The average worker thinks they'll need around $1.7 million saved to retire comfortably, a survey from Charles Schwab found. One-third of adults believe they'll need between $1 million and $3 million to retire, and 1 in 10 think retirement will cost more than $3 million.
In other words, most people have their work cut out for them when it comes to saving for retirement. And yet nearly half of baby boomers have no savings at all, according to a report from the Insured Retirement Institute.
There's no silver bullet for retirement saving; saving is hard work, no matter how much you're earning or need to save. But there is one strategy that can make it a little easier.
Automating your savings: An easier way to prepare for retirement
To be successful in saving for retirement, you'll need to be consistent. Especially if you're trying to save upward of $1 million by the time you retire, you'll need to start saving early and save as much as you can each month for decades to reach that lofty goal.
By automating your savings, or setting aside a certain percentage of your salary each month or each paycheck to go to your retirement fund, you can keep yourself on track. If you're manually transferring money into your retirement account every month, it's easy to forget to save or simply avoid saving because you'd rather spend the money elsewhere. But by automating your savings, you'll be forcing yourself to save every month -- whether you want to or not.
Automating your savings also helps you budget for retirement. Instead of saving whatever cash you have left over at the end of the month, you can create a section in your budget specifically for retirement. Essentially, if you treat retirement like another bill you have to pay, it will be easier to save consistently every month.
Also, if you're contributing a set percentage of your wages, you'll be able to automatically increase your savings every time you get a raise or a bonus. Saving shouldn't be a "set it and forget it" task; if you're able to increase your retirement fund contributions gradually over time, you'll be able to save more with less effort.
How much of your income should you be saving for retirement?
Many financial experts recommend saving between 10% and 15% of your salary for retirement. That's just a rough guideline, however, and the amount you should be saving depends on your age, how much you currently have saved, and how much you aim to save by retirement age.
If you started saving at age 25 and want to retire by 65, you should try to save between 10% and 17% of your salary, researchers from the Stanford Center on Longevity claim. If you wait until age 35 to begin saving, though, you'll need to save around 15% to 20% of your income to retire by 65. And those who start to save at age 45 will need to stash away roughly 25% to 27% of their salary.
If you're fortunate enough to have access to a 401(k) with matching contributions from your employer, take full advantage of it. At the very least, try to save enough to earn the full match -- after all, that's essentially free money.
Even if you can't save much now, every little bit counts. And although increasing the percentage you're saving by just 1% or 2% per year may not sound like much, it can make a big difference over time. Say, for instance, you're currently earning $40,000 per year and saving 6% of your salary -- or $2,400 per year. If you save just 1% more of your salary each year, that amounts to an additional $400 per year, or just $33 per month. That may not sound like a lot, but at that rate, after five years you'd be saving an extra $2,000 per year -- bringing your total annual savings to $4,400. And if you were to get a raise or otherwise increase your income during that time, that would boost your savings even more.
Saving for retirement is challenging, particularly as retirement becomes more and more expensive. Especially if you don't enjoy managing your finances, it can be difficult to manually set money aside every month for the future. But by automating your savings, you can simplify saving and stay on track to reach your financial goals.