If you're still working and you're wondering if you're on target with your retirement savings goals, the answer could very well be "no." According to a recent survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), a surprisingly large number of Americans have set aside less than $25,000 for their retirement.
If you've saved more than that, you're ahead of the game, but don't get too excited. It's likely you'll need far more than you've got socked away to enjoy financial security in retirement.
Too little savings
EBRI's survey finds that 47% of American workers have less than $25,000 set aside for retirement, and while a separate PricewaterhouseCoopers survey shows that older workers have more money set aside, their savings are likely to come up short in retirement, too. According to PWC, about half of all baby boomers have less than $100,000 in retirement savings, and nearly one-third of them have less than $50,000.
Advisors recommend that if retirees don't want to outlive their savings, they shouldn't withdraw more than 4% of their retirement savings annually. At that rate, someone with $25,000 in savings could withdraw just $1,000 per year, and baby boomers with $100,000 could only withdraw $4,000 per year. That's unlikely to make much of a dent in the average retiree's spending, given that the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average age-65-or-older household spends $44,664 per year.
Relying too heavily on Social Security?
Since fewer Americans receive retirement pensions, many retirees are counting on Social Security for a lot of their retirement income. That might not be wise. This year, the average retired worker is receiving just $1,360 in monthly Social Security income.
Depending on your own work history, you could get more (or less) than that amount, but even if you qualify for the biggest Social Security payout possible, you probably won't be living a life of luxury. Currently, the maximum retired workers can receive in Social Security at full retirement age, or the age at which they can receive 100% of their benefit, is $2,687 per month, or $32,244 per year.
The exact amount you can receive in benefits is determined by a complex formula that's based on 35 years of your inflation-adjusted monthly income, which is then subjected to multipliers at specific income thresholds that reduce your benefit amount. You can find out your exact projected benefit by logging into Social Security's website, but generally, you'll collect about 40% of your pre-retirement income in Social Security benefits when you retire.
Increasing retirement income
If you don't have a pension, achieving financial security in retirement is harder, but not impossible.
Most people fall short of their retirement savings goals because they contribute too little to tax-advantaged retirement accounts, such as employer-sponsored 401(k) plans and IRAs.
On average, workers are contributing between 6% and 8% of their income to these plans, but they should probably be contributing between 10% and 15% if they want to retire comfortably. If you're contributing less than this, consider increasing your contribution rate by 1% to 2% annually. Doing so will help you build up your savings quickly, without busting your budget.
For example, someone earning $40,000 per year who contributes 8% annually to a retirement investment that returns an average 6% annually will end up with an account that's worth $252,989 in 30 years. Bump up that investment to 12% per year, and the account value jumps to $474,349!
If you're nearing retirement, you're healthy, and you don't mind working a bit longer, your best bet might be holding off on claiming your Social Security until age 70. If you've worked more than 35 years and earn more than you did when you were younger, additional high-income earning years will replace low income earning years in your Social Security benefit calculation. Also, waiting to claim adds about 8% annually to your benefit amount for every year you delay thanks to delayed retirement credits.