Saving enough to retire comfortably can be incredibly challenging. Around 65% of Americans have less than $100,000 saved for retirement, according to a report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute. And of that group, more than one-quarter have less than $1,000 socked away.
If your retirement savings are falling short, it can be hard to catch up. But how much do you actually need to retire? If you reach retirement age with $100,000 in the bank, just how far will that money go?
Stretching every dollar in retirement
Everyone's financial needs will be different, so how far $100,000 will go will largely depend on your lifestyle. Some retirees may spend that much in a year, while others could make it last longer.
A general rule of thumb to consider when planning for retirement is the 4% rule. According to this guideline, you can withdraw 4% of your total savings during the first year of retirement, then adjust each withdrawal after that to account for inflation. By sticking to this rule, your savings should last roughly 30 years.
The 4% rule isn't perfect, but it is a good benchmark to get an idea of roughly how much of your savings you can withdraw each year. According to the 4% rule, if you retired with $100,000 in savings, you could withdraw just about $4,000 per year in retirement.
It's nearly impossible for anyone to survive on $4,000 per year, but the majority of retirees will also be entitled to Social Security benefits. The average beneficiary receives around $1,543 per month, or around $18,500 per year, according to the Social Security Administration.
Unless you have access to a pension or other source of income in retirement, you may need to survive on your savings and Social Security alone. In this case, that amounts to around $22,500 per year in retirement income.
What if that's not enough?
While some retirees may be able to pay the bills with $22,500 per year, many people will need substantially more to live comfortably. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to boost your retirement income.
One option is to hold off on claiming Social Security benefits. The longer you wait to claim (up until age 70), the more you'll receive each month. You can boost your benefits by up to 32% when you wait until age 70 to claim, which can amount to hundreds of dollars more per month.
If you still have some time before you retire, you may choose to pick up a second job and put that money toward your savings. You may also consider moving to a more affordable city or downsizing to a smaller home to save money. It may still be challenging to live on $22,500 per year no matter where you live, but reducing your expenses as much as possible can help your money go further.
Finally, you may choose to invest in dividend stocks to boost your retirement income. Dividend stocks are investments that pay a percentage of the stock price back to shareholders every year or quarter. For example, if a stock costs $100 per share and pays a 5% annual dividend, you'll receive $5 per year in dividend payments. That doesn't sound like much, but if you own hundreds of shares of stock, those payments can add up.
Of course, it's still important to invest wisely and not throw all your money behind one or two individual stocks. But when dividend stocks are part of a well-diversified portfolio, they can help increase your retirement income.
It's not easy to prepare for retirement, especially if you're falling behind on your savings. But no matter where you are financially, there are steps you can take to enjoy a more comfortable retirement.