Not only are most Americans unprepared for retirement, but they also don’t know how much they should save and what goals they should hit throughout their lives.
If you haven’t met these milestones, it’s easy to feel guilty or like you’ll never catch up, but unless you know what you need to do, you can’t take the steps you need to get closer to your goal. In some cases, this may even mean investing in yourself by going to grad school and not contributing anything at all for a few years.
When considering the following benchmarks, it’s important to remember that they will not work for everyone. Make sure you’re aware of where you stand and make adjustments as needed at each stage so you have a solid plan for the future.
In Your 30s
In your 30s, you should aim to save the equivalent of one year’s salary. Take advantage of any matches that your employer offers to make the most of your contributions. If you’re behind in your 30s, you still have time to recover, but you have a steeper hill to climb. Don’t panic, but take it as a warning sign that you have to get serious.
Your 30s are a complicated time. Most people in this age group are trying to pay down debt, save for a home, or investing in career advancement. Still, some experts say that, by age 35, you should save 16 percent of your income to retire at age 65.
In Your 40s
Generally, by at least age 45, you should have three times your salary in savings. This decade is often a successful one when it comes to career growth and you should try to make as much money as you can. If you have kids, you should also begin investing in a 529 plan to help them pay for college.
A good rule of thumb for this decade is to use 70 percent of your salary for living expenses, 20 percent should go to paying down debt, and the remaining 10 percent should go into short or long term savings.
In Your 50s
Throughout your 50s, you should have between six and seven times your salary in savings. You should be saving between 12 and 15 percent by this time to meet these goals.
Keep in mind that these guidelines should be based on your household income. Note that the more you make, the more you should save, and for good reason. While you will qualify for Social Security, it will not be anywhere near enough to make up for your pre-retirement income.
In Your 60s
By 60, aim to have eight to nine times your current salary in your retirement savings. Throughout the first part of this decade, continue to save and by retirement age, you should have saved between 10 and 11 times your yearly salary. If you are falling significantly short, save as aggressively as possible to make up for lost time.
The truth is that your 60s are usually the decade during which you earn the most. Save as much as you can to get closer to your retirement goal.