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3 Scary Facts That Should Prompt You to Increase Your Retirement Savings

By Christy Bieber – Aug 9, 2020 at 9:00AM

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Will they frighten you into raising your 401(k) contributions?

Most Americans aren't saving enough for retirement. And unless you're putting aside around 15% of your income, chances are good that you're one of them.

Saving this much of your take-home money may seem daunting and may even feel downright impossible. But the reality is that if you don't set yourself up for a secure future, you're probably going to spend your later years struggling financially, when you can least afford to do so because you have far fewer options to fix the situation. 

If you're not convinced it's worth making sacrifices now to ensure you're in good shape later, here are three frightening facts that could perhaps help to change your mind. 

Older man sitting alone at a table looking sad.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. The average Social Security benefit

This year, the average Social Security benefit comes in at just $1,503 per month. A little quick math will tell you that if you're relying only on Social Security to fund your retirement, that would leave you with just $18,036 in annual income. 

That shockingly low income number is around $5,200 above the federal poverty level for this year, which means you'd have barely enough money to afford even the basic life necessities. And sadly, seniors often tend to have higher healthcare costs than the rest of the population, so older Americans with such a low income will likely face real struggles paying to address their medical needs while also covering living expenses. 

While your benefit may be higher than the average, it's only supposed to provide you with a portion of your retirement income. If you are counting on it to be more than one of several sources of funds, you're over-relying on it and at grave risk of ending up poor as a retiree.

2. The cost of healthcare for a retiree

Speaking of high healthcare costs, it's important to realize just how expensive medical care can be late in life, as the number is shocking.

A 65-year-old man with median prescription drug expenses in retirement would need a whopping $73,000 saved just to have a 50% chance of covering Medicare premiums and other out-of-pocket expenses, while a woman in the same boat would need around $95,000. 

And remember, that's to have a 50-50 shot of covering care if your prescription drug needs are just about average. If you want a 90% chance of covering costs, a man would need $130,000 and a woman $146,000.

These numbers, from Employee Benefit Research Institute for those retiring this year, make it clear you need a small fortune just to be able to pay for medical expenditures. To amass just the $146,000 needed for median prescription drug costs and other medical expenses by the age of 65, you'd need to save around $1,550 per year if you started at age 30 and earned a 7% annual return on investment.

3. The percentage of seniors who can't afford the necessities

If you're concerned already based on the first two numbers, this one may be the worst yet: Half of single adults age 65 and over can't afford the basics, nor can around a quarter of households with two adults aged 65 and up.

Lacking the financial resources to afford life's necessities can be extremely stressful -- especially if this happens to you late in life. It's often impossible to go back to work due to lack of job opportunities, family issues, or health issues, so you may have no choice but to do without and experience a big reduction in quality of life. 

Are you ready to save more for retirement yet?

As you can see, the average Social Security benefit isn't going to go very far, while healthcare is likely to eat up a huge chunk of your retirement savings. You need to be prepared for this or you could end up being one of those seniors who can't afford the necessities.

By increasing your retirement savings now, you can ensure you don't have to rely too much on a Social Security check that's too small, leaving you to spend your later years struggling. It's worth the sacrifice to save more now to buy yourself security later in life. 

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