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The Most Important Retirement Table You’ll Ever See

There’s a good chance that looking forward to retirement, when you won’t have to punch a clock, give a PowerPoint presentation, teach a class, answer customer service calls, insert catheters, or plaster over drywall. But if you’re just looking forward to it while not preparing for it, you may be setting yourself up for a lot of trouble.

These important retirement tables can serve as a good wake-up call for you — or for anyone you care about, if you share them.

Two smiling people standing outdoors.

Image source: Getty Images.

Some important retirement tables

Before we get to the most important retirement table, here are some other also-important tables. Let’s start with an alarming one. It shows how much workers in the U.S. have socked away for retirement, per the 2023 Retirement Confidence Survey.

Amount in savings and investments*

Percentage of workers

Less than $1,000


$1,000 to $9,999


$10,000 to $24,999


$25,000 to $49,999


$50,000 to $99,999


$100,000 to $250,000


$250,000 or more


Data source: 2023 Retirement Confidence Survey.
*excluding the value of a primary home

See? Very alarming. Clearly, you’ll need some kind of nest egg when you retire, as Social Security is far from sufficient for most people. Here — see what you might receive from Social Security now, if you were retired.

Per month


Average retirement benefit for retired workers



Average retirement benefit for spouses of retired workers



Data source: Social Security Administration, as of December 2023.

I included spousal Social Security benefits because they’re available to spouses with little or no benefits of their own — and they can even be available to ex-spouses.

By this time, you may be worried about whether you’ll be short of funds in retirement, and wondering whether you’re saving enough. You might be wondering how to invest so that you’ll likely grow your money at a respectable clip, while not taking on too much risk. To address that question, check out the table below. It shows the returns of various asset classes between 1802 and 2021, per Wharton Business School professor Jeremy Siegel.

Asset Class

Annualized Nominal Return









U.S. dollar


Data source: Stocks for the Long Run, Jeremy Siegel.

The lesson is that over long periods, stocks have outperformed just about any other kind of investment. (Money that you’ll need within shorter periods, such as less than five or even 10 years, shouldn’t be in stocks, lest the market swoon just before you plan to sell.)

Fortunately, you don’t have to become a stock market genius in order to build wealth powerfully with it. You can simply plow a lot of money into low-fee index funds over many years. Index funds can be all you need — along with a lot of patience and perseverance, of course.

Here are some index funds to consider:

  • iShares Core S&P 500 ETF (NYSEMKT: IVV)
  • Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (NYSEMKT: VTI)
  • Vanguard Total World Stock ETF (NYSEMKT: VT)
  • Vanguard Growth ETF (NYSEMKT: VUG)

The most important retirement table

You may well be thinking that you need to build a bigger nest egg, and that you should do so by investing your long-term dollars in one or more index funds. Great! It’s time to unveil what I think is the most important retirement table, below. It shows how much you might amass over time if you average 8% annually.

Growing at 8% for

$7,500 invested annually

$15,000 invested annually

5 years



10 years



15 years



20 years



25 years



30 years



35 years



40 years



Data source: Calculations by author.

The table is powerful, because it shows what people like you and me can amass, if we’re diligent about saving and investing over a long time. (I chose an 8% growth rate because the stock market has averaged annual returns of close to 10% over many decades, but it could be more or less than that over your particular period.)

The table should give you hope that you can amass more than you might have thought — as long as you have a bunch of years before you retire. (If you don’t have that many years and you haven’t saved enough for retirement, there are still actions you can take to better your financial condition.)

So start thinking about your retirement right now — even if you’re only, say, 35. Think about what kind of retirement income you’ll want to have and how you’ll get it. Don’t put off dealing with retirement, as it can be 30 or even 40 years of your life!

The $22,924 Social Security bonus most retirees completely overlook

If you’re like most Americans, you’re a few years (or more) behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known “Social Security secrets” could help ensure a boost in your retirement income. For example: one easy trick could pay you as much as $22,924 more… each year! Once you learn how to maximize your Social Security benefits, we think you could retire confidently with the peace of mind we’re all after. Simply click here to discover how to learn more about these strategies.

View the “Social Security secrets”

Selena Maranjian has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Vanguard Index Funds-Vanguard Growth ETF and Vanguard Index Funds-Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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