Life Insurance

What's the Median Retirement Savings by Age?

Justin Sayarath | May 23, 2024
Median Retirement Savings by Age

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how much retirement savings an individual should have by the age of 30, 40, or 50. But it’s good to know what the average person has saved to see how you’re doing. Find out what the median retirement savings by age is right now in the U.S., and see how you stack up.

Everyone’s retirement savings goals are different based on various factors such as income, lifestyle, expenses, and long-term financial objectives. However, financial experts recommend starting with specific savings goals and milestones to strive for, and then making adjustments as needed according to your individual circumstances. 

If you’re starting from scratch, one interesting piece of data to look at is median retirement savings by age. It can give you a sense as to whether you’re on the right track with your retirement plans. Keep in mind, however, that many people do not have adequate savings, so comparing your numbers to the national median is more of a curiosity exercise than a holistic assessment of your needs.

Even still, it’s perfectly normal to be curious about median savings by age and how you compare to your peers. 

What is the median retirement savings? 

According to the most recent Survey of Consumer Finances (completed in 2022), the median retirement savings for all families in the United States was $87,000. When you consider the rising cost of living and more expensive healthcare as you age, that amount may not allow you to live a comfortable retirement lifestyle for very long. 

Of course, that number is taken out of context since it really depends on how old you are and how many more years of saving you have ahead of you to determine if you’re saving enough. So that leads to the next question…

What is the median retirement savings by age?

In the same Survey of Consumer Finances as above, you can see a breakdown of the average retirement savings by age:

  • Aged under 35: $18,880
  • Aged 35-44: $45,000
  • Aged 45-54: $115,000
  • Aged 55-64: $185,000
  • Aged 65-74: $200,000

While it’s good to see that people are saving for retirement and that the number does rise as people get older, in general, the median savings by age above will probably not be enough, especially for those who live for many years. 

These numbers don’t tell the full story, of course, as some people have other sources of retirement income such as pensions, or they may have other assets or investments to tap into. 

To help you assess how much retirement savings you should aim for at various ages, financial experts have some general goals.

So, how does your retirement savings compare?

Now that you’ve looked at the median retirement savings by age, see where you stand. If you have more than the median, you’re probably in good shape. If you have less, you’ll want to try to grow your retirement funds a bit more aggressively if you can. Below, you’ll find some general rules of thumb as to how much you should try to save for retirement by age.

Retirement savings to shoot for by age 30

The power of compounding makes early contributions to your retirement savings particularly valuable, so ideally, you’ll start as soon as you land your first job. The longer your money has to grow, the more you can potentially accumulate over time.

A common piece of advice is to try to save the equivalent of one year’s worth of annual salary by the time you turn 30. One way to help get you there is to take advantage of any employer matching program offered. For example, if you have a 401(k) and your employer matches 3%, you should contribute at least 3% so you can double your savings to 6%. 

In your 20s, you’ll also want to focus on other financial priorities at the same time like building an emergency fund. Having three to six months' worth of living expenses set aside in case of unexpected financial challenges can help you avoid going into debt or stalling your retirement contributions.

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Retirement savings to reach by age 40

Financial professionals typically recommend accumulating a retirement savings equivalent to 1 to 3 times your annual salary by the time you reach 40. This is a general rule of thumb and may not be suitable or attainable for everyone, but it can be a general number to target.

One thing to really think about when retirement is on the horizon is what your desired lifestyle will be. If you plan to retire early, travel extensively, or have other specific goals, you may need to bump up your savings accordingly.

Retirement savings as you approach age 50

By age 50, a common guideline is to have saved around 4 to 6 times your annual salary. That means if you’re making $100,000, having $600,000 saved puts you in a strong position to handle rising healthcare costs and whatever else may come your way.

Another financial consideration at this age is trying to reduce or eliminate high-interest debt. Becoming debt free can contribute to a more secure retirement.

Because you’ll have fewer years to recover from potential market downturns, your 50s are also a good time to review and adjust your investment strategy. This may involve rebalancing your portfolio to reduce risk and ensure your investments align with your retirement timeline.

Finally, take advantage of the opportunity to make catch-up contributions. Retirement savings accounts like 401(k)s and IRAs allow individuals aged 50 and older to make additional contributions to boost their retirement savings.

So how much do you need to retire?

​​Though you can try to save more than the median retirement savings or hit the targets by age as outlined above, the best way to figure out how much you need to retire is to sit down with an adviser to go over your unique situation.

For example, the age you plan to retire can have a big impact on the amount you need to save, and your milestones along the way. Some questions to think about: Do you want to opt out of the workforce early, or do you see yourself living a semi-retired life wher3 you can work part-time and have an income stream? Do you have a spouse who will keep working beyond your retirement? Do you have any pensions coming your way?

The longer you can postpone retirement, the lower your savings goal can be. Delaying retirement gives your savings a longer time to grow, you'll have fewer non-working years, and your Social Security benefit will be higher.

Remember that these guidelines are general, and individual circumstances can vary. Keep in mind that the key is to develop a savings habit early, and consistently contribute to your retirement savings over time.

It's crucial to regularly assess your financial situation, adjust your goals as needed, and consider seeking advice from a financial advisor who can provide personalized guidance based on your unique situation and outlook.

If you’re behind in your retirement savings

If you look at the median retirement savings by age and find yourself behind, you can still take proactive steps to catch up and improve your financial outlook for retirement. Here are some strategies you can consider:

  • Assess your current situation: Review your current income, expenses, debts, and assets. Then calculate your current retirement savings and assess how it compares to your retirement goals.
  • Create a budget: If you’re not already using a budget, it’s time to start. Look for ways you can realistically allocate more money toward retirement savings. This may involve Identifying areas where you can cut expenses and redirecting those funds into your retirement accounts.
  • Increase savings contributions: Maximize contributions to employer-sponsored retirement plans, such as a 401(k) or 403(b). Take advantage of any employer matching contributions, and if you’re 50 or older, don’t forget that you can make catch-up contributions beyond the standard annual limit.
  • Consider contributing to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or a Roth IRA: You can open these accounts in addition to your employer-sponsored retirement plans.
  • Review and adjust investment strategy: Evaluate your investment portfolio and consider a strategy that aligns with your retirement goals and risk tolerance. Depending on your time horizon until retirement, you may need to adjust the asset allocation to balance risk and potential returns.
  • Consider delaying retirement: If possible, consider staying in the workforce a bit longer if your health allows. This lets you continue earning income and contributing to your retirement savings while potentially increasing your Social Security benefits.
  • Explore additional income streams: Look for opportunities to increase your income through side hustles, freelance work, or part-time employment. 

Consult with a financial advisor who can help you create a customized plan to catch up on retirement savings and make informed decisions.

Remember that the key to building a healthy retirement nest egg is to take action as soon as possible. Time is a crucial factor in retirement savings due to the power of compounding. Even small, consistent contributions can make a significant difference over time.

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