Retirement. That far off Never Never Land that eventually (and hopefully) comes to us all. Many don’t know how much they should save for that magical time and truly, finding the answer isn’t easy. In fact, according to CBS News, no one right answer exists. What one person may need to feel comfortable will make other people feel like they’re just barely getting by. If you find yourself in this predicament, take heart. There are ways that you can determine how much you need to save for your retirement. Many of them are even actually quite simple.
1. Estimate How Much You’ll Spend
Nerd Wallet suggests that people look at their current expenses to determine how much they think they’ll spend in the future. There is a caveat to this, though. Dave Ramsey, author of the book “The Total Money Makeover,” suggests that people try to get completely out of debt, including paying off their homes. It’s better that this happens before retirement. If you are able to completely pay off all your expenses before you retire, then your monthly payout will necessarily be much lower than it is today.
Really, then you need to ask yourself what your bare monthly minimum is. That might only include cash for food, repairs, property taxes, and insurance plus a few incidentals. Whatever that number is write it down. That’s the base you’ll start from.
2. How Much Will You Save and For How Long?
CBS News tells its readers to start saving earlier rather than later in their adult lives. For example, if you started saving by the time you were 25, you’d need to save 15% of your income to retire at sixty-two. However, the longer you wait to start saving, the more you’ll have to save. If you don’t start saving money for retirement until you’re 45, you’re going to have to save 44% of your income if you want to retire at sixty-two.
The power is in the use of compound interest. The longer you save the more money you’ll get in interest, which will compound over the years, giving you even more saving power than you would have had from your income alone.
3. Use a Retirement Calculator If You’re Not Sure
A retirement calculator is designed to get you from here to retirement based upon your projected spending and savings needs. You can learn a lot about how much you’ll not only need to save but possibly to invest in order to have enough money to retire on. You’re able to plug in different investments amounts – 5%, 7%, etc. – to see how each plays out over a number of years.
4. Signs You Might Be In Trouble
Sometimes, it still feels like flying in the dark, especially if you have no experience with this sort of thing. You may have a better idea if you’re saving enough or not by your behavior and not your bank account.
Here are a couple of signs that you’re a bit off track, according to Go Banking Rates. One, you don’t really know what your saving rate is. Two, you struggle to pay your medical expenses and other bills. Three, you have too much debt, credit card or otherwise.
Finally, if you don’t have a concrete number in mind for retirement, you’re not prepared. There is a difference between saying, “I want to retire comfortably,” and “I want to retire with two million dollars in my retirement accounts.” If you can’t point to a specific goal like that and know how you’ll get there from here, you’re not ready for retirement.
Final Thoughts on Saving for Retirement
If you’re at the point where you’re trying to figure out how much you need to save for retirement, know that there may not be just one right answer. The ability to know how much you need is dependent on a number of factors, including knowing how much your expenses are. However, at some point, you should figure out an exact figure to shoot for, whether it’s $500,000 or five million.
Additionally, you’ll need to save for quite awhile if you want to have a good nest egg. It’s best to start savings in your 20s because you won’t have to save as much of your income each month. The later you wait to save for your retirement, the more you’ll have to save.
Finally, using tools like a retirement calculator can tell you how to plug in different variables to see where you’re at with your savings. If after all the steps you’ve taken you still don’t know if you’re on the right track for retirement, it might be good to talk with a financial advisor to make a plan.