How much should I save for retirement?

May 17, 2024


Are you wondering, “How much should I save for retirement?” It’s important to feel confident in a savings number that meets your goals, and create a successful plan to achieve it.

There are many individual factors to take into account, so this article can give you the steps you can take to develop a target number.
 

Retirement savings goals have changed in recent years

The pandemic, economic uncertainty, and inflation that still lingers has led many people to reconsider the size of their retirement savings. According to a new study, Americans’ “magic number” for retirement has surged to an all-time high of $1.46 million, 50% higher than the average $951,000 target they set just four years ago – and moving up considerably faster than the rate of inflation.1

Younger Americans expect their target needs to be even higher. According to the study, “Both Gen Z and Millennials expect to need more than $1.6 million to retire comfortably.” And wealthier Americans, those with more than $1 million in investable assets, tell the researchers they’ll need nearly $4 million to retire.

How well are most people meeting these higher targets? Not well, it turns out, and the gap between what they have and what they think they need is getting bigger. The average retirement savings for a couple between ages 65 and 74 is $609,230, and the median – a more meaningful number that deemphasizes outliers – is a relatively low $200,000, according to a NerdWallet analysis of data from the 2022 Survey of Consumer Finances. The median retirement savings for all families is $87,000.2 While this number does highlight the gap between retirement savings and retirement needs, another study showcases how families with this median retirement savings are better prepared than most, as 60% of Americans don’t even have a retirement-specific account.3
 

Guidelines, benchmarks, and rules of thumb for how much you should save

Here are some important things to consider:

  1. Fidelity suggests saving at least 15% of your pre-tax income each year – starting at age 25 and including any employer match – if you want to maintain your pre-retirement lifestyle. That’s based on Fidelity’s findings that most people need somewhere between 55% and 80% of their pre-retirement income in retirement. The suggested rate of savings will generate about 45% of their retirement income, and Social Security and other sources will make up the rest.4
  2. But what if, like many of us, you didn’t start contributing toward retirement at age 25? How can you know if you’re on track? Another benchmark, from T. Rowe Price, quantifies the amount – in multiples of your salary – that it suggests you save throughout your career. For example, at age 35, the benchmark suggests your retirement savings should total 1–1.5 times your salary. At age 50, those savings should come to 3.5–6 times your salary. And at age 65, the benchmark suggests you have 7.5–13.5 times your salary in your retirement account5. For example, a person who earns $130,000 at age 65 should have somewhere from $975,000 to $1,755,000 saved for retirement.
     

Get the estimate that's right for you

Are these benchmarks right for your situation – for where and how you want to live, how much travel you intend, how long you expect to live, and what family obligations you still have? For a retirement savings estimate that’s calculated to meet your needs, desires, and circumstances, check out Jackson’s Retirement Income & Expense Calculator.

Our calculator helps to detect areas of your retirement plan that may need improvement by assessing your current and future expenses along with a proposed solution based on any retirement income gaps. It’s one of several calculators we offer to help you and your financial professional with a range of issues we see Americans face – including income protection, Social Security, and taxes—that will likely impact your specific retirement needs and plans.

After calculating your results, you and your financial professional can tackle questions such as:

  1. Can I still retire by my goal date? If not, how long should I postpone my retirement?
  2. If I do postpone retirement, how much more will I receive from Social Security?
  3. What changes should I make now to spending and saving to eliminate any retirement income gap?
  4. What’s been the impact of inflation on my retirement plan and how can I protect my nest egg against inflation in retirement?

When people ponder how much to save, they often ask questions that seemingly lead only to other questions. “Will my retirement income be enough?” or “How long will my money last?” can’t be answered “yes” or “no,” or with a specific length of time. They beg the questions “Enough for what?” and “Under what circumstances?”

These are great follow-up questions to review with your financial professional, who can help you define your specific needs, discover the options and choices available to you, and choose among them so you’re well prepared to retire when the day finally comes.

You don’t need a crystal ball to know how much to save for retirement. But you do need to get a plan in order that’s tailored to your needs, wants, and circumstances, as well as a financial professional who can give you tips and guide you through the process of building that plan and turning it into reality.

With the right information, guidance, and plan, you can save for a happy and successful retirement!

 

1. “Planning & Progress Study 2024,” Northwestern Mutual. Accessed April 16, 2024.

2. Alana Benson and June Sham, “What Is the Average Retirement Savings by Age?” NerdWallet, March 5, 2024.

3. Elizabeth Renter, “Most Americans Save, but Many Can’t Cover a $1,000 Emergency,” NerdWallet, May 9, 2023.

4. “How much should I save for retirement?” Fidelity, April 11, 2024.

5. Roger Young, “You’re Age 35, 50, or 60: How Much Should You Have Saved for Retirement by Now?” T. Rowe Price, March 28, 2024.

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