It can be tough to save for retirement when it is still decades away. It’s apparently even tough for older workers who are on the verge of retirement. Living expenses can eat up paychecks, and saving takes a back burner to spending. But it leads to the quintessential fear of what having no money in our older years looks like: the elderly parent who must move in with an adult child, having to choose between food and prescription drugs because only one can be afforded.
Here are some numbers that should scare you into becoming a retirement saver right this very minute:
That’s the amount of money 21 percent of all adult Americans have saved for retirement, according to a recent survey. Not one dollar. Nothing, zero, zip. These adults vary in age, occupation, education and skill set; they come from all over the country, and they are of every ethnicity and race. What they all have in common is just this one thing: They haven’t saved a nickel for retirement.
Oh, and most of them work!
Almost 66 percent of employed people between the ages of 21 and 32 have absolutely nothing saved for retirement. For working Latinos in that age bracket, that number jumps to 83 percent. The National Institute on Retirement Security says the reasons for this vary, but certainly include the usual suspects of student loan debt and high housing costs. Things are so tough that 40 percent of millennials are still living at home, real-estate listing site Trulia found in an analysis of 2015 U.S. Census data. It’s the largest percentage since 1940, almost an 80-year period.
Savings among baby boomers ― the generation with retirement nipping closest to its heels ― is in the danger zone. One in three boomers has $25,000 or less in retirement savings.
Fidelity says that by age 30, you should have one year’s worth of salary saved. The company bumps that to twice your salary by age 35, three times your salary by age 40, seven times at 55, and 10 times at 67.
So, if you are 67 and earning $100,000 a year, you should have $1 million saved. Pass the Kleenex time?
Here’s a reality check: Across all age groups, the average retirement savings is a mere $95,766, according to the Economic Policy Institute, proving that Americans just don’t save enough, regardless of their age.
How do you get back on course? If you’re not saving enough in your employer’s plan to get the full matching contribution, increase your contribution. If you don’t have access to a 401(k), start an IRA. Use a nifty calculator like this one that tells you what each big purchase you want to make will “cost” in terms of retirement years. And for inspiration, watch how your money would grow on a compound interest calculator.
One of the more widely used rules of thumb says that for every $1,000 in monthly income you will need in retirement, you should have $250,000 saved. Let’s say you estimate that you will need $4,000 a month to live on when you retire. Roughly speaking, means you need to save $1,000,000.
This rule assumes that your investments will generate an annualized real return of 4 percent per year. Stocks, over the long run, are expected to produce annualized returns of roughly 7 percent, and this rule allows for inflation to devalue the dollar at roughly 3 percent a year. If investments generate less or inflation busts out, all bets are off.
According to Economic Policy Institute data, the average retirement savings for families aged 50 to 55 is $124,831. For families aged 56 to 61, it’s $163,577. That’s far less than the recommended $1 million.
Your 50th birthday means you can legally begin making catch-up contributions to your employer’s 401(k) or your individual retirement account. Go hurry and catch up!
Two-thirds of working millennials are offered retirement plans through their employers, but only 34 percent of them participate.
The National Institute of Retirement Security says the other 66 percent aren’t always eligible, despite working for a company that offers a plan. Employers usually require new employees to be with the organization for at least a year before allowing them into retirement plans. Millennials tend to jump from job to job, which hurts them when it comes to retirement savings. In 2014, more than half of millennials had spent a year or less with their current employers, according to NIRS.
One way around it is to set aside money each pay period until you’ve been with an employer for a year and then dump it into your new retirement account. That, or start an IRA. Not saving is not a good option, even if your company makes it harder to do.
It’s recommended that millennials save 15 percent of their salary for retirement. Only 5 percent of them do.
The best way to save for retirement is through our jobs. By increasing employer matches and default contribution rates, employers can greatly assist all workers with early-in-career, lower-income savings. Remember, those early-in-career savings increase the value of a long-term account because of decades of compound interest.
You will need to replace 70 percent to 90 percent of your annual pre-retirement income through savings and Social Security. So, someone who was living on $63,000 a year before retirement would need $44,000 to $57,000 per year in retirement.
Plan for a 20-year retirement. Remember to adjust for inflation and consider Social Security’s uncertainties.
Speaking of Social Security, heads up for a 23 percent reduction.
According to the latest projection, if nothing changes, the Social Security Trust Fund will only have enough revenue coming in to pay 77 percent of promised benefits beginning around 2034. If you were expecting to get $2,000 a month, your payout would shrink to $1,540. For younger workers today, that means more of your retirement will need to be funded through your savings ― so start saving ASAP.
And for older Americans, it could mean certain poverty. For 61 percent of elderly beneficiaries, Social Security provides the majority of their cash income. For 33 percent, it provides 90 percent or more of their monthly income. The average monthly retirement benefit was recently $1,368, or $16,416 per year. The overall maximum monthly Social Security benefit for those retiring at their full retirement age in 2017 is still just $2,687 ― or about $32,000 for the whole year.
Ignorance is not bliss when you will probably need to fund a 20-year retirement, yet an Age Wave/Merrill Lynch report found that 81 percent of Americans have no idea how much money they will need for retirement. Granted, retirement savings amounts are based on a lot of assumptions about things you can’t predict in your future ― your health, where you live, etc. But that’s not an excuse for saving nothing.
Start somewhere and take ownership of at least setting a target amount as a goal. That, or cue up the theme song from “The Twilight Zone.”
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.