What You Should Save By 35, 45, and 55 To Be On Target

Getting started is half the battle when it comes to building retirement security. Setting near term goals are important too. Here's how to do both.

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Financial rules of thumb are just that. If you follow them, you have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve taken action — but they do not guarantee you’ll get the results you desire. Still, in the savings game guideposts can be especially useful. A near-term target will help you get started, and that’s half the battle.

Fidelity Investments recently put together an age-based savings guideline with a range of savings goals. It’s meant to prod individuals into action, which it might—if, that is, the firm’s daunting assumptions don’t discourage them first.

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Here are the guideposts:

  • At age 35, you should have saved an amount equal to your annual salary.
  • At age 45, you should have saved three times your annual salary.
  • At 55, you should have five times your salary.
  • When you retire at age 67, you should have eight times your annual pay.

Others have tried to divine a finishing multiple of salary that ensures retirement happiness, and generally they are in line with Fidelity’s target. Consultants Aon Hewitt set the goal at 11 times final pay (by age 65).

What Fidelity ads to the discussion are benchmarks to hit along the way. Having near-term targets helps you stay on track—and to take steps to catch up while time is on your side. But there is nothing easy about hitting these targets. Fidelity assumes:

  • You begin saving in a workplace retirement plan, such as a 401(k), at age 25. You save continuously and without interruption until age 67.
  • You start by making an annual salary contribution equal to 6% of pay, and raise the figure by one percentage point each year until you are saving 12% of pay.
  • Your employer matches you at 50 cents on the dollar up to 6% of pay and your portfolio grows 5.5% a year.
  • Social Security is factored in.
  • Your income grows 1.5 percentage points faster than inflation each year.

These assumptions are reasonable in terms of building an illustrative savings model. But consider that almost no one starts saving at 25 and millions suffer some sort of job interruption over a 42-year career. This model also has you saving 12% of pay by age 32. A common rule of thumb is 10% and, again, most folks don’t get serious about saving until they are in their 40s and 50s.

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Meanwhile, you will need a healthy slug of stocks to earn 5.5% a year. Yet individuals have been net sellers of stock mutual funds for at least half a decade. Whether Social Security will be available when you retire is an open question. And many peoples’ wages are going down—not up by more than the rate of inflation.

Of course, it would be a mistake to extrapolate the experience of the crisis years indefinitely into the future. Still, this exercise points up the difficulty of reaching retirement security without an early start, or hyper-aggressive saving at midlife. No matter your age, at least now you can see where you stand–and what to do about it.

21 comments
AmericanFool
AmericanFool

A fairly conservative investment portfolio of 60% in an S&P 500 fund & 40% in a total bond market fund should return well over 5.5% annually on average (more like 8% nominal return, 5-6% real return).  A lot of people on the board nailed it - it's best to start young.  I was putting away 15% as soon as I could, and that really helped.  Now I have teenagers and other uses for cash flow, it's hard to put in 15% without some radical changes to an already frugal lifestyle.  Even so, because I started early, I'm well ahead of these saving recommendations, even though it took something like ten years of trying to find the right use for my skills before my career and income gained much traction.  Invest in yourself, think ahead, live below your means, save at least 15% of everything you earn.  It's within your reach.  Even if you are older and have failed to save, this is a good opportunity to rethink your last 20 years to retirement - that's long enough to build a healthy retirement fund.  In the end, nobody will do it for you, you have to make it happen.

laurabilley060
laurabilley060

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visaguy63
visaguy63

I will be turning 35 in a few months and the only reason I have over 100k in my bank is because I totaled my 97 Ferrari F 355 spider and I was using that car as a backup plan in case I ever needed the money I would sell it but I got cash out earlier this year, on the flip side I am in the merchant service business which is a multi billion dollar industry and I make a healthy six figure a year income and the only debt that I have is my house so I save about 80% every month if I don't spend recklessly however Lamborghini Murcielago has been on my mind for awhile now.

CrimsonWife
CrimsonWife

One's 20's is the best time to save because one generally doesn't have kids at that point in life. Between my husband and me, we saved the equivalent of my entire take-home pay from the time I was 22 until the time I was 28. Thank goodness we did, because after having kids, we had much less disposable income to devote towards our savings goals. Right now our main savings is the equity we are building in our house.

KatieTrondsen
KatieTrondsen

Well said.  I am glad to see I am ahead of what should be put away.  Hubby and I are very diligent in putting away accordingly when the cheques roll in, and then putting away some more in another savings account thats untouchable.  I started saving when i was 24 right after college and landed a great litle job, pays decently and very good benefits.

I've already had some share of illness but with planning anyone can achieve this.  The trick is discipline.  Too many people are foolish with their money and spend every penny they have on clothing, electronics, entertainment, vacations instead of putting away properly. 

One day I know I will have siblings and maybe even my parents come for help when they can't work anymore.  I'm not sure I'd be willing to help them when the time comes, as I've seen how they squandered their income.

aje7861
aje7861

I agree with you 100%. You said exactly what this article said blog.mutualfundstore.com/investing-tips/can-you-afford-35-years-in-retirement/.

JRockBarrington
JRockBarrington

I began saving with my first job as a paperboy and have save at least 10% every year since age 12. I have always bought used cars that i could afford without a loan. I have no recurring credit card debt. Now, i am 50 years old and i can see retiring at age 62 as an actual possibility. Actually, i could retire at 55 but would have to live more frugally than i would like. My dad taught me the value of living below your means. Thanks Dad!!

Lalala
Lalala

Of course, the writer presumes all of us are making over $50K a year and have remained steadily employed, getting raises every year, and all is rosy. Never mind all the downsizing and offshoring and pay cuts and what not that's happening in the real world along with other life changing events like illnesses, divorces and what not. That "should've by now" stuff is not helpful, nor is it realistic.

helenahandbasket
helenahandbasket

We're pretty well off and we are only about where this says we should be because one of us inherited some money from a parent. (We saved money, but not this much.) This seems unrealistic for anyone who didn't graduate with college and grad school paid for (let alone for most people who don't go to college)

JousterJack
JousterJack

I am really screwed then.  I had a mega salary all my life, now pushing 60, but forgot to save a dime. Spent the lot.  I guess no more Lambos, Maui, Luxury Cruises and long ski vacations for me.  Pan handling, here I come.

EricFleet
EricFleet

Savings as a multiple of earnings is absurd. This assumes you spend a large proportion of what you earn. If instead of spending everything you bring in, you learn to be content, when you get raises you can pack more away or give more away.

Instead of a multiple of what you earn, you should focus on multiples of what you want to live on in retirement. If you learn to live on less and don't get spoiled by your income growing, you will be able to retire on less as well.

dwtucker63
dwtucker63

@Lalala  It is very realistic. It is all a matter of priorities. Some have a priority to work until they die, so be it, it is there right to choose. I for one set my priorities on being able to retire at 62, and I will be doing so and enjoying myself in the long run..

KatieTrondsen
KatieTrondsen

I haven't had raises every year, and I make just under 50k a year, I have had some health issues, but I have managed to save accordingly.  Not buying things you don't need and always putting something away is the most important thing.  I think it is very realistic.

kwcond
kwcond

I do not have a college degree, 32 yrs old make 150k a yr and have right at 150k in savings. I know its not common, but it is possible. I got hired at 24 years old and from day one save at least 10%.

dwtucker63
dwtucker63

@EricFleet  Sorry Eric, but I think your logic forgets about inflation. These times x numbers are based on what you will need socked away when you retire to support you with no income for 30 years after you retire. Surely we can all live on less in retirement (no kids, no house payments, no expenses) but you can't live for 30 years w/o an income on 1x your last years salary, the math just don't support that.