Saving enough for retirement is something many Americans struggle with. If you're one of them, you may be thinking that if you just had a little extra income, you'd be better able to prepare for the future.
Sadly, research suggests this isn't necessarily the case. In fact, data shows median retirement wealth among even the richest workers in America isn't nearly enough.
Wealthy Americans still have too little for retirement
According to a recent report from the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis, workers in the upper quintile of earnings had median retirement wealth of just $294,700. These are the top earners in the country. While they fare much better than workers in the bottom quintile, who had median retirement wealth of $0, this is still far too little saved to have a secure future.
Savings of $294,700 would produce just $11,788 in annual income, assuming these workers followed the 4% rule, which says you can safely withdraw 4% of your investment account in your first year of retirement and increase your withdrawals by the amount of inflation each year.
Even when combined with Social Security benefits, which averaged just $1,471 a month in 2019, this is unlikely to produce a sufficient amount of money to live on in retirement -- especially given that higher-income workers will likely have bigger expenses in order to maintain their standard of living.
Unfortunately, these median savings are lower than they should be under what the Schwartz Center defines as a "well-functioning defined contribution system." Under a "well-functioning system" in which upper quintile workers contributed just 6% of their salary, received a 50% employer match on contributions, and invested in a fund made up of 50% stocks and 50% bonds, these workers would have median retirement savings of $769,800 rather than $294,700.
Everyone struggles to save, but it's essential to put aside enough
This research makes clear that even high earners face challenges in saving sufficiently for the future.
It also shows the consequences of saving too little. If even wealthy workers don't have enough of a nest egg to produce a decent income in retirement, those who aren't in the upper quintile of earnings are struggling even more.
But there's no option other than to save if you want financial security in your later years. Social Security benefits are designed to replace only about 40% of pre-retirement income, and you need much more than that to be comfortable.
This means that, no matter your income bracket, you need to make retirement savings a priority. This often requires cutting other things out of your budget, buying a cheaper car, or even downsizing to a less expensive home. These sacrifices aren't fun, but it's a lot less fun to be broke as a senior.
How to make sure you're saving enough for a secure future
No matter your earnings level, you should try to save at least 10% of your annual income and likely closer to 15%.
You can also make sure you're saving enough by calculating how much you need to save for retirement -- including for healthcare and long-term care costs -- and using a calculator to see if your savings rate will enable you to hit that target goal. You can use one of three ways to calculate retirement savings, including estimating you'll need 10 times your final salary.
If saving enough seems daunting, you can check out some tips here on how to increase your retirement savings. You may not be able to jump up to saving so much money all at once, but the sooner you start, the better your chances of a secure future.