How Much Money Should I Have Saved by 35? (The Answer May Shock You)
News of banks failing and a looming recession may have you clutching your wallet like Grandma clutched her pearls, and you may be hyper-focused on surviving—not saving—given the economic turmoil.
However, believe it or not, an economic downturn is the best time to stock your savings. That being said, it's difficult for many people to even know what amount in savings they should be targeting. Are you wondering, "How much should I have saved by 35?" We'll tackle this question and more when it comes to not only surviving, but thriving long-term.
"Savings give you an essential buffer against unexpected expenses or income losses," says Kimberly Palmer, personal finance expert at NerdWallet. "Given the uncertain economy, it’s more important than ever to protect yourself from things like a job loss or sudden expense."
Millennials know uncertainty better than anyone. Many from the generation entered the internship or job market during the 2008 Recession. Years later, they felt like they were coming into their own before the COVID-19 pandemic caused mass layoffs, and now they find themselves staring down yet another economic crisis.
All this as the generation nears its 35th birthday (if they haven't already passed it). What should your savings account look like by the age of 35? Experts shared the surprising amount you should have saved, what you can do to make that happen and how to catch up if you're older than 35.
Related: Here's Exactly How To Prepare for a Recession, According to Finance Experts
How Much Should I Have Saved By 35?
Need a hard-and-fast number to shoot for? Derek Miser, an investment advisor and CEO at Miser Wealth Partners in Knoxville, Tennessee, gives one—but stresses it's a generalization.
"By the age of 35, you should have saved at least twice your annual salary," he says. "So, for example, if you’re earning $50,000 per year, you should aim to have at least $100,000 in savings by the age of 35."
However, let's remember that this answer is a generalization.
"It’s difficult to give an exact number on how much someone should have saved by the age of 35," Miser explains. "It’s likely to vary widely depending on each individual circumstances and factors, such as income, expenses and financial goals."
Palmer echoes these sentiments almost to a tee.
"There is no specific amount you can generalize and say everyone 'should' save because it depends entirely on your personal situation, including expenses, income, responsibilities and risk factors," Palmer says.
Palmer recommends finding the best number for you using an online savings calculator (NerdWallet has one, but there are others).
"An online savings calculator...allows you to input your specific numbers and get a recommendation," Palmer says.
Regardless of your age, Palmer generally recommends starting with a small savings goal of $500 and building from there.
Related: The One Easy Money-Saving Tip Financial Pros Swear By
How To Save Money—Even in a Down Economy
In your 20s
Say you're Gen-Z or a younger Millennial (the generation typically runs from 1981 to 1996, making the youngest around 27 this year). Good news: You have some time to work toward your by-35 financial goals. But you'll want to maximize it.
"First and foremost, you must develop a budget," Miser suggests. "This should include tracking your income and expenses."
This budget will show you where to save.
"Tracking where your money is going is the first step to figuring out where you can cut back and redirect funds into savings," Palmer says. "For example, perhaps you have recurring streaming subscriptions you can eliminate, or you can cook at home more versus going to restaurants, then put the saved money into your account."
Savings don't just go into one bucket. In fact, Miser recommends having three places for your savings:
Emergency fund. Before saving for anything else, get this fund up and running (especially now). "This emergency fund should cover three to six months' worth of expenses. "An emergency fund can help you avoid going into a financial downward spiral if you lose your job or incur an unexpectedly large expense."
Retirement. Retirement may be four decades away, but 25 is the perfect time to start saving for it. "This can be done via an employer’s 401(k) plan or by opening one on your own," Miser says.
Your education and career. Invest in yourself by taking classes or getting a degree or certification. "Improving your education and skills can lead to higher-paying jobs, which can further boost your savings," Miser says.
Related: 30 Money Affirmations and Money Mantras To Attract Wealth
In your early 30s
Don't fret if you don't have a ton in savings and already celebrated the big 3-0. There's still time, but you'll need to be more aggressive and focused.
"It’s a great time to think about your short and long-term goals," Palmer says. "Get specific about what you are saving for so you can stay motivated to put money into your savings account."
For example, you may be saving towards buying a home or your child's college education.
"You can create a labeled savings account specifically for that purpose to help you stay on track," Palmer says.
Consider a side hustle to fast-track your savings.
"Seek out additional income streams," Miser suggests. "This could include working part-time or freelance. This will increase your monthly income, which in turn will increase your savings."
Related: No Degree, No Problem! Here Are 30 High-Paying Jobs That Don't Require a Degree
If you're 36+
It's been a challenging few years. Perhaps you had student-loan debt. It's understandable if you've already turned something older than 35 and still lack a nest egg. Build it and make it easier on yourself in the process.
"You can create automated savings transfers from your checking account into your savings account each month, which can help you catch up and get back on track," Palmer says. "Consider a high-yield online savings account, which will give you a greater return for your money, allowing it to grow faster."
You may also be able to take even more aggressive measures, Miser says, including:
Seeking a roommate if you are renting
Walk and bike more to save on gas
Increase revenue streams by taking on part-time or freelance work
Seeking a higher-income job
One major don't: Don't beat yourself up.
"It’s hard to make progress toward your goals when you’re dwelling on mistakes made in the past, so give yourself some forgiveness for any regrets and focus on the future instead," Palmer says. "Visualize your specific goals and schedule a quarterly check-in with yourself to review your accounts and make any necessary adjustments."
Next up, 125 Creative Ways To Earn Extra Money in 2023
Kimberly Palmer, personal finance expert at NerdWallet.
Derek Miser, investment advisor and CEO at Miser Wealth Partners