Retirement should be an amazing time when you can sit back and reap the rewards of your lifetime of hard work. Unfortunately, the numbers show that millions of Americans will have a very different experience.
The good news is, if you're still working, you can take steps now to make sure you get the dream retirement you deserve -- if you're motivated enough to do so. Taking a look at a few scary retirement stats could potentially be just the ticket to prompt you to increase your savings rate so you're a well-prepared retiree.
If you're counting on Social Security as a major source of retirement income, $1,543 is the key number you need to know. It's the average monthly Social Security benefit for retirees in 2021. It would also provide you with an annual income of just $18,516, which is not enough to enjoy a comfortable retirement.
While your benefit may be more (or less) than average, knowing this number is important because it underscores a key fact about Social Security: It's not meant to be your sole source of retirement income. Your benefits are designed to work in conjunction with money from savings and a pension to give you enough to live on. Without that supplementary income, you'll be consigning yourself to a life of financial struggles if you try to retire with Social Security as your only source of funds.
This number is an especially scary one because it's the amount of annual income the typical pre-retiree is likely to get from their 401(k) and IRA accounts. The Center for Retirement Research recently published data on the average 401(k) and IRA balance available to people with both accounts -- and the data showed the median combined balance of these accounts was $144,000 for those approaching retirement.
If retirees with the median balance follow the 4% rule, a balance of $144,000 would give them only $5,760 in annual income. And that's a best-case scenario, as there's ample evidence to suggest seniors may need to pick a lower withdrawal rate if they want to avoid running out of money rather than following a possibly outdated 4% rule (which says you can safely withdraw 4% of your account balance in your first year of retirement and adjust by inflation thereafter).
Unfortunately, $5,760 isn't a lot of money -- and when combined with the average Social Security benefit, you'd be left with just $24,276 to live on as a retiree.
As if the other two numbers weren't scary enough, it's time to look at one of your biggest expenses as a retiree: Healthcare. The fact is that Medicare doesn't cover everything you need, and even when you have Medicare coverage, you're going to get stuck with some big bills.
Just how big? The estimated out-of-pocket healthcare cost for a senior couple in 2020 is $325,000 throughout retirement, if the couple has high prescription drug needs. Obviously, this is a huge sum of money and one that would be hard to cover even if your Social Security benefit and 401(k) balance exceed the averages mentioned above.
Together, these three numbers should convince younger Americans of the importance of saving as early as they can and saving as much as they can throughout retirement. As for current retirees, if you're struggling to live on a small Social Security check and a 401(k) balance that's lower than it should be, taking steps such as downsizing your home, living on a tight budget, and shopping carefully for the right insurance during open enrollment will be key to maintaining your financial stability throughout your later years.