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                5 min read

                How Much Should You Save For Retirement?

                Featured Image

                In a perfect world, you would start saving for retirement with your very first paycheck
                and keep at it until the day you left your job some 40 years later. But not everyone
                works consistently. And, unfortunately, not everyone is able to save consistently.
                Sometimes life steps in with job losses and unexpected illnesses that sidetrack our
                goals. The good news is that it’s never too late to get started on or build up your
                retirement savings.


                If you’re in your 20s, 30s or 40s (or even 50s) and haven’t started saving for your
                retirement, now is the time. The sooner you begin putting money away, the larger your
                bucket will grow.


                So, exactly how much should you be saving for retirement?


                Like so many things, it really depends. A good rule of thumb is to save 15% of your
                income – 20% if you can swing it – which includes any matching retirement funds from
                your employer. There are also a series of benchmarks aimed at helping people figure
                out whether or not they are on track for retirement. Fidelity Investments, for example,
                recommends that by age 30, you should have 1x your income socked away for
                retirement. By 40, 3x. By 50, 6x. By 60, 8x. And by retirement 10x. Do this and you’ll
                typically be able to replace about 80% of your pre-retirement income for a period of 30
                years. Of course, not everyone will hit those marks on schedule — or ever.


                The EBRI Retirement Security Projection Model shows that 40% of people aged 35 to
                64 risk not having enough to meet their retirement expenses. Similarly, the National
                Retirement Risk Index, produced by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston
                College shows 50% of the population won’t have enough to maintain their current
                lifestyle in retirement. And yet, “retirement can be a lot cheaper than your working
                regular life,” says Annamaria Lusardi, Professor of Economics and Accountancy at The
                George Washington University School of Business. “You may no longer have to provide
                for your children, you might not need two cars for the household anymore if both of you
                aren’t working and you can even cut costs by moving into a smaller home.”


                The point? One size does not fit all. Here are some guidelines for figuring out whether
                you are saving enough.


                Remember, It’s Your Retirement


                What do you want your retirement to look like? If you haven’t asked that question, with
                your spouse or partner if you have one, it’s time. Only once you envision it can you
                begin to price it out. Because that’s when you’ll answer the questions about things like
                where you’ll live (in your big family home or a smaller one that will allow you to sock
                some of that prior home equity into savings), whether you’ll work (as many retirees do),
                if you’ll move (and lower your taxes as a result).


                The question of when you’ll retire is similarly important. The longer you continue to
                work, the more time your retirement savings have to grow and the fewer number of
                years you’ll have to rely on that stash to fund your lifestyle. Once you’ve got the answer
                to these questions, sit down with pen and paper (or a spreadsheet if you’re so inclined)
                and start adding up the amount you’ll need to live. If you’re struggling, a sit-down with a
                financial advisor can help.


                Focus On Income Replacement


                Once you’ve got a sense of the numbers, you can begin working on how to get there.
                Start with Social Security. How much of your estimated monthly expenses will that
                cover? (If you don’t know what you’re expecting from Social Security you can get your
                estimate at ssa.gov.) Many people start taking their benefits at age 62, but waiting
                means more money every month; for every year you delay taking benefits from 62 until
                70 you’ll receive an increase of about 8%. That’s a huge help. Subtract that from the
                amount you estimate you’ll need to live each month. Then consider whether you’ll be
                receiving any pension income.


                Although most people in the U.S. no longer have pensions, many military families and
                teachers do. If you have a pension, subtract your pension income from your monthly
                needs as well. What remains is the amount you’ll want to cover with retirement savings.
                “Based on the 4% safe withdrawal rule, a million dollar portfolio creates $40,000 of
                annual income,” says David Littell, professor of retirement income at The American
                College of Financial Services. You may need more. But you may also need less.


                Savings Calculators


                There are dozens of tools and guides to help you figure out if you’ll have enough money
                to cover your basics. One free (and excellent) online retirement planning tool is the
                AARP retirement calculator. It takes you through a step-by-step questionnaire that
                accounts for Social Security and other potential income sources (like proceeds from the
                sale of real estate and inheritances).


                Use it to get a detailed chart of your income sources over time and identify potential
                gaps. The calculator allows you to make a variety of adjustments to see how you can
                help improve your odds of not outliving your money.
                If DIY planning makes you nervous, it might be worth the cost of paying a fee-based
                Certified Financial Planner (CFP) to help you create a customized roadmap and
                implement suitable strategies. (Here are five questions to ask any financial planner
                before you hire them.)


                Make Your Money Work For You


                Finally, as you mull over these questions of how much you’ll need in retirement, you
                also want to be sure your assets are working to get you there. In other words, that
                they’re invested in a way that lines up with your risk tolerance and time horizon. Your
                investment portfolio should be diversified, made up of a mix of stocks and bonds.
                Exactly how much of each depends on how long you have until retirement and how
                much risk you can withstand. If you have many years to go, you can take more risk,
                which means your portfolio may be more heavily weighted toward stocks and other
                high-growth asset classes. (A target-date retirement fund is a one-and-done solution
                that can help keep your mix in check.)


                But you should also consider getting some help. A financial planner can help you create
                a road map to your future that takes your short and long-term goals into consideration.
                They can also help you keep emotions in check when the markets tank, and get you
                back on course when you need to change your finances to keep up with your changing
                life.

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