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Do You Need $1 Million to Retire? 40% of Workers Who Have Run the Numbers Think So

By Maurie Backman – May 14, 2020 at 7:36AM

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A large percentage of workers think it'll take $1 million to live comfortably during their senior years. Here's how to get there yourself.

If there were a magic number that guaranteed financial security in retirement, saving for that milestone would be a much less stressful endeavor. But without a crystal ball, there's really no way to know exactly what your senior years will look like from a financial perspective. Much of what you spend will depend on the evolving state of your health, the extent to which your home needs repairs, and other lifestyle choices that you may not be prepared to make in advance.

Still, it helps to have a ballpark estimate of what retirement will cost you so you can set your savings goals accordingly. A good 48% of workers have tried to calculate how much money they'll need to live comfortably in retirement, according to a recent survey from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, and among those who have run the numbers, 40% think they'll need $1 million or more to maintain a decent standard of living. Meanwhile, 16% think retirement will cost them $2 million or more.

Man counting hundred dollar bills

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

Now if you're first starting out on the road to retirement savings, you might think these numbers are downright unattainable. But if you commit to the goal of saving $1 million, you may be surprised at how you slowly but surely amass that level of wealth over time.

Is $1 million in retirement savings within your reach?

Getting to $1 million will require some effort on your part. But if you start early and invest wisely, there's a solid chance you'll grow your 401(k) or IRA into $1 million or more.

What does starting early mean? Ideally, you should start setting money aside for retirement from as young an age as possible. If you're in your 30s and have yet to start funding your retirement plan, thereby missing that boat, start now. The more years you give your money to grow, the more wealth you stand to accumulate.

Next, you'll need to put that money to work. Investing the bulk of your retirement savings in stocks is generally a good idea when your senior years are at least a decade away. Play it too safe, and that $1 million goal may not be in reach.

Assuming you follow these two simple rules, here's what it might take to get to the $1 million mark:

If You Start Saving for Retirement at This Age:

And You Save This Month Each Month:

Here's What You'll Have by Age 67 at a 7% Average Annual Return

22

$300

$1 million

27

$425

$1 million

32

$625

$1 million

37

$900

$1 million

TABLE AND CALCULATIONS BY AUTHOR.

It's no coincidence that all of these figures add up to $1 million (a little more, actually). The point is to illustrate that if you give yourself a long enough savings window, you can get to $1 million without having to part with an uncomfortably large portion of your income. Of course, the shorter your savings window, the more money you'll need to sock away each month. And if you're wondering about that average annual 7% return, you should know that it's a few percentage points below the stock market's average, so it's a reasonable figure to work with over a period of 30 to 45 years, which the table above covers.

Of course, these are just a few illustrations, but the takeaway is clear: If you want to accumulate $1 million in retirement savings, you have the ability to make it happen, especially if you're still relatively young. But don't give up if you're older. Though you will need to save more each month to make up for lost time, you can hit $1 million even if you're not first getting started until your 40s, or even your early 50s. Just commit to that goal and manage your income wisely so you're prioritizing your nest egg at all times.

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