Maximizing Savings: How Can the Average American Save for Retirement?

Illustration of developing a personalized savings strategy

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How can the average American save for retirement? Immediate action and a solid plan are your best allies. This guide cuts through the complexity to provide clear and actionable steps for anyone looking to secure their retirement. Whether you’re starting from scratch or optimizing an existing strategy, we’ll help you understand your savings targets, tax-advantaged options, and how to adjust your approach amidst life’s changes, setting you up for a future of financial independence.

Key Takeaways

  • The disparity in average retirement savings across various age groups highlights insufficient retirement funds, indicating the need for more Americans to engage in diligent retirement planning, goal setting, and benchmark comparisons.

  • Personal savings, employer-sponsored retirement plans, and Social Security are key income sources for retirees; however, with the projected shortfall in Social Security funds, maximizing personal and employer-matched contributions is becoming increasingly crucial for financial security.

  • Developing a personalized retirement savings strategy involves starting early, prioritizing retirement accounts, diversifying investments, leveraging tax-advantaged accounts, and seeking professional financial advice to regularly review and update one’s retirement plan.

Understanding the Retirement Savings Landscape

Illustration of retirement savings landscape

Starting your journey towards retirement requires a clear understanding of your current financial position. The average retirement savings for different age groups range from $5,236 to $207,874, with median values from $1,948 to $71,168. This reveals a vast disparity in savings accumulation, which is further compounded by the marked difference based on income levels. Furthermore, the median retirement savings among adults in the U.S. are $65,000, with an expected average growth to $255,200 by the time they retire. These figures reveal a stark reality; retirement savings are often inadequate.

The shortfall in the average retirement savings balance is estimated to be approximately $48,000 per individual. Experts suggest amassing nine to eleven times your annual salary by retirement for financial security. This highlights the necessity of diligent retirement planning and goal setting. To ensure you’re on track, it’s essential to periodically retirement savings compare with the recommended benchmarks.

The Role of Social Security

Typically, retirement income comes from a mix of personal savings, employer-sponsored accounts, and social security benefits. However, many Americans rely heavily on Social Security as a retirement income source. In fact, 92% of those over 65 use Social Security to supplement their retirement income. In November 2023, the average monthly Social Security benefit for retired workers was $1,844.76. This amount represents the average financial support provided to retired individuals at that time. However, these benefits can be significantly reduced if claimed early.

Opting for Social Security benefits at the earliest eligibility age of 62 would result in a reduction of benefits to around 75%. On the other hand, waiting until after the Full Retirement Age (66 to 67 depending on the birth year) can increase these benefits by 8% each year delayed, up to age 70. Despite its significance, relying solely on Social Security benefits is insufficient for maintaining pre-retirement lifestyles, necessitating additional savings.

Given the projected depletion of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund and the role of the federal reserve in managing economic stability, personal retirement savings become increasingly significant as they will only cover 77% of scheduled Social Security benefits from 2034.

Employer-Sponsored Accounts

Alongside personal savings and Social Security benefits, employer-sponsored retirement plans play a crucial role in retirement planning. A broad range of these plans exists, including:

  • 401(k) and 403(b) plans

  • SIMPLE IRA Plans for small businesses

  • SEP Plans for simplified employer contributions

  • Profit-sharing plans that distribute a portion of company profits to employee retirement accounts.

Despite the availability of these plans, participation rates can be improved. Just over half of private-industry nonunion workers participate in the plans offered to them. Maximizing these retirement savings is essential, especially when employers offer matching contributions. This extra contribution is akin to receiving free money, significantly aiding the growth of your retirement nest egg.

Setting Realistic Retirement Goals

Illustration of setting realistic retirement goals

Establishing achievable retirement goals is a vital step towards effective retirement planning. These goals should address individual circumstances such as income, spending needs, and risk tolerance. Lifestyle and income also play significant roles in determining how much to save for retirement.

A general guideline for retirement savings by age suggests aiming to save at least:

  • 1x your salary by age 30

  • 3x by 40

  • 6x by 50

  • 8x by 60

  • 10x by age 67

Starting to save for retirement early, ideally by age 25, and saving at least 15% of your income annually, including any employer match, is recommended. The target date for retirement typically revolves around the age of 65, which is the closest year when individuals plan to retire. This target date helps individuals plan and prepare for their retirement.

Estimating Living Expenses

Illustration of estimating living expenses in retirement

Accurately projecting living expenses in retirement plays a key role in forming attainable retirement goals. An average retiree can expect to spend between 55% and 80% of their pre-retirement annual income each year during retirement, with the ‘80% rule’ providing a starting assumption for this estimation.

The income replacement ratio needed in retirement varies based on pre-retirement income. Lower earners need to replace a higher percentage compared to higher earners. Housing costs generally decrease for retirees, as many opt to downsize or move to more affordable areas. Day-to-day expenses like healthcare should be covered by guaranteed income sources. Couples should plan for approximately $315,000 in medical costs during retirement.

Determining Your Target Retirement Age

Your chosen retirement age has a significant impact on your personal savings objectives. Longer work results in a lower required savings factor due to a shorter retirement period and potentially higher Social Security benefits. Desired retirement activities and lifestyle expectations, such as frequent travel or maintaining an active lifestyle, should be considered when determining an appropriate retirement age.

While the average retirement age in the United States is 61, many aim to retire later, between ages 65 and 67, depending on individual retirement goals and financial situations. This age group has a retirement target date that is a fundamental factor influencing how much one should save and the strategy they should employ for their retirement investments.

Delaying the claiming of Social Security benefits up until age 70 can lead to increased monthly benefits, which can be a strategic move for financial stability later in retirement.

Developing a Personalized Savings Strategy

Illustration of developing a personalized savings strategy

Crafting a personalized savings strategy requires knowledge of the right time to start saving, the amount needed, and suitable investment avenues. This strategy should be started as early as possible. One’s current income and budget influence how much can be comfortably saved each month towards retirement, necessitating sound budget management. Also, contributing to an emergency fund is crucial while prioritizing retirement savings.

When planning for retirement, retirement accounts should be prioritized, and caution should be exercised when tempted to use them for other goals, such as college savings. This is to avoid penalties and financial shortfalls in retirement. Working with financial advisors can lead to better decision-making regarding savings, taxes, and insurance, thus positively impacting retirement planning.

Budgeting for Retirement Savings

Illustration of budgeting for retirement savings

When it comes to budgeting for retirement savings, the earlier you start, the better. Starting to save for retirement in your 20s is crucial because it leverages compound interest and provides a longer time horizon to recover from investment losses. Individuals who begin saving for retirement in their 30s should consider contributing a higher percentage of their income to catch up on contributions and ensure sufficient retirement funds.

If analysis shows that savings are not sufficient close to retirement age, it is necessary to take action. Here are some options to consider:

  1. Increase contributions to your retirement savings.

  2. Consider adopting more aggressive investment strategies.

  3. Establish and maintain an emergency fund to manage unexpected financial burdens without having to withdraw from retirement savings.

  4. Seek the assistance of a financial advisor to create effective strategies for managing money, including cutting unnecessary expenses, paying down debt, and focusing on financial goals.

By implementing these strategies, you can contribute to a robust retirement plan.

Diversifying Investment Options

Broadening your investment options is an integral component of your retirement savings strategy. A diversified investment mix including stocks is essential for long-term growth, with stocks offering greater growth potential necessary particularly for individuals under the age of 40 despite their higher volatility compared to bonds or cash. Starting with more aggressive investments is typically recommended for younger individuals to leverage the long-term growth of the stock market, with a gradual shift to more conservative assets like bonds as retirement nears.

Maintaining a balance in your investment portfolio with a mix of growth and secure financial options is crucial to cover major expenses without compromising retirement savings goals. Investors can manage their retirement savings themselves using a few low-cost mutual funds, but they also have the option to seek professional financial advice for guidance on retirement investments.

Taking Advantage of Tax-Advantaged Accounts

Optimizing the use of tax-advantaged accounts, such as thrift savings accounts, is a vital strategy for maximizing retirement savings. These accounts, including IRAs and 401(k)s, offer significant benefits for retirement savings. Individuals can open a traditional or Roth IRA as soon as they reach the age of majority, typically around 18. The contribution limit for IRAs for individuals under age 50 in 2023 is $6,500.

Traditional IRAs offer tax-deductible contributions, and withdrawals are taxed, potentially benefitting those who may be in a lower tax bracket in retirement. On the other hand, Roth IRAs provide the benefit of tax-free withdrawals in retirement, which can be advantageous for those who expect to be in a higher tax bracket during retirement. These tax-advantaged retirement accounts offer the benefit of tax-deferred or tax-free growth, contributing to the significant increase in the value of retirement savings over time.

Traditional vs. Roth IRAs

Traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs are the two primary types of IRAs. Each type has its own set of rules and tax implications. Traditional IRAs offer tax-deferred growth where taxes on investment gains are paid upon withdrawal, whereas Roth IRAs provide tax-free growth with tax-free withdrawals under certain conditions. Contributions to Traditional IRAs may be tax-deductible based on income, while Roth IRA contributions are not tax-deductible but qualify for tax-free distributions.

Roth IRAs have income limits for contributions, in contrast to Traditional IRAs, which do not have income limits for contributions but have limits for tax-deductibility based on income. Traditional IRAs require minimum distributions starting at age 72, but Roth IRAs have no required minimum distributions for the original owner. Traditional IRAs are better for individuals seeking to reduce their taxable income in the year of contribution, whereas Roth IRAs benefit those who expect to be in a higher tax bracket during retirement or prefer tax-free withdrawals.

Catch-Up Contributions

Catch-up contributions represent another significant element of retirement savings. These are higher limits on contributions to retirement accounts for individuals aged 50 and over, intended to boost retirement savings later in life. In 2023, the catch-up contribution limit for 401(k) plans is $7,500, allowing individuals 50 and older to contribute a total of $30,000.

The catch-up contribution limit for IRAs is an additional $1,000, leading to a total contribution limit of $7,500 in 2023. Making catch-up contributions can significantly affect the growth of retirement savings for those aged 50 and older. Catch-up contributions provide a tax advantage by reducing taxable income in the year they are made.

Participants in SIMPLE IRA plans are allowed a $3,500 catch-up contribution in 2024, and those in 403(b) and 457(b) plans are permitted an additional $7,500.

Navigating Life Events and Financial Changes

Life’s unpredictability can bring changes that affect your retirement savings. Navigating life events and financial changes involves securing a guaranteed income, adjusting spending habits, and prioritizing retirement savings over other goals.

When it comes to managing consumer finances, retirement savings should generally take precedence over other goals, like a child’s college education, because financial options like loans are available for education but not for retirement.

Dealing with Job Loss or Career Changes

Experiencing job loss or making career changes can profoundly affect your retirement savings. During such times, it’s crucial to:

  • Negotiate severance packages

  • File for unemployment benefits to cover immediate financial needs

  • Explore health insurance options such as COBRA or private insurance if company health benefits are lost.

Assessing savings to determine how long expenses can be covered during unemployment is crucial, and unnecessary expenses should be cut to extend your financial runway. When transitioning to a new job, consider leaving your 401(k) with your previous employer if the plan allows it, or evaluate transferring your old 401(k) to your new employer’s plan for potentially lower fees and simpler management of retirement savings.

Planning for Major Expenses

Preparing for sizable expenses is another fundamental facet of retirement planning. When saving for retirement, it’s crucial to consider and plan for other significant expenses such as funding a child’s education. Reducing college expenses can be achieved through strategies such as attending a more affordable school, living at home, or deferring college to work and save money.

A guaranteed income annuity can be a strategic financial product to provide a stable income in retirement that can help cover major future expenses.

Seeking Professional Financial Advice

Though self-planning for retirement is possible, professional financial advice can enhance the effectiveness of your retirement planning. Financial advisor expertise can assist in measuring goals and formulating personalized financial strategies. An Edward Jones financial advisor can assist in creating a tailored retirement plan that aligns with your specific financial situation.

Professional advice simplifies complex financial decisions, making the retirement planning process more understandable for savers. When catching up on retirement savings, advice from financial advisors is beneficial, including the use of IRAs as one of the tools to enhance retirement savings.

Finding the Right Advisor

Identifying a suitable financial advisor is an essential step in refining your retirement planning. It is crucial to:

  • Evaluate a financial advisor’s background and credentials

  • Confirm if they are a fiduciary to ensure they act with your best interests at heart

  • Understand how a financial advisor works with clients

  • Understand their fee structure

  • Understand the investment strategies they propose

This is key to finding an advisor that fits your retirement planning needs.

Interviewing several financial advisors and discussing your current financial situation and goals helps in assessing the potential benefits of their assistance and determining the right advisor for you. Obtaining references and recommendations from potential financial advisors offers valuable insight into their track record of client satisfaction and the success of their financial guidance.

Regularly Reviewing Your Retirement Plan

After establishing your retirement plan, it is important to review it regularly. Here are some steps to follow:

  1. Engage with a financial advisor approximately a decade before retirement to fine-tune your savings strategy and ensure it aligns with your income goals.

  2. Schedule regular consultations with a financial advisor to review and update your retirement plan.

  3. Make adjustments to your plan as needed to adapt to any market or economic changes.

Regularly reviewing and updating your retirement plan will help ensure it remains on track to meet your goals.

A financial advisor can provide the following benefits:

  • Updated investment strategies

  • Adaptation of your retirement savings plan to align with new financial goals or life changes

  • Ongoing reviews to understand the impacts of financial decisions on your retirement plan

  • Regular revisiting of investment choices and strategies to respond adaptively to fluctuations in the financial markets and overall economic climate

  • Ensuring that your retirement plan adheres to the latest regulations, helping you avoid penalties and other legal complications.


In conclusion, planning for retirement involves understanding the retirement savings landscape, setting realistic goals, developing a personalized savings strategy, taking advantage of tax-advantaged accounts, navigating life events and financial changes, and seeking professional financial advice. While the journey to a comfortable retirement may seem daunting, with the right knowledge and planning, you can achieve your retirement goals. Remember, the key to a successful retirement is starting early, saving consistently, and regularly reviewing your retirement plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many Americans have $100000 in savings?

Only about 12% of American households have more than $100,000 in checking and savings accounts. This suggests that a minority of Americans have achieved this level of savings.

How many Americans have $1000000 in retirement savings?

Statistically, around 3.2% of retirees have over $1 million in their retirement accounts, while about 10% have $1 million or more in savings. The majority of retirees have less saved.

How much money does it take for the average American to retire?

The average American needs to have retirement savings depending on their age. Start saving early and regularly to meet your retirement goals.

How much does the average American have in savings for retirement?

The average American has around $87,000 in retirement savings, according to the most recent data from 2022. This amount varies by age and income level, but it’s important to have a clear savings plan for retirement.

What’s the average retirement savings for different age groups?

The average retirement savings for different age groups vary significantly, ranging from $5,236 to $207,874, with median values from $1,948 to $71,168. These figures depict a wide disparity in savings across age demographics.

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