than $750,000 saved for retirement, with 12% reporting they had reached this milestone compared to 4% of the general population. An additional 5% of seniors reported having between $500,000 and $750,000.

Still, that means most retirees — and the majority of those nearing retirement — likely don’t have enough saved to live comfortably in retirement.

“I would say [you need] at least $500,000, but you really want to be closer to the $1 million mark for what is nowadays considered a comfortable retirement,” said Anessa Custovic, Ph.D., investment advisor representative at Cardinal Retirement Planning.

However, there are exceptions to this rule.

“This also depends on your finances,” Custovic said. “If you have some sort of guaranteed pension or annuity or income floor, then you don’t necessarily need to have $1 million in cash sitting there.”

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How Much You Should Have Saved for Retirement at Every Age

If you don’t have a pension to rely on, you should aim to reach certain savings milestones by certain ages.

According to Fidelity, by age 30, you should have a year’s salary in retirement savings. Based on the average salary at this age as sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most 30-year-olds should have about $50,000 in retirement savings — so this means that many younger Americans are on track. The survey found that 31% of Americans ages 18 to 24 have between $10,000 and $50,000 in retirement savings, and 30% of Americans ages 25 to 34 have between $10,000 and $50,000 in retirement savings.

By age 40, Fidelity advises having 3x your income saved. The average salary among 40-year-olds is about $59,000, which equates to a savings goal of $177,000. Among Americans ages 35 to 44, only 10% have reached this goal, the GOBankingRates survey found.

By age 50, the percentage of Americans who are where they should be is even smaller. Fidelity advises having 6x your income saved by this age, and based on the average salary among 50-year-olds, which is about $60,000, the average American should have $360,000 in retirement savings. Among Americans ages 45 to 54, only 4% have reached this goal.

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What To Do If You’re Behind on Retirement Savings

If you, like many Americans, haven’t reached the benchmarks listed above, there are some things you can do to catch up.

If you’re in your 20s, the good news is that time is on your side, and you have plenty of time to reach your retirement goals — even if your goal is an impossible-seeming $1 million.

“Although it might sound intimidating, the key is starting early,” said Ben Waterman, co-founder and COO at Strabo, a global portfolio tracker. “If you start at 20, you’ll need to put away less than $300 per month on average to get to $1 million by 65, assuming a 7% annual return. The key is little and often from an early age.”

In your 30s and 40s, increase your contributions annually and/or whenever you get a raise. The best way to make sure you increase your savings rate is to set this up to happen automatically.

“Behavioral economics has shown this is an effective way to save, even if it doesn’t seem like it,” Custovic said. “A little goes a long way.”

If you’re in your 50s and you’re behind, it’s time to make some sacrifices to contribute as much as possible to your retirement accounts. At this time, you’re eligible to make “catch-up” contributions.

“Individuals age 50 and over can potentially contribute $6,000 plus an additional $1,000 per year to a traditional or Roth IRA,” said Kyle Wetters, CFP, co-founder and managing partner at Tenet Wealth Partners. “Within 401(k) and 403(b) plans, these same individuals may have the ability to contribute $20,500 plus an additional $6,500 per year to catch up.”

If you’re in your 60s and don’t have enough saved to live the lifestyle you want, you may have to reevaluate your retirement plans.

“Consider downsizing or moving in retirement,” Custovic said. “If you own a home and can sell it, take some of that equity and use it towards retirement.”

More From GOBankingRates

Methodology: GOBankingRates surveyed 997 Americans ages 18 and older from across the country between Aug. 9 and Aug. 11, 2022, asking 16 different questions: (1) How much money do you currently have saved for retirement?; (2) How much money do you think you’ll need to retire?; (3) Realistically, at what age do you want to be retired?; (4) At what age did you start saving for retirement?; (5) What worries you financially about retirement? (Select all that apply.); (6) Do you plan to work in retirement?; (7) What assets do you have in your retirement portfolio? (Select all that apply.); (8) How has the current inflation impacted your retirement plans?; (9) How much of your retirement do you plan to fund with Social Security?; (10) How do you feel about the future of Social Security when you retire?; (11) What percentage of your salary are you currently investing for retirement?; (12) Are you planning to move after your retirement?; (13) Where is your ideal place to retire?; (14) What government programs do you plan to use for your retirement? (Select all that apply.); (15) Do you have a pension plan?; and (16) How much do you think the average American has saved at the time they retire? GOBankingRates used PureSpectrum’s survey platform to conduct the poll.

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About the Author

Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert. 
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