New Survey Says You Probably Aren’t Saving Enough for Retirement

Most non-retired Americans are underfunded for their senior years, according to a new survey from real estate research company Anytime Estimate.

The study surveyed 1,002 non-retired Americans in May to gauge their retirement savings progress. The responses paint a disturbing conclusion. Most people are heading toward a major lifestyle downgrade in retirement. Four telling statistics include:

One in three (37%) pre-retirees aren’t saving anything for retirement. Among those non-savers, nearly 40% have zero balances in retirement accounts. This group either never started saving or they’ve spent any previously saved funds.
More than 40% of savers have less than $50,000 saved, including 16% who have no retirement savings.
Baby boomers, who are closing in on retirement age, have saved a median of $112,000.
Only 9% of adults have retirement balances of $400,000 or more.

Fifty thousand dollars or $112,000 in savings isn’t enough to pay the bills for 30 years of retirement. Even $400,000 is probably insufficient. But how short are these savers of living comfortably in retirement? The answer depends on their income. Let’s walk through some numbers you can apply to your own finances.

Image source: Getty Images.

How much do you really need to retire?

There are four steps to estimating how much you need to retire. Keep in mind that this estimate will be rough — a guideline based on assumptions. Plan on revisiting this analysis annually, so you can refine your target with new information.

Estimate your retirement living expenses. Plan for a retirement budget that’s at least 80% of your working income. You’ll spend less on retirement contributions, payroll taxes, and work-related expenses. But those line items will be partially offset by higher medical expenses, as well as travel and entertainment costs.
Estimate Social Security and other retirement income sources. On average, Social Security replaces 40% of your working income — if you wait until full retirement age to claim. Collect Social Security earlier and your income replacement rate could be closer to 35%.

Note that Social Security may undergo some changes over the next 10 years. The trust fund that helps fund Social Security has a projected shortfall hitting in the 2030s. Legislative changes can fix that shortfall, but those changes may also affect income replacement rates going forward. If you’re worried about Social Security, assume no more than 30% income replacement.
Your savings funds the gap. Your savings must fund whatever portion of your budget is not covered by Social Security and other income (like pensions). Take the budget that’s 80% of your working income as an example. You could cover that with 30% income replacement from Social Security plus 50% income replacement from your savings.
Estimate target savings. Next, translate your required income replacement from savings into a target savings balance. To do that, divide the percentage — 50% in our example — by 0.04. The answer is 12.5, which means you need a savings balance that’s 12.5 times your current income.

The 0.04 comes from the 4% rule. The rule estimates that your savings should last for at least 30 years if you withdraw 4% each year, with an adjustment for inflation.

For example, let’s say your income is $55,000 annually. Multiplying your salary by 12.5 gives you a target savings balance of $687,500 — a number relatively few savers have reached, according to the Anytime Estimate survey.

Take control of your retirement

The average saver may not be doing enough for retirement — but you don’t have to be average. Why not commit to a better retirement today?

To do that, increase your contributions. It’s all right to start small if money is already tight. You might bump up your contribution by $25 or $50, for example. Chances are, the impact to your budget will be less than you’d expect.

On the other hand, the impact of the increase to your retirement balance could be dramatic once those contributions grow for 10 or 20 years. At that point, you can look back and smile as you remember the day you strengthened your financial future.

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