One of the most difficult things about saving for retirement is that there are no clear benchmarks to follow. No one can look at your retirement balance and tell you it’s enough for a comfortable future. It all depends on your age, how much you’re contributing, what you’re investing in, and your expectations for retirement.
That said, it can still be useful to know how you stack up versus other savers your age. Below, we’ll look at what one recent survey has to say about that, along with some tips on how you can boost your retirement savings.
Here’s how much the average saver has for retirement
A recent survey by financial services firm BlackRock (NYSE: BLK) broke down the average retirement balance by age and by whether or not participants had access to a workplace retirement account. Here are the results:
Average Balance With a Workplace Retirement Account
Average Balance Without a Workplace Retirement Account
21 to 30
31 to 40
41 to 50
51 to 60
One big caveat here is that all participants surveyed reported at least $5,000 in retirement savings. Those who don’t have any money saved for retirement were left out, which skews the results upward.
If you’re nowhere near the averages for your age right now, that doesn’t mean you should panic. And if you’re ahead of these numbers, that doesn’t mean you can relax and take it easy. Everyone has personal retirement goals and a timeline. You need to know how much you have to save for your retirement goals and then come up with a plan that will help you get there.
How to start saving more for retirement
You should take steps to boost your retirement savings as soon as possible if you know you aren’t saving enough. The longer your money remains invested before you have to withdraw it, the more it will likely be worth when you do. And when you can count on more earnings, you can reduce how much you set aside for retirement each month.
If you have access to a workplace retirement plan, stashing money there is a good start. These plans often have high annual contribution limits. You can put away up to $20,500 in a 401(k) this year, or $27,000 if you’re 50 or older. Most workplace retirement accounts will also give you a tax break this year for contributing.
Some employers offer a 401(k) match, too, through which they’ll give you additional money for your retirement if you contribute first. It’s best to claim this full match every year whenever possible because it’s free money.
Those who don’t have access to a 401(k) or other workplace retirement plan should open an IRA. These accounts have lower contribution limits: just $6,000 in 2022 ($7,000 if 50 or older). But they give you the flexibility to choose when you want to pay taxes on your money — in the year you make the contribution or the year you withdraw your funds — and you have a much greater variety of investment options.
Should you max out your IRA, you could put a little extra cash into a health savings account (HSA). Though they’re intended for medical savings, these tax-advantaged accounts work well for retirement funds, too. Individuals may contribute up to $3,650 in 2022, while families may contribute up to $7,300 as long as they have a health insurance plan with a deductible of $1,400 for individuals or $2,800 for families. Money you put into an HSA reduces your taxable income for the year, and if you use it for medical expenses at any age, it’s tax-free.
If you’re interested in these accounts, you can open one with many banks and brokers. It’s best to choose a provider that enables you to invest your HSA funds rather than leaving it in cash if you’re using it for retirement savings.
Once you choose your retirement accounts, you should set up a regular contribution schedule, ideally every month or pay period. If you’re not able to contribute as much as you’d like, start with what you can. Try to increase your contributions by 1% of your income annually, and be on the lookout for opportunities to cut costs to free more cash for retirement savings.
When nothing else works, it’s time to rethink your plan. Delaying retirement might not appeal to you, but it can do wonders for your finances. It gives you additional time to save and allows your current investments to grow for longer while also reducing the cost of your retirement. Even a few months’ delay can make a significant difference.
You can use other people’s savings balances as a baseline, but they’re chasing different goals. At the end of the day, you need to follow your own plan.
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