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Retirees Have Shockingly Little Retirement Savings, Data Shows

By Maurie Backman – Sep 6, 2020 at 7:36AM

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The median savings balance among seniors is alarmingly low, and that means many risk untold financial struggles.

Social Security pays the average senior today about $1,500 a month, or $18,000 a year. That's a nice chunk of money to supplement outside income sources, but it's certainly not enough to live comfortably on.

Yet many seniors risk having to do just that, and the reason boils down to not having enough retirement savings. Today's retirees have a median $45,000 in savings, reports Transamerica, and that excludes home equity. And while the latter can serve as a retirement income source of sorts, it can't take the place of a robust IRA or 401(k).

If you're approaching retirement and are looking at savings in the ballpark of $45,000, consider this a wakeup call that you're not ready to stop working just yet. If you do, you might really set yourself up for long-term financial struggles.

Closeup of older man with serious expression

Image source: Getty Images.

You need healthy savings to get by

There's no single savings number that will guarantee you financial security during retirement. Some seniors can kick off their golden years with $100,000 in savings and do just fine, while others can retire with $1 million and still struggle. But as a general rule, it's a good idea to close out your career with around 10 times your ending salary socked away for the future. If your savings balance is closer to $45,000, it means you're probably nowhere close.

What should you do in that scenario? For one thing, push yourself to work longer. Doing so will allow you to both accumulate additional savings while simultaneously leaving your existing savings alone. If you're 65 and ready to retire, but you instead work until 70, all the while contributing $500 a month to a retirement plan and investing it at a conservative average annual 5% return, you'll add over $33,000 to your nest egg.

Another tactic to employ in this scenario is to delay your Social Security filing until you turn 70. You're entitled to your full monthly benefit at either age 66, 67, or somewhere in between, depending on your year of birth. But for each year you delay past that point, your benefits increase by 8%, up until age 70. And to be clear, that increase is permanent.

Will $45,000 in savings carry you through retirement?

Financial experts have long supported a 4% annual withdrawal rate from savings. For $45,000 in savings, that means $1,800 in annual income. Combine that with $18,000 a year from Social Security like today's average senior collects, and it's still not a lot to live on.

If you're not yet retired and don't have much savings, it definitely pays to boost your nest egg as much as you can while also delaying your Social Security filing to increase your benefits. But even that may not be enough. You might still have to think about getting a part-time job as a senior, renting out a portion of your home, or employing other creative measures to ensure that you're able to make ends meet. Either way, the key is to be realistic about your retirement income needs -- and not go into your senior years assuming you'll be just fine with $45,000 to your name.

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