Average savings by age: Planning for retirement

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Knowing what your peers are doing can be interesting, but average savings benchmarks of your peers don’t account for your individual needs and circumstances.
  • It’s crucial to establish specific retirement saving goals tailored to your lifestyle, expenses, and desired retirement age.
  • Take your financial planning personally. Retirement savings goals should be more than just meeting your basic needs, but also your desired lifestyle at the age you want to retire.

AVERAGE SAVINGS BY AGE

When setting your retirement saving goals, it can be interesting and potentially motivating to see how you stack up against peers. While these averages may provide some insight, they shouldn’t be the benchmark for your individual retirement goals.

Why? Because the "average" retirement savings data doesn’t account for your individual needs and circumstances. Your lifestyle, expenses, and desired retirement age are unique to you. So, your retirement savings goals should be too.

Average retirement savings of individuals by age

The Federal Reserve provides this data annually as part of their Survey of Consumer Finance (SCF)

Chart: Average saving by age

Source: Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances, 1989-2022; The Fed - Table: Survey of Consumer Finances, 1989 - 2022 (federalreserve.gov).

Chart description: The chart illustrates an upward trend in average retirement savings with age, peaking for those aged 65-74. It suggests effective wealth accumulation over a lifetime, with a slight decrease after 75, likely due to retirement spending.


Using the average retirement savings by age as a general benchmark to assess your personal progress is like measuring your race pace to all the people in your age group who are training for a marathon.

While it gives a general idea of where you stand, it doesn’t account for individual goals and circumstances.

At first glance, everyone’s goals appear the same, however, each runner has a different target finish time. Some runners are just trying to make the cut to enter the race while others are trying to win the Olympics. Without knowing the specific target finish time, you are trying to achieve, you have no real understanding of whether your current pace is on track to meet your goals.

YOUR RETIREMENT SAVINGS GOALS ARE UNIQUE TO YOU

Setting a retirement savings goal is more than just meeting your basic needs, but also your desired lifestyle at the age you want to retire. Don’t think of it as merely stacking up cash, but as painting a picture of your ideal life following your career. What does that life look like? Where are you living, and what are you doing? This method doesn't just focus on the numbers; it invites you to dream big about life following your career.

FIGURING OUT HOW MUCH YOU NEED TO RETIRE

The chart below provides some straightforward benchmarks to get you thinking about how much you might need to save for retirement depending on your age. It considers your desired annual spending after you retire, and the amount you'd need to maintain that lifestyle.

Suppose you are a 40-year-old earning $100,000 a year. Assuming you save 9% of your salary every year, your savings grow at 10% each year on average, and you account for a 2% annual inflation rate, you would need to have approximately $288,691 in savings today to retire at 65 while sustaining your current lifestyle.

The table, below, illustrates the estimated retirement savings one would need to accumulate at various ages to sustain an average annual salary of $50K, $100K, $150K, or $200K during retirement.

Projected retirement savings by age and annual salary

Caption:

The table provides a projection of the retirement savings required at different ages to maintain various levels of annual income during retirement.

AgeAnnual salary
$50k$110k$150k$200k
25$12,577$25,154$37,730$50,307
30$41,217$82,434$123,650$164,867
35$83,095$166,190$249,285$332,380
40$144,345$288,691$433,036$577,381
45$233,954$467,907$701,861$935,815
50$365,088$730,175$1,095,263$1,460,351
55$557,053$1,114,107$1,671,160$2,228,213
60$838,170$1,676,339$2,514,509$3,352,679
65$1,250,000$2,500,000$3,750,000$5,000,000

Source: BlackRock, Morningstar. For illustrative purposes only. The analysis is based on an annual contribution of 9% of your salary. Analysis assumes an average annual return of 10%, annual inflation rate of 2% and a 4% withdrawal at retirement which begins at age 65.

Remember, these are just general guidelines and actual amounts can vary based on individual circumstances and market conditions.

Please note that this is a simplified chart and actual retirement needs can vary based on factors like lifestyle, location, healthcare costs, and other personal factors. There are multiple methods to determine your retirement savings goal. To learn more, visit the retirement education hub.

STRATEGIES FOR RETIREMENT SAVING

Now that you have an idea of how much you should be saving based on your annual spending when you retire, it's time to tackle how you can get there. Here are a few strategies to help keep you on track to pursue your retirement savings goals:

Early in your career: Establishing good financial habits early on can make it easier to reach your financial goals. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Start Early: Begin saving for retirement as soon as possible to take advantage of compounding returns.
  • Employer Plans: Enroll in employer-sponsored retirement plans like 401(k)s, especially if they offer matching contributions. And remember, just because you have a 401(k), that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of other retirement accounts like traditional or Roth IRAs. For the year 2024, the maximum contribution limits are: 401(k): $19,500 (plus $6,500 catch-up if 50+) IRA: $6,000 (plus $1,000 catch-up if 50+).
  • Debt Management: Focus on paying off high-interest debts while also building up your emergency fund.

Learn more about how building good financial habits early on can put time on your side.

Mid-career: Significant life events such as marriage, starting a family, or buying a home, can impact your saving strategies and goals. Here are some key strategies to consider:

  • Increase Savings: Aim to save a higher percentage of your income, towards retirement. The middle phase is often the peak earning years for individuals. While life expenses may be rising, it is important to reassess if your retirement goals have also changed and adjust your savings accordingly.
  • Diversify Investments: Review your investment portfolio to ensure your retirement savings are not taking on too much risk. Diversifying your investments across the entire stock market and adding in other asset classes like bonds or real estate ensures your retirement is not contingent on the performance of just a few stocks.
  • Estate Planning: Consider purchasing life insurance to protect your family in case of unexpected events. If you haven’t already, speak with an estate attorney to create wills, trusts, and beneficiary designations.

Learn more about whether you need to reassess your savings strategies/goals.

Transitioning into retirement: Shifting from accumulating wealth to managing and spending it during retirement can be a significant change. Here are some key strategies to consider:

  • Retirement Income Strategies: Consider how you’ll generate income during retirement. This may include Social Security benefits, pensions, annuities, and withdrawals from retirement accounts.
  • Healthcare and Long-Term Care: Healthcare costs will change over the course of your retirement and what you need today could vary greatly from what you need in 20 years. Be sure to account for all of these costs, from Medicare coverage and supplemental insurance to long term care.
  • Estate Planning: Review and update your estate plan, including wills, trusts, and beneficiary designations.

Learn 5 easy steps for transitioning into retirement.

CONCLUSION

Retirement savings aren't one-size-fits-all, as we all have different life situations and goals. However, there are some key strategies that can help ensure you are prepared for retirement. Early and consistent retirement savings are essential for building wealth, securing your future, and enjoying a comfortable retirement. By starting early, making the most of compound interest, and sticking to a regular savings routine, you can put time on your side, laying the foundation for a financially secure and fulfilling retirement.

Daniel Prince, CFA

Daniel Prince, CFA

Head of iShares product consulting for BlackRock’s U.S. Wealth Advisory Business and U.S. Head of iShares Core ETFs