If we could all somehow see into the future, we'd know how much money we ought to be putting aside for retirement. But in the absence of a crystal ball, it's hard to say what our senior living costs will look like -- especially for those of us who still have to spend a few more decades on the job.
That said, you can get an idea of how well your savings will hold up by thinking about the retirement lifestyle you want and figuring out how much money it's likely to cost. From there, you can use our handy calculator to determine whether you're saving enough for retirement or whether you'll need to up your game.
What does your retirement picture look like?
There are certain living costs in retirement that all seniors will inevitably face. For example, you'll need a roof over your head, food on the table, and a means of getting around town, regardless of the specific lifestyle you choose. And don't forget about healthcare, which constitutes many retirees' single largest expense. Recent projections tell us that a 65-year-old couple today might spend roughly $377,000 on medical care in retirement, so it's critical to factor that number into your personal equation.
Once you get the basics out of the way, you'll need to think about how you want to spend your days in retirement. It stands to reason that traveling the globe and frequenting the theater will cost more than filling your days with local walks in the park. It pays to be honest with yourself about what you want your retirement to look like, because that will help you determine how much to save.
Crunching those numbers
Once you get a sense of what your future lifestyle might entail, you can use the calculator below to see if you're in a strong enough position to retire.
To use this tool, simply plug in your age, savings balance, and the amount of time left between now and retirement. You'll also need to fill in some additional key data, like your pre- and post-retirement return on investment, as well as the anticipated length of your retirement.
Of course, many of these numbers rely on that magic crystal ball we joked about earlier. After all, you might live another 20 years past your mid-60s, or you might one day reach the point where you're celebrating your 100th birthday. Similarly, even if you're a financial expert, you can't predict what the market will be doing 10, 15, or 20 years from now.
That's why the best you can do is take an educated guess at some of these numbers based on real data. For example, the Social Security Administration says that one out of every four seniors will live past age 90, while one in 10 will live past 95. If your family has a history of good health, you may want to think positively and assume you'll be looking at a longer retirement.
Similarly, while the stock market is known for its volatility, historically, it's delivered a roughly 9% average annual return. If you plan to stay heavily invested in stocks before and/or during retirement, you can plug in a 7% or 8% return (to play it safe) and see what that gives you income-wise.
Once you input your numbers and see how your savings will hold up, you can make some key decisions that will bring you closer to meeting your retirement goals. For example, if you're hoping to retire in the next year or two, but see that your savings won't provide the income you need, you might choose to either work a few extra years or alter your senior lifestyle -- or both. On the flip side, if you're in your 50s and see that you have more than enough savings to retire on schedule, you might choose to pull the trigger a year early and enjoy that money while you're a bit younger.
Remember, we can't predict the future, and there's no surefire way to tell whether you definitively have enough savings to last throughout retirement. But if you work with what you know and are realistic about the costs you'll face, you stand a better chance of making the right call.