You’re Probably Not Saving Enough for Retirement — Here’s Why

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The Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances recently began its 2022 study, but experts are looking at the results from 2019, the most recent year of the survey — and the picture isn’t pretty.

In 2019, the survey discovered that the median amount of savings in Americans’ retirement accounts was just $65,000. Although this figure did not account for the age of respondents, CNBC pointed out, the data shows it’s still a concerning situation for older generations who are closer to retirement.

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Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 hold a median of just $134,000 in savings, while those under the age of 35 have just $13,000.

“This survey is one of the nation’s primary sources of information on the financial condition of different types of families,” Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell said in press release announcing the newest survey.

Given the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on American families, it’s unlikely the financial landscape has improved for most families since 2019 — especially when it comes to retirement planning.

Retire Comfortably

“Approximately half of Americans are at risk of not being able to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living after they stop working,” Angie Chen, a research economist at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, told CNBC.

So how much should you have saved? Economists and other financial experts use different formulas to help people calculate retirement goals. The Rule of 25 suggests saving 25 times your expected annual expenses. But it can be hard to predict your retirement expenses in an era of high inflation. If you have debt you intend to pay off, you may be able to live on less than you do now in retirement. On the other hand, if you’d like to travel and enjoy experiences in retirement, you may need a bigger budget.

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Other guidelines suggest that lower-income households should aim to save 80% of their income, and the rest will come from social security benefits. Higher-income households can save less — just 67% — since their cost-of-living would presumably go down in retirement.

To achieve this, experts say, lower-income individuals would need to save 11% of their income starting at age 25 if they want to retire at age 62, middle-income earners would have to save 15%, and higher-income individuals would have to save 16%. This formula doesn’t paint the whole picture, though, because if someone starts as a low-wage earner at 25, it doesn’t mean they will stay in that situation for life.

Retire Comfortably

Many experts say that it’s counterproductive to try to set target savings goals or even try to achieve this level of savings rates. If someone doesn’t start saving for retirement until later in life, they might have to save at seemingly impossible rates to reach their goals.

Instead, take a realistic look at how much you have saved now and where you can increase your saving to do just a little better each year. “Setting big targets that you can’t reach is worse than taking smaller steps that fit with where you are in life,” certified financial planner Jude Boudreaux told CNBC.

Find Out: The Average Retirement Age in Every State

If you do find yourself behind your retirement goals, don’t make aggressive investments to try to make up for lost time. You could lose more than you stand to earn with risky investments.

Instead, consider delaying retirement and reducing expenses so you can save just a little bit more in a well-diversified portfolio to get closer to your goals.

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About the Author

Dawn Allcot is a full-time freelance writer and content marketing specialist who geeks out about finance, e-commerce, technology, and real estate. Her lengthy list of publishing credits include Bankrate, Lending Tree, and Chase Bank. She is the founder and owner of GeekTravelGuide.net, a travel, technology, and entertainment website. She lives on Long Island, New York, with a veritable menagerie that includes 2 cats, a rambunctious kitten, and three lizards of varying sizes and personalities – plus her two kids and husband. Find her on Twitter, @DawnAllcot.

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