How Much Should I Save for Retirement?

How much should I save for retirement? It’s a question being asked by every generation, but it’s not generally an easy formula to calculate.

Older folks who religiously put money away each month into their 401(k)s saw their accounts decimated only a few years ago when the markets crashed, and now need to catch up — fast. Younger people who are just starting out, on the other hand, might not have a lot to put into a retirement savings account, but can benefit from time and compounding interest.

How Much Should I Save for Retirement?

Financial experts estimate that you’ll need approximately 70 to 90 percent of your pre-retirement income per year, but it’s also important to set realistic goals and project your retirement expenses based on your needs and lifestyle.

You’ll also want to determine how much you must save to close the gap between what Social Security and other income will provide. Following are some tips to help get your retirement savings plan on track and calculate how much you need to save for retirement.

Related: 6 Retirement Planning Tips for Late Starters

Consider Your Needs

When you’re making your retirement calculations, you’ll want to factor in that some expenses will likely increase during retirement, like health insurance premiums and prescription medicines. Remember that other costs such as work-related and home expenses, loans and some insurance premiums might decrease. Illness, temporary loss of income or caring for an elderly parent could derail your retirement savings plans. Include a cushion for the unexpected.

Review Your Projected Social Security Benefits Estimate

Each year, the Social Security Administration sends you a Personal Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement showing projected benefits at age 62, your full retirement age and age 70. This can help you determine how much you may need to supplement Social Security benefits. You can also find the statement online at

According to the Social Security Administration, if you were born between 1943 and 1954, your full retirement age is 66. If you choose to take Social Security benefits earlier, here’s how monthly benefits are likely to be reduced, depending on the age you decide to retire:

  • 25% less per month at 62
  • 20% less per month at 63
  • 13.3% less per month at 64
  • 6.7% less per month at 65

Ask USAA: How Do I Know How Much I Need to Save for Retirement

Steps to Take Now in Financial Planning for Retirement

Using the information above, you can calculate a rough number of how much you’ll want to have saved and find an affordable retirement age. Now, you need to start working toward saving up for retirement. Here’s what you can do now to start your retirement fund or to grow it faster.

Maximize Your Retirement Plan Contributions

If  you’re under age 50, you can contribute a maximum of $17,500 to your 401(k) plan in 2014, and $5,500 to your IRA. If you’re age 50 or older, you might have the chance to put away even more with the “catch up” contribution of up to $23,000 to your IRA or $6,500 to your IRA. Additionally, a Saver’s Credit can make you eligible for a tax credit worth up to $2,000 if you’re married filing jointly or $1,000 if you file individually.

Don’t Invest Too Conservatively

When thinking about how much to save, to make the most of your retirement you want to carefully balance how to invest aggressively enough without jeopardizing your financial future. Getting professional help in choosing investments and financial planning for retirement can provide valuable assistance. Remember, a diversified portfolio is key.

Start Spending Less

If you don’t have one, now is the time to create a budget. For one month, track how you spend your money. This helps determine where to cut back and redirect your savings toward your retirement.

Keep reading: What to Do When Your Job Offers an Awful Retirement Plan

Reaching Retirement Age: How to Stretch Retirement Savings

Once you’re retired, you can make your assets last several more years if you draw on money from taxable accounts first and let your tax-advantaged accounts compound for as long as possible.

At age 70 and a half, you’re required to begin taking minimum distributions from your retirement account. But even that money can grow if you don’t use all of it for living expenses. By investing a portion or all of your yearly distribution, you may continue to increase the life of your retirement nest egg. You might also need to supplement your retirement savings with part-time work.

By focusing on cutting expenses and diverting your funds to retirement savings now, you’re taking the most important steps to creating a solid financial future.

Photo: jservigna via Flickr Creative Commons

  • Peter

    Saving for retirement is a joke, I’m going to be working until the day I die.

  • Mya P.

    Here is some other good advice I saw posted:

    1) Pay off your debts as fast as you possibly can. If this means living in a crappy studio apartment and eating ramen everyday for a couple of years, do it. If you want to buy a car, get a reliable beater. Get insurance for $25/month from 4AutoInsuranceQuote. Forget about buying a house until your debts are paid off.

    2) Once you are out of debt, stay out of debt. The only exception to this rule is a vehicle and a house. If you want to get a nicer car, buy used and be able to pay it off in a year or 2.

    3) If you are going to stay in the same spot for at least 10 years, buy a house, preferably with at least a little bit of usable land. An acre is good, 5 acres is better. Take the amount you are pre-approved for and cut it in half – that’s how much you should spend on a house. Come to the table with at least 20% down and make a couple of extra mortgage payments every year. If you’re going to be transferred or relocate every 5 years, forget about buying a house and rent instead.

    4) Develop multiple revenue streams. Do contract work. Start a business on the side. Invest in a business as a silent partner. Build websites. Buy and sell antiques. Acquire rental property. Sell something that generates residual income. Learn to play the currency markets or trade stocks. Do whatever you can to generate income from multiple sources.

    5) Grow these multiple revenue streams to the point that they generate enough consistent and reliable cash flow to replace your current income.

    6) Make as much as you can. Save as much as you can. Give away as much as you can.

    7) Retire!- the sooner, the better. Be sure you understand that “retirement” doesn’t necessarily mean you stop working, it just means having the freedom to do what you want to do, when you want to do it.

    Don’t be foolish and fall into the trap of trying to measure your wealth by the value of your assets. Markets change. Valuations fluctuate. Instead, measure your wealth by the amount of cash flow your assets consistently generate.

  • Harry

    For the best chance to retire on your terms start saving/investing early in life and be consistent (save with every paycheck). Taking advantage of a matching 401k plan should be a no brainer. The power of compounding is lost on many people. Also maxing out contributions when possible, eliminating debt, avoiding risks with your nest egg, planning for multiple streams of income once retired (social security, pensions, dividends, part time work, etc.) and making catch up contributions once you reach 50 should all be part of everyone’s plan.. I recently found the site Retirement And Good Living which provides information on all these issues as well as finances, health, retirement locations, part time work and also has a great blog of guest posts about a variety of retirement topics.

  • Angelo_Frank

    Live on a shoestring for 40 years, have a diversified portfolio of savings vehicles, and you might have enough saved for retirement to supplement Social Security. Hopefully you stay healthy, otherwise rising health care costs will deplete your savings fairly quickly.